MFA Painting

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) 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.

Degree Type

  • Graduate


  • In-Person


  • Full-Time


  • On-Campus
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Graduate Painting

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) 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 an activity; it is a long-term, critical engagement with materials and methodologies, ideas, feelings and sensibilities, and histories and contexts. Graduate students work independently to sharpen their individual artistic vision and skills, while learning collectively through critical dialogue.

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As such, the program supplements the emphasis on making with studio visits, group critiques and final reviews, and weekly seminars. In their final semester, all graduate painting students write a thesis paper and exhibit their work in a thesis exhibition. Elective courses, workshops, and occasional field trips round out a graduate painting student’s education, while physical proximity in the studios and weekly all-program meetings strengthens a sense of community and belonging.

Did you know…

The graduate Painting program here at Boston University School of Visual Arts is ranked


by U.S. News & World Report

CFA Rankings

Elizabeth Flood

Hollis Erickson

Mack Sickora

Hana Godine

Marissa Graziano

Program of Study

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. The Contemporary Perspectives Lecture Series brings established artists per year to campus to deliver lectures on their work and interact with the graduate students.

Postwar and Contemporary Art History courses are required 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.

The hallmarks of our program are intimacy and intensity.  In addition to regular studio visits with SVA’s core graduate faculty, students have extensive one-on-one contact with numerous internationally renowned visiting artists, curators, writers, and critics.  Weekly group critiques, thematic seminar courses, professional symposia, technical workshops, and field trips add to the wide-ranging and immersive conversation that forms the basis of the department’s studio culture.

Kathleen Kennedy

Max Bard

Jee Young Choi

Victoria Nunley

Noah Sussman

Drew Pate

Sam Guy

Facilities and Resources

Graduate students have 24-hour access to individual studios on the third floor of the 808 Building, approximately 250-350 square feet each. Most have natural light with views of Boston and Brookline.

Additional facilities available to graduate students include printmaking facilities, a fully equipped woodshop, welding shop, ceramics facilities, black-and-white darkrooms, digital media studios including vinyl cutters and a Risograph printer. Check out more!

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Kamal Ahmad (CFA’16) standing inside Piano Craft Gallery, where he is the curator and director.

First-of-Its-Kind Group Show Brings Together Artists from MFA Programs around Boston

I graduated from the MFA programs as an immigrant. I came to this country looking for opportunity—nobody knew me at the time, but someone did give me the opportunity to show my work. I learned from that experience that whenever I have the power, I should do something to make an opportunity for other students.

-Kamal Ahmad (CFA’16), curator and director of the Piano Craft Gallery in Boston’s South End

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MFA Painting Graduates Exhibit Work at Morgan Lehman Gallery in NYC

Into the Thicket exhibition in New York City featuree the work of the cohort of recent Boston University graduates who completed the Master of Fine Arts in Painting program

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Visiting Artists

The Tuesday Night Lecture Series in the MFA program in Painting takes place nearly every week in the graduate studios. Visiting artists deliver a lecture on their work, visit studios and/or give a workshop, and are invited to socialize afterwards with the graduate students in a more informal context.

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Visiting Artists

2021 – 2022

Meena Hasan
Dona Nelson
William Downs
Catalina Ouyang
Dell M. Hamilton
Graham Anderson
Anthony Romero
Melissa Levin
Aaron Gilbert
Leeza Meksin
Dakota Mace
Harry Gould Harvey IV
Brittni Ann Harvey

2020 – 2021

Nicole Awai
Yevgeniya Baras
Matt Bollinger
Fiona Connor
Gordon Hall
Tom Holmes
Daniela Rivera
Anthea Hamilton
Jerome Harris
Tishan Hsu
Arcmanoro Niles
Andy Robert
Kianja Strobert
Sulki & Min
Julianne Swartz
Barbara Takenaga
John C. Welchman
Wells Chandler
Adrian Wong


2019 – 2020

Esteban Cabeza de Baca
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Mike Cloud
Keltie Ferris
Mathew Cerletty
Abigail DeVille
Andy Graydon
Matt Saunders
Gala Porras-Kim
Sangram Majumdar
Adam Milner
Tschabalala Self
Ella Kruglyanskaya
Marc Handelmann
Peter Halley

2018 – 2019

David Brooks
Rochelle Feinstein
Steve Locke
Troy Michie
Tammy Nguyen
Matt Phillips
Jennifer Packer
Karthik Pandian
Chie Fuecki
Alexandria Smith
Emily Mae Smith
Jim Skuldt
Catherine Sullivan

2017 – 2018

Ryan Johnson
James Siena
Caitlin Cherry
Corin Hewitt
Tomashi Jackson
Mark Thomas Gibson
Peter Saul
Ulrike Müller
Keltie Ferris
George Nick
Caitlin Keogh
Lisa Yuskavage

2018 – 2019

Dru Donovan
Jordan Casteel
Lucy Kim
Allison Katz
Lydia Dona
Meriem Bennani
Mike Rader
Didier William
Paula Wilson
Jennifer Bornstein
Caroline Woolard
Mira Dancy
Steffani Jemison
Vishal Jugdeo
Sam Messer
Dana Frankfort
Aliza Nisenbaum
Harold Mendez

Previous Visiting Artists

Richard Aldrich
Michael Berryhill
Huma Bhabha
Katherine Bradford
Sascha Braunig
Nicole Eisenman

Walton Ford
Barnaby Furnas
Joe Fyfe
Stanley Lewis
Tom McGrath
Carrie Moyer

Raphael Rubinstein
Dana Schutzz
Mickalene Thomas
Patricia Treib
Marc Trujillo


Galleries and Exhibitions

The galleries at the School of Visual Arts comprise both professional and student-run exhibition spaces. Regular exhibitions compliment graduate education. The Boston University Art Galleries present professionally organized exhibitions by contemporary artists in all disciplines.

Second year graduate students each have a weeklong solo exhibition of their work in the public space of the Commonwealth Gallery.

In the spring semester of their second year, every MFA Painting and Sculpture graduate student exhibits their work in a thesis exhibition in the professional quality exhibition spaces of Boston University Art Galleries.

Following the thesis exhibition, graduated students often debut their work in New York City in a group exhibition organized by the program in partnership with Manhattan galleries.

The graduate program takes regular trips to New York City to visit artists’ studios and tour exhibitions.

Ruowen Wu

William Karlen

Rachel Barron

Nick Mancini

Laraine Armenti

Julian Macmillan

Madeleine Bialke

Awards and Opportunities

The MFA Painting and Sculpture Alumni Award in Honor of John Walker is awarded each year at the close of the spring semester. Recipients are selected by a group of MFA program alumni. The award was created by alumni to recognize the achievements of MFA students and to honor Professor Emeritus John Walker.

The Joseph Ablow Memorial Painting Prize is awarded to a promising rising second year MFA Painting major. Joseph Ablow was a Painting faculty member at the School of Visual Arts for more than four decades. He served in the roles of Professor and Director, and was a Professor Emeritus prior to his passing away in 2012. He studied painting at Harvard University, Bennington College, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He pursued additional study with the renowned artists, Oskar Kokoschka and Ben Shahn. His personal attention to and care for his students are remembered by all who were fortunate to have known and studied with him. This memorial prize, supported by Joseph Ablow’s family and friends, will continue to bestow honor on his memory.

MFA Painting students are typically awarded graduate and or teaching assistantships, providing valuable professional teaching experience before graduation.


Important Dates

Winter 2024

JAN 16

Application Deadline

Spring 2024


Notification Deadline

Fall 2024


Classes Start

Program Faculty

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