The low-residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Art at the University of the Arts is a highly selective professional graduate program that imparts a tradition of artistic and academic excellence through a unique, low-residency format. You’ll complete your MFA in a year-round program both on- and off-campus. Through participation in an immersive eight-week campus-based summer semester, you'll be able to take advantage of all the mentoring, instruction and facilities we have to offer. The fall and spring semesters are dedicated to independent study designed by you and supported by our faculty and mentors, either through personal meetings or distance learning.

The low-residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Art at the University of the Arts is a highly selective professional graduate program that imparts a tradition of artistic and academic excellence through a distinctive pedagogical lens. This advanced focus carries the foundational and expansive concept of curator and critic as a vanguard. Conceived and implemented by the program’s director, Professor Cynthia Nourse Thompson, the two-and-a-half year sequence is designated into divergent modules allowing for independent and collective initiation, commitment and realization. The educational concept of curator and critic is vibrant, experimental and independently malleable — bestowing a complexity of academic and applied acumen on those seeking to foster their artistic voice and vision. Both a fully immersed campus experience and an independent study experience are provided. Benefits of the low-residency program include the flexibility to continue working while completing degree requirements and moreover, the opportunity to engage with a variety of renowned artists and curators.


Students work with distinguished and accomplished faculty from a variety of disciplines. Students not only interact with their studio faculty, but are inspired and encouraged by the teaching artists around them. Artists serving as mentors have included Wardell Milan, James Siena, Carson Fox, David Humphrey and Jonathan VanDyke.

Additionally, students benefit from the lectures, workshops and critiques of visiting artists, curators, gallery directors, critics and historians on a national and international level. Many of these include curators and critics Chad Alligood, assistant curator of Special Projects at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Alice Gray Stites, chief curator of 21c Museum Hotels; and visiting artists Anthony Goicolea, Jennie C. Jones, Chie Fueki, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, Dan Walsh, Garth Johnson, Michelle Grabner and Zoe Strauss.

Wednesday, June 27 | Connelly Auditorium, Terra Hall 211 S. Broad Street, floor 8
11:00am - 12:00pm
Fred Tomaselli

Tuesday, July 3 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Robin F. Williams

Wednesday, July 11 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Diana al -Hadid

Tuesday, July 17 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Vivian Chiu

Wednesday, July 18 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Alyson Shotz

Wednesday, July 25 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Carmen Hermo, Assistant Curator, Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum

Wednesday, August 1 | CBS
11:00am - 12:00pm
Johanna Burton, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Engagement at the New Museum, Her most recent exhibition: Trigger: Gender as a tool and a weapon

Wednesday, August 8 | Connelly Auditorium, Terra Hall 211 S. Broad Street, floor 8
11:00am - 12:00pm
Zoe Buckman

Applicants should note the low-residency programs are year-round and require three annual eight-week, on-campus summer residences as well as off-campus independent study during the Fall and Spring semesters. These programs extend over two and a half years culminating in a thesis exhibition following completion of the third Fall semester. Accepted MFA students must begin their studies in the Summer Semester. 

The low-residency model is uniquely crafted and includes an integrated studio program coupled with a professional practice writing component to best prepare graduates for real-world experiences in a creative discipline. The program maintains a commitment to research, chronology and the critical theory of the fine and liberal arts and their interconnectivity to the practice of art making; the possession of fluent academic discourse and written proficiency; the artist as a catalyst through multi-dimensional forms and narratives; and an oath to the professional artist’s tradition of a master of the skills, technologies and social responsibilities of the fine arts reinterpreted in contemporary platforms.

Students in the Studio Art program experience a truly fluid classroom, one that seamlessly flows from classrooms and studio spaces during the summer residency into independent studio, writing and research projects during the fall and spring semesters. Although each student independently designs fall and spring projects, constant contact with faculty is maintained while the student is not on campus, through personal meetings and conversations. The student’s growth is monitored through written evaluations, critiques and an on-campus critique at the end of each semester.

