The mission of KCAD’s MFA Painting program is to produce students who are able to demonstrate technical, material, and conceptual mastery in the execution of their work, while also providing opportunities for experimentation. The painting program fosters creativity, innovation, responsibility, and intellectual growth in preparing students to meet the challenges pursuant to a successful career within higher education or the broader art community. A diverse painting faculty is available to students for formal, technical and critical insight. Students are introduced within the program to the growing repository of art-related theory through challenging fine art and art history seminars, addressing such issues as the ethics of visual representation, politics and art, and Post Structural theory. Additionally, students have access to courses regarding the more practical aspects of being an artist, including a seminar on teaching techniques and methodology, and a course dealing with the professional practices of the art world at large.
As a student in KCAD's MFA Painting program, you'll expand your notions of painting as a medium and heighten your understanding of your own artistic practice in a self-directed learning environment supported by rigorous critique from your faculty and peers. In the studio, you'll be empowered to take creative risks as you experiment with new techniques and ideas, carefully scrutinizing the results in order to refine your process and practice.
The program also emphasizes strengthening the conceptual underpinnings of your work through focused immersion in scholarly research and critical theory. You'll learn how to situate your work within the contemporary art horizon by frequently researching, discussing, and presenting on contemporary scholarship and theory, while a graduate seminar in art history will expose you to the ways in which art both informs and is informed by the society in which it is created,
Additional opportunities to dive deeper into the nexus of art, media, and culture are available through taking courses in KCAD's Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies program or even earning an 18 credit-hour certificate. These courses offer a diverse perspective on topics such as cultural criticism, research ethics, and new media literacy.
As you work toward technical, material, and conceptual mastery, you’ll also develop enhanced communication skills through focused critique sessions with faculty and fellow students. KCAD’s MFA Painting program promotes open, honest, and vulnerable dialogue that will help you heighten your ability to speak intelligently and confidently about your work, competently defend your artistic decisions, and respond to others’ ideas in a well-considered, constructive manner.
You’ll also gain pertinent professional skills in curation, artwork preparation, and promotion by collaborating with other MFA students, including those in other disciplines, to organize exhibitions of student artwork in several on-campus gallery spaces. These spaces act as a laboratory in which you and your peers can experiment with various methods of engaging audiences with your creativity, facilitating experiences that will help prepare you to both secure exhibition opportunities and maximize their potential.
If you’re considering a career in higher education, you can also take advantage of the MFA teaching seminar, which covers current methodologies, preparatory and studio practices, and other practical teaching skills.
The KCAD MFA Painting program promotes an artist/scholar model that will shape you intellectually as well as creatively, ultimately enabling you to do more with your degree. You’ll also benefit from the program’s close-knit community atmosphere, wherein different people, ideas, and processes are always converging in interesting and inspiring ways. You and your peers will receive personalized instruction and support from faculty who have extensive national exhibition records and reflect a broad diversity of professional practice—from figurative, landscape, watercolor, and encaustic painting techniques to expertise in theory and international experience in shaping the landscape of research ethics—that will provide you with an invaluable breadth of perspective.
There’s also the matter of Grand Rapids, a mid-size city that values art and design. Your experiences in the MFA Painting program will be complimented by exposure to nationally and internationally recognized artists exhibiting at KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA) and the nearby Grand Rapids Art Museum. You will also be able to connect to the thriving local creative community, including galleries, cooperatives, and other arts organizations—including many powered by KCAD alumni—that will help you expand you network and fuel your professional development.
The MFA Painting program aims to instill in its graduates a strong sense of artistic, intellectual, and personal confidence that will open doors to a broad array of professional possibilities. You’ll emerge from the program empowered to succeed as a professional artist, and you’ll also be equipped to teach at the college/university level and pursue career opportunities such as a gallery owner, art director, curator, archivist, museum specialist, art consultant/buyer, or many other positions in which your creative and communication skills will enable you to thrive.
The capstone of the MFA Painting program is the development of a cohesive body of work that reflects conceptual maturity and well as technical and material mastery. You will also be expected to clearly articulate and defend the conceptual and material choices motivating your work in both a comprehensive thesis document and an oral overview of the growth you’ve achieved during your time in the program, which you’ll formally present to an MFA candidate review panel composed of both MFA Painting faculty and KCAD faculty from other disciplines. All facets of the thesis project should be supported by your extensive research into relevant theoretical, historical, and contextual subject matter.
As a student in the MFA Painting program, you’ll have a wealth of professional-quality resources and facilities at your fingertips, including The Dow Center FlexLab, KCAD’s state-of-the-art digital fabrication facility featuring 3D printers and scanners, laser cutting and vinyl cutting machines, wide format printers, and more; a printmaking lab featuring etching presses, lithography presses, screen printing presses and equipment, papermaking equipment, and more; KCAD’s Material ConneXion Satellite Library, which offers direct access to more than 1,000 physical samples of advanced, innovative, and sustainable materials as well as online access to over 7,000 more; fully appointed photography facilities; The Baker Furniture Collection, a historically-rich and inspiring archive of furniture from around the world; the KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly journals; The Fed Galleries @ KCAD, an exhibition space featuring the work of nationally and internationally-recognized artists; KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), an innovative cultural institution hosting exhibitions of such contemporary artists and designers as Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems, and Judi Werthein; and many more.
Two graduate student-run exhibition spaces on campus will enable you to both showcase your work and gain valuable experience organizing, preparing, and executing professional exhibitions: the Alluvium Gallery, a street-level professionally outfitted space easily accessible by the public, and the Art[ery], an open commons space located within the expansive lobby of the 17 Fountain St. NW building.
You’ll also have the support of The Masters Student Collective, a graduate student-run organization that oversees the Art[ery] and organizes the Michigan Emerging Graduate Artists (MEGA) competition and exhibition.
Opportunities to study away offer even more ways to expand your perspective.
Ready to get started? Apply now!
Fine Art Seminars are non-media specific courses that address ideas, issues or practical information, which is of value to all Fine Art graduate students, irrespective of their media interests. A variety of Fine Art seminars are available providing theoretical, practical, educational and professional information, experience and expertise.Teaching seminar requires completion of 18 credits of student's discipline.
A seminar dealing with topics of special topics in art history, theory, and/or criticism.
Emphasis will be placed upon the development of a cohesive body of work that demonstrates increasing technical and material mastery. Students will be expected to research and incorporate themes, motifs, and ideas of personal or conceptual significance into the production of their paintings. Students will clearly articulate the conceptual and material choices motivating their work by producing a five-page research oriented artist statement.
Graduate painting thesis provides preparation for the Master of Fine Arts exhibition. Emphasis within the painting thesis will be placed upon the continued development of a cohesive body of work that demonstrates technical and material mastery. Students will be expected to demonstrate a high degree of sohistication in the research and incorporation into their paintings of themes, motifs and ideas of personal or conceptual significance. Students will clearly articulate the conceptual and material choices motivating their work by producing a ten-page research oriented artist statement, and presenting a final oral overview of their achievements to a formal M.F.A. candidate review panel.
Download the catalog for the most recent course listings and prerequisites.