Graduate Fine Arts

Congratulations! We are very pleased that you are considering joining us!

Below you will find information that might be useful as you consider this important decision. We encourage you to also explore our website and learn more about our work, curriculum, and community. If possible, we would love to meet with you in person during PennDesign's Open House on Monday, March 27th. Open House is a great opportunity to meet both formally and informally with faculty and students, learn more about the program and school as a whole, explore our resources and facilities, and tour the campus. If you have a conflict with this date and wish to schedule a visit, send us a note and we will assist you with planning a visit.

If you have any questions or would like any additional information, please contact us at 215-898-8374 or mfa@design.upenn.edu. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

University of Pennsylvania MFA Program

The MFA curriculum at Penn unites graduate students with a diverse faculty whose research spans the disciplines of visual art. Students extend their conceptual strategies while inventing and then refining hybridized forms of traditional art making methods. In addition to seminars within the Fine Arts department, graduate students are encouraged to pursue topics of science and the humanities through an impressive selection of courses offered across the university. Each year, students in the program participate in exhibitions across campus and attend lectures at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art in preparation for a career in the arts that reaches the public through multiple channels of engagement.

MFA Curriculum

The MFA coursework requires eleven credit units of Graduate Studio and eight credit units of electives. Of the eight elective courses, two are graduate seminars, two are taken outside of the Fine Arts Department, the remaining four courses may be taken either in Fine Arts or anywhere in the university. Each candidate works with an advisor to select courses that will best support the development of their research and artwork. Additional requirements a thesis statement and a thesis exhibition. For more information on the courses see our curriculum page.

Research Opportunities

Penn Fine Arts offers numerous research, residency and engagement opportunities to graduate students in the arts. These include funded residency programs at the American Academy in Rome, The Vermont Studio Center, the Lugoland Project in Lugo, Italy, and upon acceptance, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Each year, a select group of our students are hired as lecturers in contemporary art at the ICA; a position that allows them to work with the program curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art. The department also works in concert with the Arthur Ross Gallery, the Common Press, and the Penn Library system to develop unique research, curatorial, and outreach opportunities for students. In addition, the Travel Abroad Studio courses in PennDesign extend the classroom into diverse locations around the world.

Teaching Opportunities

For those graduate students who have an interest in developing their teaching experience while working on their degree, the department offers all incoming graduate students a Teaching Assistantship in the first year. Depending on student performance, interest, and the availability of positions, additional assignments may follow. Teaching Assistants are rewarded with a stipend of up to $3,000 per semester.

Other teaching opportunities in the undergraduate fine arts program exist for qualified students in the Extended Studio Program.  After application and acceptance into the Extended Studio Program, MFA graduate students lead foundation level courses in Drawing, Painting, Photography, Video and Sculpture during the Summer, Fall or Spring semesters of their second year.  These special appointment include a $3,000 stipend plus a $3,000 tuition remission award.