Curriculum

The Department of Visual Arts (DoVA), a department within the Humanities Division at the University of Chicago, and situated in The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, is proud to offer a Masters of Fine Arts.

This MFA program is distinguished in its focused attention on understanding how the pluralism of today’s art making practices relate to one another, and also by its attention to creating conversations that bridge between DoVA and other areas of study at the University of Chicago. Our faculty members are diverse in their interests and at different points in their careers. All are committed teachers engaged in a lively and sustained dialogue within the department, and also deeply engaged with their own work.

Our students work in sculpture, photography, painting, installation, performance, video and new media. We admit students to the program based on the quality of the portfolio, and we take into account the level of interest and capacity in engaging this interdisciplinary program within a university environment. We focus on working with our students to develop their work and enabling them to leave the University with the tools to support a lifetime of art making. As part of this process we encourage students to explore not only the artistic issues pertinent to their work, but also the theoretical, social and historical issues that intersect and bracket it.

The MFA is a two-year program (six quarters), comprised of 18 courses. Many of these course credits are earned through the development of individual work in conversation with the faculty.

First and second year students work together to articulate their work and to sharpen their skills of critical thinking and writing. Students come to the program with diverse intellectual, cultural and artistic backgrounds and different art making practices. We all work together to articulate a common language with which to discuss and make art in this critical and supportive community.

As part of the MFA program, DoVA hosts a lively visiting artist program under the auspices of the Open Practice Committee (OPC). In addition The University of Chicago provides an enormously rich intellectual environment full of engaging lectures and workshops in all areas of study. Our students are often interested in events hosted by the Center for Gender Studies, the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture, the Mass Culture Studies Workshop, the Department of Cinema and Media Studies, and the Department of Art History. 

DoVA has offered a number of faculty led trips to visit museums and galleries outside of Chicago; past trips have included New York City, Delhi, Athens and Kassel (for documenta 14), Münster (for Skulptur Projekte 2017), Beijing, Shanghai, and Cuba. Future classes may visit Los Angeles or Mexico City. Sponsored, faculty-led travel is contingent upon funding. Students have also received competitive grants from UChicagoGRAD for self-organized trips to Detroit and New York.

Requirements for the Degree

MFA students register for 300 credits (three courses at 100 credits each) per quarter. A total of 1800 credits, or eighteen courses, is required for the degree.

The basic requirements for the MFA are listed below:

1. Graduate Studio Project (9 Courses / 900 Credit Hours)

Students receive course credit for time spent in their studio developing their work. As part of this requirement students will present work to faculty and students for critique regularly throughout the year. Students register for at least 100 credit hours of Graduate Studio Project (ARTV 40000) per quarter, and may register for up to 300 hours per quarter provided that they are on track for meeting their other course requirements (see Graduate Seminars and Electives).

2. Graduate Seminars (3 Courses / 300 Credit Hours)

In order to provide a core of common intellectual experience, all students are required to take three quarters of the Graduate Seminar in Visual Arts (ARTV 39200) during their first year. The content of these seminars varies with instructors, but may focus on many different issues in contemporary theory and criticism.

3. Electives (6 Courses / 600 Credit Hours)

Students are required to take six graduate-level electives. At least three of the six electives must either be academic (i.e. non-studio based) or originate in departments outside of DoVA.  DoVA’s course offerings can be found on the Graduate Announcements.  You may also consult the websites of other departments in the Humanities Division or other divisions to view their course offerings.

4. Thesis Presentation

In the fall quarter of the second year each student will work with a committee of two faculty members who will assist in the preparation of the thesis work. In the final quarter of the program each degree candidate presents studio work in an MFA exhibition. In addition to this exhibition, students will be expected to submit a short but focused written abstract of their work.

5. Standards Of Performance

Each graduate student must maintain high standards of engagement and achievement in studio and academic performance, including evidence of substantial growth in their work.

For additional information, please email: dova@uchicago.edu.