Master of Fine Arts

The Studio Art MFA program at the University of Arkansas provides an intensive studio environment for committed individuals planning careers as practicing artists.
View the Catalog of Studies for the MFA.

Our department and program is growing at an unprecedented rate, in part attributed to the thriving creative economy here in Northwest Arkansas. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the recently opened 21C Museum Hotel in Bentonville are tremendous resources for our MFA students. With the addition of a new facility in 2016 offering 30,000 square feet to our existing facilities, our MFA program is growing, providing improved studio space, more installation and gallery spaces, classrooms, and fabrication labs for our students’ needs.

The MFA in Studio Art is a three-year, full time, in-residence, 60 credit hour program. While the individual program of study will vary, the emphasis is on studio work, supplemented by graduate studio seminars and coursework in art history. Students enter the program in one of 7 media areas (Drawing, Graphic Design, Ceramics, Painting, Photography, Printmaking or Sculpture) but are encouraged to explore other media and work across disciplines.

View the work of current students in the MFA Program.

The Objectives of the MFA Program

  • Achievement of formal and technical proficiency in the major studio area.
  • Conceptual development as demonstrated by growth in ideas supporting creative research.
  • An ability to locate the research in the context of issues and practices within contemporary and historical art.
  • Communication of the intention and basis of the research in coherent written and verbal form.

The entire faculty is involved in the MFA program and participate in formal reviews. The faculty numbers approximately 23 full time and 6 part time members and represent a variety of approaches to art-making.

How to Apply:

Application deadline is February 1st for Fall Admission.
(the MFA program does not admit new students in the Spring Semester)

The application is a 2-step process. Each applicant must apply to BOTH of the following:

  1. the Graduate School (offsite link)
  2. the Art Department, using a web-based portfolio and document submission system,

The following materials should be uploaded to SlideRoom:

  1. An artist’s statement focusing on thematic concerns, conceptual and technical development, and artists or theories that have influenced the work.
    (1 to 2 pages in length)
  2. A personal statement outlining goals for graduate study.
  3. Information about your skills if applying for an assistantship.
  4. Resume.
  5. PDF of unofficial transcripts of college-level work from each degree-granting institution you have attended.
    (if you are unable to scan and send transcripts using SlideRoom, they may be sent as hard copy to: MFA Admissions, 1 University of Arkansas, School of Art, 116 FNAR, Fayetteville, AR 72701)
  6. The names and contact information of three references (from your professors or other art professionals) who can discuss your art work, conceptual thinking, work habits, and potential for graduate study in art.
    (The references will receive an email link, which will allow them to upload their letter)
  7. A portfolio of art works (20 pieces, up to 5 of which may be details if needed).

More information on preparing and submitting your images can be found below.

Graduate Directors:

Kristin Musgnug

Marc Mitchell

(479) 575-5202

More Information 

The applicant for the MFA degree in art is expected to have earned the Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree or its equivalent, with a major concentration in visual art. Applicants who do not have an art major may present evidence of proficiency in creative work in the visual arts. The GRE is not required. 

Acceptance to the MFA degree program requires a two-semester art history survey or its equivalent. Failing to meet this requirement, the MFA student is required to complete the appropriate semesters of survey of art history for non-graduate credit.

After admission to the Graduate School and acceptance by the School of Art, the director of the school of art will appoint an advisor to work with the student in planning a suitable program of advanced study. Faculty will review the student’s work and progress within the program at least twice each year.

The student must complete a minimum of 60 semester credit hours, and a minimum of four regular semesters in residence (not to include summer terms).

A. Major Concentration – 24 hours:
  • 6 credit hours in each of the four semesters, minimum.
B. Graduate Studio Seminar – 6 hours:
  • ARTS 5913 – 3 credits taken in Fall semester of 1st & 2nd years (6 hrs).
C. Studio Art Electives – 12 hours:
  • The studio art electives may include up to three (3) credit hours in excess of the required twelve (12) hours of Art History and/or criticism. With the approval of the Art Department, up to six (6) credit hours in graduate courses taken outside the art department may be counted as electives.
D. Art History – 12 hours:

While in the M.F.A. program the student is required to complete a minimum of twelve (12) hours of Art History as follows:

  • ARHS 4933 Contemporary Art History (3 hours).
  • ARHS 6763 Critical Theory (3 hours).
  • Six (6) hours of pre- or post-19th Century art history offerings, which may include up to 3 hours of ARHS Intersession Courses.
E. M.F.A. Exhibition – 6 hours:
  • During the student’s final semester in the M.F.A. program (the final semester must be completed during the regular school year), he/she must enroll in six hours of ARTS 601V M.F.A. Exhibition to produce and present, under the direction of a graduate committee, a solo exhibition of art work and make three acceptable image presentation sets (digital, on CDs or DVDs) of the exhibition and exhibition statements, which will be retained by the School of Art and the University Library.

