Master in Fine Arts (MFA)


Program Description


The MFA programs, offered with concentrations in Painting or in Sculpture, continue the ethos of the teaching methods defined by the School's history within a recognized degree program. The MFA is based on maintaining a full-time, rigorous studio practice. Students are engaged in their work a minimum of 40 hours per week for the duration of their two years at the School.

In their first year, students choose a core faculty member with whom they will work closely during each semester. Faculty is present in the atelier two days each week. Students are expected to continue working on the objectives set by faculty throughout the week. In the second year, faculty contact hours are reduced as students work in semi-private or private studios towards the completion of their individual thesis project.

Studio practice is balanced with Critical Studies courses, in addition to peer and instructed critiques. Lectures and seminars are held throughout the semester, as well as small group discussion with current and visiting faculty. The Critical Studies courses provide the groundwork for students to compose the statements that support their final thesis project.

Degree candidates will be assessed on a continual basis throughout their time at the School. Courses are graded by faculty in accordance with School policy. Students must complete 60 credits to successfully achieve the title of Master of Fine Arts, and credits must include all required courses. A residency of at least two academic years is necessary to complete the degree.

Degree-Granting Status

The New York Studio School is chartered by the Board of Regents of The University of the State of New York with the authority to award the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. The School's MFA program is registered by the New York State Education Department under the quality standards in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

Application Priority deadline is February 15.

Completed applications include the Application Form; two required essays; a $90 non-refundable Application Fee; two Letters of Recommendation; twenty jpeg images of student work; image list to accompany the images; and official transcripts from all previous institutions that resulted in the applicant's undergraduate degree.

We will accept applications up until March 15 and even later, though we encourage all students to apply earlier as our programs may fill sooner.


Curriculum Overview

Full-time study, whether in the MFA or Certificate program, includes one Marathon at the start of each semester, and the invitation to attend Evening and Saturday classes during the fall and spring. Below is a brief description of the general course offerings available to enrolled students in the full-time programs(s). Sample syllabi are available by contacting the Director of Student Services or the Program Coordinator. More information on the Marathon program is available on this website, including applications for the stand-alone, part-time program offerings.


The Marathon, offered with concentrations in drawing, painting, and sculpture, is an intensive, all-day program that is held in the first two weeks of the semester. The Marathons represent the opportunity for students to experience the teaching of another faculty, and to explore areas of style and method they may not otherwise be exposed to.

Marathons are taught by regular faculty and visiting artists who are present for the entire two-week session. In a short time period, students are forced to confront and resolve the problems of drawing/painting/sculpture. This proves to be a demanding yet rewarding introduction to the challenges faced throughout the rest of the semester.


Drawing is an integral part of the education at the School. It is approached in a unique way as a means of understanding perceptual consciousness with regards to scale, spatial geometry, and the nature of mark-making. It is expected that whatever direction a student may wish to follow, they will take part in the essential experience of drawing in order to gain the visual literacy and insistence on clarity that it can promote.

Each drawing atelier reflects the contemporary and individual approach of the artist teaching, yet the essential premise is that drawing is an indispensable stimulus to seeing.


Students can choose from a number of different ateliers that will serve as their major area of concentration each semester. The direction of each class is determined by the instructor, giving students the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of stylistic concerns, which are fully explained in each individual syllabi. Perceptual practice is emphasized and faculty may create elaborate arrangements centered either on the figure or on the still life, which students can work from for either one session or perhaps several weeks. Models are an integral part of many aspects of the program. The plastic principles developed through observational work may serve as a point of departure for explorations into the limitless possibilities of painting.

Critiques are held regularly by faculty and visiting artists, either on an individual or group basis. Students are also encouraged to critique each other's work, in order to gain the confidence of their own artistic conviction.


The sculpture department embraces and encourages a wide variety of approaches within a coherent and structured program. The faculty understand sculpture as a language of objects and believe that our capacity to find meaning in material objects has its root in our own being as physical creatures.

Each of the ateliers has a distinct character, yet both emphasize working from perception. They both use live models as the primary subject. This starting point enables the student to engage in a process that directly encompasses perceptual, conceptual, formal and psychological issues; it obliges them to begin to confront important distinctions between form, subject, and content without the burden of having to decide what to make. Clay modeling is used as it offers an open-ended and fluid process, allowing for both an intuitive and/or an intellectual disposition.

In addition to their participation in the classes, sculpture students are provided with an individual workspace at the start of the program. They are expected, from the beginning, to initiate work on their own in these studios. As students progress, the program is increasingly structured around the work being done in the individual studio. There are regular critiques of such work attended by the whole department. Visiting artists lead the end of semester critiques and also visit throughout the year. In addition to the studios in the main building, the Sculpture Department maintains a space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, for advanced students.

Critiques & Visiting Artists

Critiques are a regular part of the School's curriculum for all programs, both full- and part-time. Critiques fall into two main categories: those done by the Atelier Head or Instructor, and those conducted by visiting faculty and artists.

