MFA | 2-year program

Graduate students in the program develop visual and critical expertise through course work, seminars, independent studio work and critiques designed to provide a deep understanding of contemporary art practices and criticism. Working in personal studios, students have access to state-of-the-art technical facilities that allow for the exploration of film-based and digital photography, digital video and multimedia production.

MFA candidates achieve a high level of technical mastery and create a coherent body of visual work representing a sustained and sophisticated investigation of ideas. They are also expected to write and speak about their work with an advanced level of fluency and to frame their practice in historical and critical contexts.

MFA first year

Fall
Graduate Critique I
Graduate Seminar
Open electives
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Graduate Critique II
Graduate Seminar

MFA second year

Fall
Graduate Critique III Thesis
Graduate Seminar
Open elective
Wintersession
Open elective
Spring
Graduate Critique IV Thesis
Graduate Photography Thesis Writing
Graduate Thesis Project

Brian Ulrich | graduate program director

“MFA candidates in Photography are immersed in an incredibly stimulating community of peers, faculty and visiting artists. They learn to situate their own work within the context of contemporary and historical art practices, as well as in additional creative or academic fields of inquiry. In investigating their creative work with rigor, challenging themselves intellectually and learning to speak about their work with fluency, students emerge from graduate school prepared to tackle the goals they have set for themselves.”

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • state and achieve individual goals for their work
  • deliver technically proficient work
  • develop a cohesive body of work
  • speak and write about their work with a high degree of clarity
  • contextualize their work in contemporary practice
  • demonstrate professionalism though teaching, gallery exhibition, photography assistantship, and/or managing a studio practice


Inspiring community

In addition to learning from fellow students in RISD's many discipline-based programs, MFA candidates in Photography work closely with professors who are accomplished working artists, scholars and educators with a passion both for teaching and their own studio work. Collectively, they provide students with a wealth of visual, intellectual and technical expertise. In addition, nationally recognized artists, curators, critics and gallery directors regularly visit to critique student work and/or present as part of the department's popular T.C. Colley Lecture Series.

Learning environment

Fourteen graduate students currently share the department's state-of-the-art technical facilities with roughly 30 undergraduates but also have exclusive access to a large-format Epson printer and a studio space in the Fletcher Building, part of RISD's graduate center complex downtown. Studios provide a place to work, meet with guest artists and curators, and interact with graduate students from other disciplines. Students interested in teaching are able to do so in their second year. Opportunities to both exhibit and curate shows are offered through the Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery, the RISD Museum's Gelman Gallery and the department's own Red Eye Gallery.

Thesis project

In the final semester, MFA candidates focus on creating a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All Photography graduate students produce a thesis book that includes a written narrative and a body of visual work. They also participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held annually.

Application requirements

  1. Application form

    Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60.

  2. Academic transcripts

    Initially, you must provide unofficial transcripts of all undergraduate and/or graduate study indicating satisfactory completion, or evidence of anticipated completion, of an undergraduate degree program from an accredited college or university. You can upload your unofficial transcripts within the RISD Applicant Portal. If your academic credentials are prepared in a language other than English, they must be translated into English by an approved translator before submitting. Enrolling students will later be required to submit official transcripts.

  3. Portfolio

    Graduate applicants are required to submit 10–20 examples of visual work, with certain programs suggesting more specific ideas or portfolio requirements (see below).

    Include your portfolio images within your application.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Your portfolio should contain 10 samples total, which can be a combination of images and videos. You may submit up to 5 videos, with a total run time of no more than five minutes for all videos combined. Please do not submit multi-page PDF files. Each sample should be accompanied by text identifying the medium and year, and a four-sentence description explaining the concepts that inform your work and is no more than 50 words. If collaborative projects are presented, you must clearly identify your individual contribution.

    Furniture Design | In the MFA programs, students make their own work as part of learning from, and with, materials. This applies to tests and models as well as to full-size objects at human scale. Material experimentation includes traditional, new and hybrid materials as appropriate to individual student interests.

    In addition to your portfolio materials uploaded to Slideroom, we invite you to include a self-made video no more than 20 seconds duration of you making something. We are not looking for video with professional production values; we are interested in seeing you making something – small, large, modest or complex, any making action can work, the choice is yours. This is an option you might enjoy adding to your submission for us to learn more about your interests. Finally, please title your video.

