MFA in Visual Art
Earn your MFA in Visual Art in two years through an interdisciplinary program grounded in transformative, individualized learning. Combine on-campus residencies with self-designed semesters in your own home community.
About the Program
Who is it for?
This program is ideal for those with substantial experience in making art and a working knowledge of art history and visual culture, who are seeking contemporary discourse, community, and to elevate their artistic practice through a realistic model of education.
How will your practice develop?
Our faculty encourage experimentation and exploration. Students learn to define and own their art practice, leaving the program attuned to who they are as artists and why they make the work they do.
Students and faculty convene on campus twice a year for nine-day residencies in a dynamic, student-centered learning environment that supports a broad diversity of artistic practices.
During residencies, students present their critical and studio work to each other, faculty, and visiting artists and plan their semester’s study. Critiques, lectures, research groups, and student presentations provide the foundation of each student’s semester. Shared interaction and evaluation among the community generates affinities and ideas at a remarkable rate.
Our world-class faculty maintains a rigorous critical and creative environment where individual artists can succeed on their own terms. They empower students to create and sustain generative practices that value their own experience and challenge received notions of success.
During the semester, students return to their home studios where they work with an Artist-Mentor from our expansive list of national and international artists. Students form lasting professional relationships with artists in their own region while determining their own educational values and professional expectations. Students also receive academic guidance from their faculty advisors on their visual culture research project.
Using the mediums and method of their choosing, students design projects that will challenge them to meet new artistic goals. They engage in critical dialogue with their mentors and strive to effectively integrate form and content.
When VCFA realized in March that we would not be able to gather for residencies on campus, staff and faculty came together to create remote residencies, making sure students would not miss either the intense learning and sharing that happen during residencies or the meaningful opportunities to connect. Visit our Remote Residencies page to learn more!
Individualized Semester Study
A VCFA student’s home workspace can take many forms. Students tailor their studios to their own creative needs and available space, and the results are compelling.
Josephine Chase | 2022 MFA in Visual Art
“This semester I’m working on a large piece featuring a ’74 MG. I’m making a series of abstractions from different maps. I’m also continuing to make paper and get into some book-making! The low-residency flow allows for a lot of freedom and exploration in the studio. I think it’s crucial to channel all of that energy into a format where I’m making the work that is most important to me, and work that I most want to see reflected in the world.“
Leah Byck | 2022 MFA in Visual Art
“This semester, I am working on the relationship between gender and race and experimenting with the studio art mediums on the topic of racial justice and whiteness. Last semester, I worked on this project about bodies and gender, so it connected me to the topic of race. I am doing a lot of inner work to connect with questions of how I deal with my whiteness, what it means to have white skin in the United States, and looking at how I can convey this and the topic of racial justice through artwork. The structure of the low-residency program has helped me further develop my ideas and really sit with them. In other programs, there isn’t enough focus on the process of our art, so there was never enough time to sketch out ideas and really reflect on these ideas. This program has forced me to stop, pause, reflect, and spend extra time to develop my studio work and relate my art to the research I am doing.”
Nicholas Lima | 2022 MFA in Visual Art
“This semester I am investigating life cycles, and my materials are living, decaying, and growing. VCFA has pushed me to think beyond technical production of artifacts and into a more ‘mad scientist’ way of working. The studio is a lab where experiments drive creativity.”
By the Numbers
Pay a visit to Visual Ark, the MFA in Visual Art program’s blog, to experience VCFA from the inside. (Left: Ruth Adler graduation exhibition, 2018)
The MFA in Visual Art program now produces a full-color, designed, and printed catalog for each graduating class. Printed copies are available to graduates, as well as current students and faculty. Check out the digital version here! (Right: Jeff Dornenburg, “e Pluribus Unum,” 2020)
What is an Artist-Mentor?
Artist-Mentors are prominent, contemporary artists and educators who are contracted to work with students in person during the semester. With a network of over 1500 Artist-Mentors in the US and Canada, the program ensures that every student, regardless of home location, will study with a committed, professional artist each semester.
Are you a prospective artist-mentor? Click below for more information about the position.
What is "visual culture"?
Visual culture is what we call the writing and research component of the MFA in Visual Art. Students choose research topics that enrich the ideas they are exploring in their studio practice, with guidance from a different faculty advisor each semester.
What happens during residency?
Each semester begins with a nine-day residency where we welcome students, faculty, and visiting artists to campus. Composed of student exhibitions, individual and group critiques, faculty and guest lectures, and a thematic symposium, residency is an exciting week that prepares students for the semester.
How do the exhibitions work?
Upon arrival, students spend the first days of residency installing their artwork in the VCFA galleries, with support from the Exhibition Team. Public receptions, well attended by the broader Vermont arts community, are held for both the new/returning-student and graduating-student exhibitions respectively. Students do not typically make work while on campus, as residencies are time for the critiques, feedback, and crucial dialogue that sustain their practice off campus.
So, I bring my artwork to campus?
Yes. Whether commercially shipped, loaded into a car, or packed into a suitcase, the artwork also travels to residency. Students graduate from the program prepared for the logistics of transporting their work to all of the national and international exhibition opportunities that come their way.