Critiques can be held on a group and individual, formal and informal basis. Marathons can feature individual critiques with the relevant instructor during the course of the program, and end with a group critique. For full-time programs, group critiques are often held by the Atelier Head in conjunction with a visiting artist or another faculty member.

Students who are enrolled in the MFA program participate in a Final Thesis Critique during their last semester. This panel is usually comprised of the Dean, another member of the faculty and two or more visiting artists and critics. These critiques are scheduled on an individual basis prior to the Thesis Exhibition.

Independent Practice

Students are expected to commit to working in unsupervised sessions during part of the week, as personal visions are strengthened in tandem with the more structured approach of the ateliers.

As students progress through the various programs toward completion, working independently becomes a crucial aspect of their individual development as artists.

Critical Studies (MFA only)

The Critical Studies seminars are group sessions, led by a recognized working art historian and critic. Seminars are divided over the two years into specific topics, with the first year concentrating on historical contexts of criticism and contemporary practice, and the second year focusing on more independent study topics and research, culminating in the production of a thesis statement in the final semester.

Students are expected to complement the critical studies seminars with their own objective comment, based on outside reading as well as visits to concurrent museum and gallery exhibitions.

Thesis Project (MFA only)

Over the course of the MFA program, students work on an increasingly independent basis to develop their final thesis exhibition through to its fullest expression, culminating in a body of work that represents a distillation of their time at the School.

As a supplement to the visual work, students also submit a companion thesis paper. This serves to support, explain and justify the ideas, processes, and objectives of the final thesis project. The completed thesis work will be formally reviewed by a panel at their Final Thesis Critiques.

Students develop ideas for their final Thesis Project during the latter part of their first year. Thesis Proposal forms are collected from students during their third semester, and throughout the last semester, students are continuing to work on their visual work as well as the supplemental written thesis.



  • PAINTING I (5 credits)
  • PAINTING II (4 credits)
  • PAINTING III (3 credits)
  • PAINTING IV (3 credits)
  • SCULPTURE I (5 credits)
  • SCULPTURE II (4 credits)
  • SCULPTURE III (3 credits)
  • SCULPTURE IV (3 credits)
  • MARATHON - DRAWING (2 credits)
  • MARATHON - SCULPTURE (2 credits)
  • CRITICAL STUDIES I: Words for the Wordless I
  • CRITICAL STUDIES II: Words for the Wordless II (3 credits)
  • CRITICAL STUDIES III: Thesis Development I (3 credits)
  • CRITICAL STUDIES IV: Thesis Development II (3 credits)
  • DRAWING I [PAINTING] (4 credits)
  • DRAWING II [PAINTING] (4 credits)
  • DRAWING I [SCULPTURE] (4credits)
  • DRAWING II [SCULPTURE] (4credits)
  • THESIS PRACTICE I (5 credits)
  • THESIS PROJECT II (7 credits)
  • ELECTIVE - WATERCOLOR (2 credits)
  • ELECTIVE - DRAWING (2 credits)
  • ELECTIVE - SCULPTURE (2 credits)

Grading & Evaluation

A student's academic records reflect all grades for all registered courses as submitted by faculty. Grades are released to the student by their Academic Advisor or the Director of Student Services.
The School uses a system of grading based on the standards of High Pass (HP), Pass (P), Low Performance (LP) and Fail (F). Students who have to withdraw from any course and who completed the necessary paperwork will receive an Incomplete (INC) which will not affect their overall grading average.

Mid-term grades are made available prior to each semester's registration through their Academic Advisor or the Director of Student Services.

Students who wish to withdraw from the School must fill out the appropriate withdrawal form available from the Student Services Office prior to leaving. The date this form is completed serves as the date used to calculate student eligibility for WA (Authorized Withdrawal) grading. Students who leave the School without completing the appropriate documentation will be liable for tuition and other fees and will receive a WU (Unauthorized Withdrawal) grade on their transcript. More information on this policy is available in the Student Handbook.

Academic Progress & Good Standing

Students must make, at minimum, satisfactory progress towards the completion of their degree within the 2-year time-span of the program. This translates to achieving a Pass (P) grade in each of their courses. The School does not use Grade Point Average (GPA) as part of its system of evaluation. However, when a GPA is required, the following formula will be used:

HP = 4.0, P = 3.0, LP = 2.0, F = 0.

Students will be notified at mid-term regarding their current progress. If a student appears to be having difficulty maintaining progress in any course(s), and faculty has already alerted them to the situation without improvement, Academic Advisors will address the issue directly with the student at their mid-term evaluation.

Students who do not show satisfactory progress may be placed on academic probation. Every effort will be made to help the student resume satisfactory progress in the program. Students on academic probation may be at risk of losing Work-Study fellowships and/or scholarship awards.


Last updated January 2018

About the School

The New York Studio School is committed to giving a significant education to the aspiring artist that can last a lifetime. Our aim is to reveal to the entering student appropriate questions about draw... Read More