The MFA program at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Art is an interdisciplinary, experimental, research-based program that provides its students with a challenging and supportive context in which to expand and develop their work and thinking as artists. As one of the top-ranked graduate programs1 in the country, we view art making as a vital social, critical, and intellectual pursuit. Graduate students are encouraged to employ a comparative and intersectional approach to critical and cultural theories, and to allow this inquiry to inform and expand what it means to be an artist and to make art within our contemporary condition.
With four core faculty members committed to a cohort of 18 graduate students, and an additional 18 tenure and tenure-track professors within the school, the MFA program fosters intensive intellectual relationships with each of our Masters candidates. Since January 2020, the Program is housed in a new, significantly expanded facility.
The MFA program is guided by a core faculty of four highly active artists who provide critical oversight and intellectual support for students through one-on-one advising, mentorship, and studio visits. The MFA core faculty, along with our 16 full-time faculty, teach and interact across the program’s curriculum; students benefit from additional advisement from within the full-time faculty, studio visits, group critique, critical studies coursework, and more.
Student to Faculty Ratio
The MFA program is limited to 18 students, and accepts six per year to its three-year cohort. Predicated on a belief that direct and continuous discourse between artists fosters the most relevant growth, the Program is committed to supporting ongoing interaction between faculty, students, and our many visiting lecturers and scholars. This close-knit environment enables meaningful dynamics to form between students and faculty, allows research projects to progress from germination to completion, and provides an inclusive and interactive program for the entire graduate community.
The MFA program provides generous financial support to all graduate students, regardless of their background or citizenship status. Each admitted student receives financial assistance in the form of a School of Art fellowship that is put toward the cost of their tuition. School of Art fellowships range from covering a minimum of two-thirds of tuition to full scholarships that cover a student’s entire tuition for all three years. Full and partial scholarships are merit-based, and are available to incoming and continuing students. MFA students also have considerable research funding available to travel, produce work, attend conferences, and collaborate across the university.
All MFA students serve as Graduate Assistants (GAs) for each of the six semesters in which they are enrolled in the Program. Graduate Assistants support faculty in myriad ways, including the preparation of class materials, evaluating student work, conducting research, and developing presentations and workshops. The GA experience affords MFA students opportunities to develop university-level pedagogy and curricula within the context of a research university, and to further advance their own understandings of contemporary art making within an academic environment.
The MFA program maintains an interdisciplinary structure that supports artists working across all mediums to foster relationships between artistic practices within the School as well as bridging methodologies throughout the University. In addition to generous time afforded for individual studio development, graduate students take advantage of a wealth of electives, visiting lecturers, cutting edge technologies, grant opportunities, funded external advisors, and much more.
Art and Research
The MFA program is unique among its peers for being one of the top-ranked programs in the country situated within one of the top-ranked research universities in the world. MFA students have the opportunity to study with faculty and engage with research across the university’s leading fields of Human-Computer Interaction, Robotics, Linguistics, Philosophy, Architecture, Drama, and myriad other disciplines and dialogs in the humanities and sciences. In addition to the many resources within the school and across the university, graduate students are also able to extend their practice beyond the campus in their second and third year by selecting a recognized artist, curator, writer, or scholar of their choice to work with as an advisor over the course of each year. Recent outside advisors include Dan Byers, Nina Katchadourian, Penny Lane, Raimundas Malašauskas, and Eric Shiner.
The MFA program’s three-year structure is designed to provide the time, resources, and support for in-depth multidisciplinary research, the development of new technical and conceptual skills, and the possibility of radical shifts in the materials, themes, and processes of one’s practice. Combined, the unique three-year structure, small cohort, and committed core faculty aim to provide a platform that supports the formation of progressive ideas, theories, and studio practices.
The School of Art’s Visiting Lecture Series brings highly acclaimed international artists, writers, and critics to the school throughout the year. Graduate students have extensive interaction with these visitors through studio visits, workshops, and informal engagements. Recent and upcoming visitors include artists and writers such as Ian Chang, A.L. Steiner, Wangechi Mutu, Zoe Leonard, Huey Copeland, and Malik Gaines. In addition to the School’s lecture series, graduate students regularly engage with leading artists and cultural figures visiting the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and take part in the extensive programming provided by The Center for Arts in Society.
The Public Sphere
The Program challenges artists to recognize social context and civic engagement as paramount within contemporary art and encourages graduate students to constantly reimagine the artist’s role in society by using their work as a critical position within the larger social, cultural, and political discourses of our time.