*The M.F.A. candidate may enroll for three (3) additional credit hours in electives if the candidate does not hold a Graduate Assistantship. If the candidate is holding a Graduate Assistantship, they may not take additional credits in the final semester.

Semester Three-Year Course Schedule Example

First Year
Fall Spring
  • 3 major
  • 3 elective
  • 3 studio seminar
  • 3 art history
  • 12 total
  • 6 major
  • 3 elective
  • 3 art history
  • 12 total
Second Year
Fall Spring
  • 3 major
  • 3 elective
  • 3 studio seminar
  • 3 art history
  • 12 total
  • 6 major
  • 3 elective
  • 3 art history
  • 12 total
Third Year
Fall Spring
  • 6 major
  • 6 total
  • 6 Thesis exhibition
  • 6 total

*Summer Option: Students may take studio hours in the summer to lessen Fall/Spring loads.

All MFA students are required to participate in regular reviews critiquing their artworks. These reviews involve both a mid-term critique conducted by several faculty members and a final critique attended by the entire department faculty and all current MFA students. After MFA students receive candidacy, their participation is still required, although they will no longer need to present their artwork for review.


Financial aid is available at the graduate level for teaching, gallery, and media area assistance. For the current academic year, assistantships have a stipend of $11,000 plus a full tuition waiver in exchange for twenty (20) hours of departmental work per week. By a separate application and evaluation procedure, the Graduate Assistantships are awarded by the faculty each spring for the following school year. In addition to a Graduate Assistantship, incoming MFAs may also receive a Graduate Fellowship in the amount of $3,000 annually.

The School of Art also offers annual summer scholarships to support student learning at prestigious institutions and organizations including Mildred’s Lane, Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Mount Gretna School of Art, and Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. Internationally, we provide financial support to MFA students studying abroad through our Art in Rome program, to one graduate student annually to attend MFA Studio Berlin, sponsored by American University, and to one MFA student annually to attend Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan. Each semester, we also offer MFA Project Grants to support creative research and professional development. Additional grants to supplement graduate student travel are offered through Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Candidacy Application and Review:

After completion of two semesters in the MFA degree program the student may make application to be a candidate for completion of the MFA degree. The art faculty will conduct a formal review of the applicant’s work and progress in the program. At least two regular semesters of residence must be completed after acceptance as a degree candidate.

Graduate Thesis Committee and Major Advisor:

When the student has been accepted as a degree candidate, the student will select a major advisor from the graduate art faculty. The major advisor will serve as advisor to the student in planning the completion of the program of study. At least one semester before graduation, a four- or five-member committee of graduate art faculty will be selected. The student’s major advisor will be chairperson of this committee and one member of the graduate committee will represent the art history or criticism area. One additional committee member from a discipline outside the School of Art may be selected by the degree candidate.

Residency Requirements:

To meet the residency requirements, the student is required to complete a minimum of 60 semester hours of graduate credit and study in residence for a minimum of four regular semesters on the Fayetteville campus. All degree requirements must be completed within six consecutive calendar years from the date of first enrollment. With approval of the school director and the Graduate School, up to 12 credit hours of graduate level work in studio art or art history may be transferred from another recognized graduate school and applied to degree requirements.

Final Examination:

Final approval for the completion of the MFA degree will be the responsibility of the candidate’s graduate committee, and will require an oral examination over the candidate’s exhibition of creative works and related aspects of the student’s program of study.

Assembling Your Portfolio

The portfolio of work is the primary material the faculty will look at in making their decision. Examples should feature recent work (preferably from the last 2 years) in the applicant’s proposed area(s) of concentration. Choose your best and most recent work that demonstrates your focus and informed knowledge of contemporary art. Emphasize a consistent line of thought rather than submitting widely varying work from undergraduate class assignments.

Care should be taken to represent the art works as accurately as possible. Images should be properly lit, exposed, and cropped, with no other distracting information in the frame.

Portfolio Submission

You must upload 20 images to SlideRoom. The maximum size allowed is 5MB. If needed, you may also upload videos of no more than 5 minutes.

Arrange images in chronological order, oldest to newest. Images/videos can be labeled and ordered after they are uploaded into SlideRoom. You will need to provide the title of each image, the medium, year created, and dimensions.  Up to five of these images may be details if appropriate for large scale or 3-dimensional pieces.

SlideRoom has comprehensive instructions for resizing and submitting work online.

The Studio Art MFA program at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville provides an intensive studio environment for committed individuals planning to pursue careers as practicing artists.

