KCAD’s MFA Photography program guides students in the development of their work through skill enhancement, informed dialogue about art theory, and the study of the history of art and media. Graduate studio and thesis courses focus on the production of a sophisticated body of lens-based artwork with the guidance of faculty and peers in the program. Graduate seminars examine the relationship between art and culture and support the intellectual and conceptual development of the student’s studio practice. Art history seminars are small group discussion-centered studies focused on a changing variety of topics. The student’s graduate experience is enhanced by their choice of elective classes that support and enhance the student’s art making. The capstone experience of the program is the MFA Thesis Exhibition—a conceptually sophisticated and unified body of work that is supported by an extensive thesis paper. Successful completion of the program enables the student to seek careers in education, museum or gallery work, or as a professional artist.
As a student in KCAD’s MFA Photography program, you’ll enlarge the power and potential of your creative practice through a rigorous, self-guided critical exploration of the conceptual underpinnings of your work. In the first year of this three-year program, you’ll dive deep into your interests to uncover the larger ideas you’re truly interested in grappling with. Year two gives you space to experiment with framing those ideas using different conceptual and tehnical approaches, while the final year is dedicated to developing your body of thesis work.
Throughout, you’ll be encouraged to take an interdisciplinary approach to making, drawing from other creative disciplines and knowledge fields and mining the potential of mixed-media work. Courses in KCAD’s other MFA concentrations—Drawing, Painting, and Printmaking—offer chances to broaden your creative practice, while 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 conceptual mastery, you’ll also strengthen your professional practice by gaining a deeper understanding of the realities of working with clients and balancing commercial and creative work streams, as well as how to secure exhibition opportunities, connect with galleries, and apply for grants and fellowships. 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.
At the same time, elective courses, independent studies, or research projects offer you ample opportunities to further develop your technical skills in the program’s robust facilities.
You’ll also develop enhanced communication skills through focused critique sessions with faculty, fellow students, and visiting artists/professionals. KCAD’s MFA Photography 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.
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 Photography program features a 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 reflect a broad diversity of professional practice, providing 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 Photography 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 through exhibitions, internships, and other opportunities.
The KCAD MFA Photography program prepares students to become practicing artists and scholars by fostering creative expression and creative problem-solving skills. Graduates emerge ready to succeed as professional artists and/or pursue a variety of career opportunities in the commercial, education, or fine art fields.
The capstone of the MFA Photography program is the development of a cohesive body of work that reflects conceptual maturity and well as technical mastery. You will also be expected to clearly articulate and defend the conceptual and technical 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 Photography 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 Photography program, you’ll have access to fully equipped darkrooms, one for processing black and white film/prints and another for processing color film/prints; a digital photography lab housing a wealth of small and large format print enginesas well as high powered desktop computers; and an expansive lighting studio with large backdrops, an infinity shooting table, lens kits, lens filters, light-control grids and snoots, light meters, softboxes, tripods, stands, and much more. You’ll also get your hands on digital SLR cameras, medium format digital capture devices, and film cameras ranging from 35mm up to the 8x10 view camera.
You’ll also 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.
Emphasizes individually motivated studio work in photography that may include black and white and color printing, artificial lighting, large format camera use, and non-silver or digital imaging along with the focused development of conceptual concerns.
Continues the preparation for the Master of Fine Arts exhibition, thesis statement and final presentation.
Download the catalog for the most recent course listings and prerequisites.