    Landscape Architecture | All applicants to the Master's of Landscape Architecture degree programs are required to submit a portfolio and an additional video essay. Your portfolio should contain 10 individually produced and carefully chosen images of work that reflects your interests in landscape and the discipline of landscape architecture. Applicants to the MLA-1 program who have no prior design training may include photographs, sketches or written work that conveys their ability to observe, identify and explore spatial conditions within the landscape. All other applicants should include a selection of work that best represents the development of their interest in this field of study. All work should be labeled to indicate if it is academic, professional or personal. If team projects are presented, your individual contribution must be clearly identified. The portfolio should include a minimal amount of text.

    Prepare a short video of yourself telling us:

    • The most important reason you are motivated to study landscape architecture
    • At least one goal you hope to achieve in your graduate education
    • Why you think RISD is the best place to achieve your goals

    You are encouraged to be authentic and heartfelt in your response. This essay will function as the beginning of a conversation you will continue to have if you enter the program at RISD and it does not have to be the same information provided in your written essay. Cell phone videos are accepted as well. Maximum length: 2 minutes.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Your portfolio should consist of 20 images exhibiting the depth and breadth of your studio experience. Ten images should represent work that reflects your investigations within a single medium; seven images should represent your confidence in handling a variety of media; and three images need to be samples of drawings.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a portfolio of 20 images that most clearly represent your creative practice as an artist or designer.

  4. Statement of purpose

    Graduate applicants must submit a written statement (500–750 words) outlining their interest and goals in pursuing graduate study. Several programs suggest more specific ideas or written requirements as outlined below.

    Specific program instructions:

    Digital + Media | Within the statement of purpose, the committee seeks a clear explanation of the applicant’s goals for both their time in school and afterwards, and how the MFA in Digital + Media is specifically suited to support these goals. This statement should address the following questions: what are you interested in exploring conceptually? What outcomes do you hope to get from the degree? Where do you see yourself after graduation? In addition to the statement of purpose, applicants should outline their working methodology or practice from initial research to project realization.

    Landscape Architecture | Your essay should describe how your interest in landscape developed, how the work in your portfolio is indicative of that development and why the landscape architecture program at RISD seems well suited to your goals.

    Photography | In addition to a statement of purpose, applicants should send an artist’s statement describing the work included in their portfolio. In other words, the artist’s statement should be about the work submitted, while the statement of purpose should address why you are seeking a graduate degree.

    Master of Arts in Teaching | MAT | Submit a statement describing your work as an artist or designer. What is it about? How do you feel your academic, studio or work experience prepares you for entry to a graduate teacher education program? Discuss how, in your opinion, the quality of an educator’s artistic practice contributes to high-quality arts learning for children and youth. Since the significance of arts education in K–12 schools is not universally recognized, please provide a succinct argument for including the visual arts as a required core subject for all students at this level.

    Master of Arts in Art + Design Education | MA | Submit a written statement (500–750 words) describing your interest in pursuing the MA. Describe how you might customize a program of study that maximizes the resources of RISD, Brown and the city in support of your particular interest in art and design education. In what ways do you, at this time, anticipate that earning an MA will advance your professional development and career aspirations?

  5. Letters of recommendation

    Applicants are required to submit three letters of recommendation. Recommendation letters should be written by teachers or other professionals who have firsthand knowledge of your art or academic achievements and can comment on your potential for graduate study. You may invite your recommenders to upload their letters through your Applicant Portal. If your recommenders are unable to submit using this method, their letters may be emailed to admissions@risd.edu or mailed to the Graduate Admissions Office.

  6. Tests

    All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from either TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on either test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on IELTS. The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who are enrolled in an institution where English is the language of instruction.

    Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take six weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency.

    Graduate Record Exam (GRE) | Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required, but MA, MAT and MLA candidates are encouraged to submit their scores.

Departments

Apparel Design Architecture Ceramics Digital + Media Experimental and Foundation Studies Film / Animation / Video Furniture Design Glass Graduate Studies Graphic Design History of Art + Visual Culture History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences Illustration Industrial Design Interior Architecture Jewelry + Metalsmithing Landscape Architecture Literary Arts + Studies Painting Photography Printmaking Sculpture Teaching + Learning in Art + Design Textiles