MFA in Painting

The Master of Fine Arts program in Painting at Boston University promotes the discipline in its varied manifestations as a fundamental form of artistic expression. At its core, the program is studio-driven, with rigorous expectations about each student’s commitment to their own artistic practice. As an art form, painting is more than just an activity; it is a long-term critical engagement with ideas, feelings, and sensibilities. As such, the program supplements this emphasis on the studio with critical dialogue, in the form of studio visits, critiques, weekly seminars, lectures, field trips, and workshops. Graduate students develop close working relationships with both faculty and peers, forging a tight-knit community that continues beyond graduation. Frequent visits from major figures in the contemporary art world, as well as regular trips within New England, New York City, and beyond, bolster this sense of community and prepare students for a life in painting. Real-world experience, critical dialogue, and an intensive studio climate support each student’s journey toward an ever-sharpening artistic vision.

Learning Outcomes

Development of Studio Practice: Students will learn the ability to maintain a studio practice appropriate to life as a professional artist. They will learn strategies for prioritizing their ambitions, organizing their time and resources, and sustaining interest in their own creative endeavors. This is developed cumulatively, cultivated through the student’s time spent working independently and their engagement with shared ideas.

Increased Knowledge of Medium and Materials: Students are expected to show, through their chosen medium(s), intimate knowledge of materials, tools, and techniques appropriate to professional practice. This is developed by the individual artist in the establishment and maintenance of a rigorous studio practice, enriched by access to the third-floor woodshop and printshop as well as to materials workshops, studio visits with faculty and visiting artists and critics, and lectures. It is measured in the creation of artwork and evaluated through studio visits, group critiques, assignments, and reviews.

Increased Awareness of Artistic Genealogy: Students will acquire and demonstrate an understanding of their position within contemporary art and learn how to envision and articulate their own contribution to a continuum of human artistic production. This will happen through engagement with a robust roster of visiting artists; regular conversations with faculty and fellow students; satisfactory completion of relevant liberal arts coursework; and presentation of artwork in studio visits, group critiques, and reviews.

Relationship of Individual Practice to Community Formation: In developing their own artistic expression and practices, students will become aware of the many communities that constitute the “art world.” Through being engaged citizens of their own graduate school community, students will experience a variety of approaches to contemporary painting and appreciate the differences and points of distinction in others’ work. This takes place through in-person group critiques; as audience and hosts for visiting artists and critics; at regular group meetings; and through sharing University resources and facilities.

Critical Language Abilities: Through speaking, reading, and writing, students will become fluent in the discourses of painting. They will be able to think critically and put into language their own sensory experiences that emerge from an in-person encounter with an artwork. This takes place through regular dialogue in the studio with faculty, visiting artists, and fellow students, and is measured in writing assignments and verbal participation in critiques.

Program of Study

The MFA in Painting is a 60-credit program that requires an average of four semesters to complete. Students may only enter in September.

The College of Fine Arts Policies for Graduate Students apply to this program. Students must earn a minimum of 60 course credits in graduate-level coursework (500 or above).

  • Studio activity is considered the core of the two-year graduate program. All students are expected to demonstrate a deep commitment to their practice by maintaining regular studio habits.
  • The weekly seminar class comprises reading, writing, and discussion, helping students cultivate the language and context that surrounds their work and practice.
  • The Tuesday Night MFA Lecture Series brings guest speakers to the studios on a regular basis. Guests deliver a lecture on their work, visit studios, or give a workshop, and are invited to socialize afterwards with the graduate students in a more informal context.
  • Post-war and contemporary art history courses are offered to contextualize the graduate students’ ideas and practices.
  • In order to take full advantage of the benefits offered by a large university, graduate students may also take elective courses in programs across the BU community.

MFA in Painting Curriculum

Graduate Painting (CFA AR 841, 842, 847, 848, 9 cr each) 36 cr
Graduate Seminar/Discussion (CFA AR 843, 844, 845, 846, 3 cr each) 12 cr
Liberal Arts elective (GRS or CAS, 500 level or above) 4 cr
Art or General electives (500 level or above) 8 cr
Total credits 60 cr