Sample Curriculum:

Total Credits: 60
Duration: 2.5 years, full-time

Year One

Graduate Drawing (3c)
Major Studio I (6c)
Graduate Seminar: Visual Culture Studies (3c)

Year Two

Major Studio II (6c)
Studio Topics (3c)
Graduate Seminar: Contemporary Topics in Art and Design (3c)

Independent Studio I (3c)
Independent Writing Project I (1.5c)

Thesis Writing Project I (1.5c)
Thesis Preparation I (3c)

Independent Studio II (3c)
Independent Writing Project II(1.5c)

Thesis Writing Project II (1.5c)
Thesis Preparation II (3c)

Year Three

Professional Practices (3c)
Major Studio III (6c)
University Seminar: Criticism (3c)

MFA Thesis Exhibition (6c)

For more information, including specific course descriptions, please the department's website and the course catalogue. 


Visit Department Website

Visit Course Catalogue 


Application Deadline: The University of the Arts operates on a rolling admissions basis, meaning there is no specific application deadline. However, graduate programs are filled on a space available basis, and applicants are encouraged to apply early as some programs may fill. Additionally, certain scholarship awards may have priority consideration deadlines.

To apply, the following materials are required:

  • A Completed Online Application Form 
  • Application Fee of $60 (nonrefundable; submitted with your application)
  • Official Transcripts
    • Official transcripts from all prior undergraduate and graduate schools attended are required. Transcripts should be issued directly by the Registrar's Office at the college(s) attended and sent to the Office of Admissions, The University of the Arts, 320 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or via email to For transcripts from outside the United States, please refer to the instructions provided below for international students.
  • 3 Letters of Recommendation 
    • Two must come from professors or professionals in your field familiar with your work. The third may be from a colleague, collaborator or a peer. Letters can be requested through the online application form, or mailed to the Office of Admissions.
  • Statement of Intent & Resume
    • Your Statement of Intent and your Resume are uploaded and submitted as part of your online application. When writing your statement, please detail your professional objectives for applying to the MFA Program, focusing on your accomplishments and progress within your work to date, and the directions you would like to further explore in graduate study. Why is graduate study a necessary and important part of your future as an artist? What will set you apart from other applicants? Your resume should highlight all of your professional accomplishments including employment, honors, exhibitions and publications.
  • Creative Portfolio
    • A portfolio exhibiting a level of mastery is the primary prerequisite for the MFA. Applicants should submit images that represent the recent direction of the work as well as the full range of experience in one or more of the disciplines to which application is being made. Applicants should submit 18-20 digital images or time-based media for review online via the UArts Graduate SlideRoom Portal. Further instructions are provided within the SlideRoom Portal. There is a $10 fee to submit a portfolio in addition to the $60 application fee.
  • Personal Interview
    • After the application has been processed, each applicant is contacted for a personal interview conducted by the program director. For applicants who cannot interview at the university, interviews can be conducted via telephone or Skype. 


In addition to the requirements listed above, international applicants or those with foreign credentials must submit: 

  • Official Transcripts and Transcript Evaluation
    • All applicants with transcripts from outside the United States are required to submit transcripts officially translated into English. A transcript evaluation by a NACES-approved evaluator is required in order for an application to be complete, and a decision made. A Course-by-Course report is required and it is the applicant's responsibility to contract directly with the agency for this service and provide the necessary documents. While applicants may use any NACES-approved accredited evaluating agency, the University recommends World Education Services (WES) or Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE).
  • Proof of English Language Proficiency
    • International applicants whose primary language is not English must submit the results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). A minimum TOEFL score of 92 (iBT) or 580 (PBT) or higher, an IELTS score of 6.5 or higher is required for unconditional admission.

Applicants who meet the academic and creative requirements for admission but whose scores do not meet the English proficiency requirement for degree study may receive an offer of conditional admission that first requires enrollment in the University of the Arts' English as a Second Language Institute (ESLI). Applicants who successfully complete Level 9 of ESL study in ESLI will then be able to begin their degree program studies.

In special circumstances, applicants who have not taken the TOEFL or IELTS can request a waiver of this requirement. The request should be submitted in writing and include the reason for opting not to take the TOEFL or IELTS exams. Requests will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may require an interview.

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