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Herron School of Art and Design


Degree Programs
MFA in Visual Art

The Master of Fine Arts in Visual Art is a 60-credit hour program of study that provides students with an in-depth, professional-level understanding of visual art planning, production, and presentation. Students may pursue one of six emphasis areas for this program: Ceramics, Furniture Design, Painting/Drawing, Photography/Intermedia, Printmaking, or Sculpture. The program consists of a systematic sequence of educational opportunities for students to gain fluency in the practices and issues involved in creating original works of visual art and developing their careers within contemporary society. The Master of Fine Arts degree is recognized by the art and design professions as the terminal degree in the studio arts.

The objectives of the program are: (1) to create coursework and experiences in which students examine and learn to shape the formal, thematic, theoretical, social, cultural, cognitive, and technological aspects of visual art; (2) to develop university and community based collaborations that facilitate learning and research opportunities; (3) to provide opportunities for developing leadership in the professional practice of visual art and to prepare graduates for a range of specialized careers, from university-level teaching to creative entrepreneurship to employment by urban arts organizations to work as independent artists; (4) to foster an exploration of visual art as an intellectual and experimental practice that is rooted in a specific time and place; (5) to engage students in studio activity that is placed in a professional context, from making work to its presentation, installation, marketing, and critical analysis; and (6) to provide students with the intellectual flexibility to research, plan, design, fabricate, and complete work utilizing a variety of processes in a variety of settings for a variety of purposes.

To complete the degree:

At the successful completion of 60 credit hours towards the degree, the MFA candidate’s educational experience at Herron School of Art and Design culminates in the required presentation and review of her/his thesis body of work by way of:  1) Thesis Exhibition (or other public presentation of a major body of work such as a major public art work), 2) Written Thesis Paper, and 3) Research & Thesis Documentation. This presentation and review  of the thesis is a result of the entire graduate experience in which students develop professional expertise and a professional practice in their field of study as active studio artists.

Areas of Emphasis

• Ceramics

• Furniture Design

• Painting & Drawing

• Photography & Intermedia

• Printmaking

• Sculpture

MFA Thesis Advisory Committee

Each graduate student enrolled in the MFA in Visual Art program will be assigned an MFA Thesis Advisor appointed by Herron’s Director of Graduate Programs in Fine Art in conversation with Herron’s Chair of Fine Arts.

The MFA Thesis Advisor will be a full-time faculty member from Herron’s Fine Art Faculty. The MFA Thesis Advisor will also serve as Chair of the graduate student’s MFA Thesis Advisory Committee. 

The MFA Thesis Advisory Committee will provide regular, systematic feedback and guidance to the graduate student about her/his development of professional-level skills as well as cognitive development. The membership of this advisory committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Programs and will comprise of members in and out of the student’s emphasis area.

The committee will meet with the student a minimum of three times to conduct a formal review of the candidate’s progress towards the degree and in order to advise on the student’s development.  The student must pass all three reviews in order to remain in the program and complete the degree requirements.  The reviews will take place at the following times:


At the completion of 30 credit hours (midpoint):  Consists of a committee review.


At the completion of 45 credit hours:  Consists of a committee review.  Certifies student is ready to complete work for MFA Thesis Exhibition/Project.  Approves plans for MFA Culminating Thesis Experience.  Provides advice on Written Thesis Statement.


At the completion of 60 credits, Thesis Exhibition/Project, Written Thesis Paper, and Research Documentation: Consists of a committee review of the Written Thesis Paper and Research Documentation, as well as an oral defense of graduate’s Thesis Exhibition/Project.

Grade Requirements

  • Each graduate student must maintain an overall grade point average of 3.0 to remain in the MFA program.

  • In all non-studio emphasis courses only grades of “C” or higher will only count towards the completion of the MFA degree

  • A minimum grade of “B” or higher must be awarded in the courses of the student’s studio emphasis.

  • A minimum grade of “B+” must be achieved in the course: “HER R599: Studio Emphasis IV: Thesis Exhibit/Project.”

Additional policies

Students should consult the MFA Graduate Student Handbook that is provided to each entering graduate student in the MFA in Visual Art program. This program is given to them at orientation and contains additional policies, procedures, documents, and forms, as well as further information about the MFA Advisory Committee, the review process, and the MFA Culminating Experience

Last Updated: March  2016