The graduate faculty embraces an interdisciplinary approach to making art in the 21st century to reflect contemporary practices. Although students achieve mastery in their areas of focus, the most of our graduate students--by the time they reach their thesis exhibition--incorporate two to three different media areas. Traditional processes as well as advanced technologies are taught with equal enthusiasm in each media area. We believe that by offering our graduate students a multitude of technical processes and approaches to art-making that we are equipping our graduates with much more than the necessary tools to proactively drive their careers. At the same time, our MFA students are expected to be critical thinkers, to question the processes they select in production as contributing to meaning. Each student is required to take Contemporary Art History and Critical Theory early in the MFA program and is expected through intensive research to gradually solidify a foundation for their studio practice.

Because many well-respected Studio Art programs nationwide are surplusing their traditional equipment like enlarger tables and shutting down their foundries, we believe we are unique in making the conscientious decision to offer both traditional and technologically advanced processes. Our approach reflects not only the history and tradition of the Ozarks in which artisanry and self-reliance is paramount, but also the progressive creative industry that Northwest Arkansas promotes.

Our studio media areas offer graduate-only courses each semester. These are listed as Graduate Studio Courses (ARTS 6033: Graduate Drawing Studio, ARTS 6133: Graduate Painting Studio, ARTS 6233: Graduate Sculpture Studio, ARTS: 6433 Graduate Printmaking Studio, ARTS 6533: Graduate Ceramics Studio, and ARTS 6833: Graduate Photography Studio). These new graduate-only courses will provide excellent studio elective courses in addition to the major concentration courses.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, 17 of 19 MFA students received support in the form of a Graduate Assistantship and/or a Graduate Fellowship. In 2016-17 our enrollment grew to 25 and all had support.  A Graduate Assistantship offers a full tuition waiver plus an $11,400 annual stipend in exchange for 20 hours of departmental work per week, while a Graduate Fellowship offers in-state tuition plus a $3,000 annual stipend. Both the Assistantship and Fellowship are renewable. Each semester, our department also offers $1K MFA Project Grants, funding to support creative research and professional development. In addition, numerous travel grants are provided to our students to attend opportunities including the UA Art in Rome program, Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan, MFA Studio Berlin program sponsored by American University, Mildred's Lane, Penland School of Crafts, Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, and Mount Gretna School of Art. Additional grants between $750 to supplement graduate student travel are offered through the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, our MFA Program increased enrollment included 5 international students, 6 are from regional states, and 14 are from states outside our region.

Generously-sized private and shared MFA studios range from 250-500 square feet and may be found at the following locations: 1 East Center on the downtown Fayetteville square (16 studios); Stone House on the eastern edge of main campus (2 studios); Ceramics Studio on the southern end of campus (6 studios); and the new Sculpture facility at the Art + Design District south of campus (5 studios). All facilities offer 24-hour access to MFA Students. Currently, midterm critiques with small faculty groups take place in MFA students’ studios, while final critiques with the full faculty (split into two groups) and candidacy reviews with the full faculty take place at 1 East Center. sUgAR, our University of Arkansas Student-Run Gallery, which is also located at 1 East Center, is able to accommodate our MFAs whose studios are located in Stone House, Ceramics, and Sculpture.

Having our MFAs actively working and exhibiting on the downtown square and participating in First Thursdays, which attracts thousands of arts and culture enthusiasts, benefits our students, department, Fulbright College, and the University of Arkansas. Being immersed in the Northwest Arkansas community is incredibly important to our mission as a department. Every semester our MFAs present their work to the community in open studios, and in addition they collaborate with local organizations and galleries including Fayetteville Underground, LaLaLand, Backspace, and the Shed. Our MFAs actively contribute to our community, which we believe promotes and enriches our entire program and adds to the social fabric of our developing region. Additional forms of promotion include an MFA poster that is redesigned annually and distributed nationally, and MFA travel opportunities abroad and nationally with many institutions with whom we have a memo-of-understanding to send 1-2 students annually (Tainan University of the Arts in Taiwan, MFA Studio Berlin through American University, Anderson Ranch, Mildred’s Lane, Penland, and Arrowmont). Our MFAs also represent the UA by participating in conferences including the College Art Association (CAA), Southeastern College Art Association (SECAC), National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA), Society for Photographic Education (SPE), Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI), and International Sculpture Center Conference (ISC).

The objective of the program of study leading to the degree of Master of Fine Arts in art shall be professional achievement of high order, a knowledge of art history and criticism, the development of a fundamental grasp and understanding of the professional field of art and its relationship to supporting fields of knowledge, as well as the satisfactory completion of course work and other degree requirements. The program of study will vary depending upon the art medium areas selected for the creative work and the goals of the individual graduate student. The Master of Fine Arts degree in art is considered to be the terminal degree in studio art and is awarded in recognition of professional development in the visual arts as evidenced by a period of successful post-bachelor’s degree study. The M.F.A. degree is recognized as preparatory to studio art teaching positions at institutions of higher education.