“My time at PAFA helped me find my creative center and give me confidence ... as I sometimes radically change my approaches to art making and even my definitions of art, something stays consistent in me.”  -Amy Walsh, MFA '06

Transformation and Discovery

The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program provides an intense and transformative immersion in contemporary art-making practice in a large and supportive community of artists, critics, visiting speakers, seminar leaders and fellow students.

The MFA program at PAFA is an intensive, two-year experience that focuses on studio practice and individual artistic development. The program is interdisciplinary in nature and welcomes students working in a variety of media with a wide range of interests. Through seminars, studio classes, critiques, and visiting artist lectures, students are exposed to diverse viewpoints and approaches to art making. The program fosters a strong sense of community and students are both supported and challenged by their peers and faculty. The MFA program enables students to become independent, critical thinkers and makers who are engaged members of their artistic communities.

Program Structure

The MFA program offers seminars in theory, contemporary art, writing and professional practices. Students also enroll in studio classes with a range of topics that include: figure drawing, contemporary themes in painting, and video and animation. In addition, students have the option of taking an array of undergraduate courses such as mold-making and landscape painting. PAFA is a school that cares deeply about how things are made as well as the ideas behind them. The curriculum is structured to help students improve their abilities to see and make while also broadening and deepening their conceptual framework and skills to discuss and write about art.

The core of the program is students’ individual studio practice. Through experimentation, one on one discussion with critics, and group critiques, students develop their work and ideas into a sustainable, thoughtful artistic practice. In their studio work, students are encouraged to be independent, self-motivated and open to the new possibilities and ideas that arise through the course of making. Students have a private studio with 24-hour access and access to the print and sculpture shops, the Cast Hall and the tremendous museum collection.

During the second year of the program, students begin to focus towards a body of work that constitutes their thesis. The program of study culminates in an exhibition of thesis work within the museum galleries of the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building.


All MFA and Post-Baccalaureate students are provided a private studio in the Samuel M.V. Hamilton Building and have access to the galleries of PAFA’s renowned collection of historic and contemporary American art. Studios have 24-hour access and are maintained within a facility that meets meet all safety and access requirements.


Jan Baltzell, Interim Graduate Program chair
Mark Blavat
Astrid Bowlby
Tom Csaszar
David Dempewolf
Renee P. Foulks
Michael Gallagher
Neysa Grassi
Clint Jukkala
Dan Miller
Kate Moran
Michael Moore
Eileen Neff
Scott Noel
Kevin Richards
Bruce Samuelson
Judith Schaechter

2015-16 Visiting Critics:

Collen Asper
Charles Burwell
Sharon Butler
David Cohen
Vincent Desiderio
Daniel Heyman
James Hyde
Marie Lorenz
Virgil Marti
Jennifer Packer
Claire Sherman
Mika Tajima

2014-15 Visiting Critics:

Sharon Butler
Nicole Cherubini
David Cohen
Vincent Desiderio
Abigail Deville
Hope Gangloff
Daniel Heyman
James Hyde
Gillian Jagger
Titus Kaphar
Virgil Marti
Jennifer Packer
Claire Sherman

Recent and upcoming Visiting Artists include:

Derrick Adams
Njideka Akunyili
Ellen Altfest
Daniel Arsham
Katherine Bradford
Mel Chin
Martha Clippinger
Sue Coe
Alex Da Corte
Matthew Deleget
Mark Dion
Natalie Frank
Chie Fueki
Chitra Ganesh
Hillary Harkness
Richard Harrod
Oliver Herring
Kurt Kauper
Donald Lipski
Marie Lorenz
Sam Moyer
Laurel Nakadate
Stephanie Pierce
Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley
Mia Rosenthal
Heather Rowe
Rob Swainston
R.L Tillman
Nicola Tyson
Phoebe Washburn
Jerome Witkin
Saya Woolfalk