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MFA in Studio Art

Program Overview

Many art schools are engaged in a national debate on how best to educate emerging artists. Many have devised programs that take certain positions relative to current innovations in the field, or in anticipation of future trends.

At the University of Houston School of Art, we reframed that discussion by focusing not on the contextual fields of practice, but rather on you – the practitioner. You are the only stable and absolutely central component in the equation. The only question worth asking is not how you might fit into our program, but rather how we might fit into yours. This question needs asking of each student who enters our MFA program, and each answer will necessarily be as unique as each individual.

We fit into “your program” by devising programs that are flexible and dynamic and by creating the environments that help you to broaden and deepen your investigations.

At the UH School of Art, we have solid MFA concentrations in Painting, Sculpture, Photography/Digital Media, Graphic Design and Interdisciplinary Practice and Emerging Forms (IPEF). Built into each of these concentrations is the ability to extend outward and into the vast resources of a premier research institution. The School of Art is deeply integrated into the city of Houston and its art world, which serves as our extended classroom.

Freedom, flexibility and intensive studio practice are supported within a rigorously intellectual environment. We recognize that artists working within the tradition of painting or at the frontier of emerging media need the intellectual, theoretical, conceptual and analytical tools to produce their work within larger social contexts.  Critical Studies offerings provide a structure for that inquiry. Classes taught by Raphael Rubinstein, professor of Critical Studies, bridge theory and practice, and function as a conceptual center for contemporary art discourse within the School of Art.

Our outstanding faculty and extensive visiting artist/critic program are supported by a vast expansion of scholarship through our faculty affiliate network. Colleagues from across the University mentor our graduate students with research interests that extend outside of the atelier and into fields as diverse as biology and physics. And our School is deeply embedded in Houston’s dynamic and established visual arts community - artists, designers, curators, and other professionals provide our students with expertise and a range of unique opportunities. We are rich in human assets.

We are not only looking for candidates who fit neatly within a particular discipline or on a linear academic trajectory. We are looking for students who may be returning to an academic environment after time away. We are looking for students whose undergraduate study was not in the visual arts, or whose work is in transition, or not easily classified. We are looking for students whose practice is idea and project based, and is expressed in forms that necessarily vary.

We are looking for MFA candidates who are highly self-motivated, and would be well served by a program that encourages exploration and risk supported by an innovative curriculum, a critical environment, generous facilities, a renowned faculty, and a world-class city. 

Master of Fine Arts Degree in Art

The graduate program leading to the MFA degree is a 60 semester-hour degree program comprised of 18 hours in the concentration 12 hours in art history, 24 hours of related arts, and six hours of graduate seminar. Candidates for the Master of Fine Arts degree are encouraged to complete all course work for the degree within three years to ensure the sustained concentration requisite to the achievement of quality work at the graduate level. Students must complete the degree program within five years. Additionally, students are required to complete one academic year in residence during the course of their degree program. This residency is defined as 18 semester hours comprising a minimum of nine semester hours taken in two consecutive semesters.

Throughout the program of study, student will be evaluated on a regular basis. A progress review is required during each of the first two semesters of enrollment in the graduate program. The student selects a committee at the beginning of the second year and works closely with the committee members until the degree is completed. The committee will hold a formal review of the student’s work annually, beginning the second year.

Upon completion of all course work for the degree, all graduate students present their work in a thesis exhibition at the Blaffer Museum, with accompanying photographic documentation. The creative work and supporting documentation will represent the visual thesis. In addition, students must produce a written thesis, normally in the first semester of the final year of work for the degree, and pass a comprehensive oral examination conducted at the time of the Thesis Exhibition. The examination will cover students' knowledge of their major discipline, of art history, and of related areas of art. 

MFA Degree Concentrations

Graphic Design
Photography and Digital Media

General Course Requirements

Three years of study
Concentration area: 18 hours
Art History: 12 hours
Related Arts: 24 hours
Graduate Seminar: 6 hours
Written Thesis, Thesis Exhibition and Oral Exam

Teaching Fellowships are available on a selective basis after 18 hours have been completed at the graduate level. Incoming graduate students are eligible for paid positions as Instructional Assistants and Teaching Assistants, positions in studio maintenance and grading in Art History, which support studio operations, undergraduate instruction and the School of Art in various ways. Scholarships and Tuition Fellowships are also available through the School of Art and the University.

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