MFA | 2-year program

The MFA program supports artists engaged in rigorous interdisciplinary practices through an emphasis on visual and critical literacy. The Sculpture curriculum foregrounds studio praxis, generous group conversation, lectures and meetings with visiting artists, and studio electives to enhance each artist’s skills and methods of making. This approach fosters a tight-knit student cohort encouraged to regard each other as lifelong friends and colleagues. We consciously develop critical discourse and interdisciplinary research modalities that actively support varied ways of working and thinking. Students in Sculpture have access to advanced technologies and are encouraged to pursue social and alternative practices.

MFA candidates engage in two years of intensive individual research and creative activity in residence at RISD. During the second year, graduate students are invited to teach a course that they conceive and develop themselves – usually during the six-week Wintersession.

MFA first year

Advanced Critical Issues Seminar I
Graduate Sculpture Studio I
Studio or Seminar elective
Studio or Seminar elective
Advanced Critical Issues Seminar II
Graduate Sculpture Studio II
Studio or Seminar elective

MFA second year

Graduate Sculpture Studio III
Studio elective
Seminar elective
Studio or Seminar elective
Graduate Sculpture Thesis Project
Studio or Seminar elective

Heather Rowe | graduate program director

“Sculpture is a discipline of agency and exploration—and one of particular vitality. It can be both specific in material and ambitious in its reach across boundaries and disciplines. The RISD grad program creates an open and rigorous environment in which students can develop as artists and see that pursuit flourish in the long term. Sculpture grads are encouraged to take risks and experience new ways of working through ongoing dialogue with their faculty and peers, along with visiting artists and the larger RISD community.”

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • express an understanding of contemporary visual art
  • demonstrate the intention, motivation and skills required to pursue and sustain a career as an artist
  • articulate the conceptual framework that informs individual pieces, collections and overall practice
  • contextualize one’s practice within the diverse landscape of global contemporary art practice
  • demonstrate knowledge of intersectional discourse and methods of making
  • understand how to ethically practice within the framework of community engagement
  • write syllabi, formulate a teaching philosophy and think through pedagogical hurdles
  • support, cultivate and participate in high-level intellectual and academic discourse
  • articulate studio and conceptual concerns in writing that makes critical connections between individual works and practices and the larger contexts that inform them
  • demonstrate the ability to acquire new technical and conceptual skill sets through self-education

Inspiring community

The MFA program brings together a vibrant community of faculty and students with broad-ranging interdisciplinary interests that include, but are not limited to: advanced technologies, robotics, science fiction, fabrication, performance, object oriented ontology, queer theory, critical race theory, cinema and dance. Visiting artists and critics, along with an active community of peers, expose students to a wide spectrum of skills, philosophies and professional experiences. Core faculty act as mentors who are committed to open engagement with each individual student and to fostering a supportive ethos among the group. The department’s visiting artist program series brings outside professionals to campus each semester for lectures, studio visits and critiques. Graduate students also benefit from frequent one-on-one meetings with core faculty and small-group discussions with other students.

Learning environment

Graduate students have 24-hour access to private and semi-private studios in RISD’s Fletcher Building, a facility designed to promote interdisciplinary discourse with grad students in other fine arts programs. The building also offers critique spaces, a woodshop and a computer area for shared use, and is home to Co-Works, RISD’s digital prototyping laboratory. Additionally, students in the MFA program have access to the facilities in the Metcalf Building, where two full-time technicians maintain the newly expanded woodshop, extensive metal shop and a state-of-the-art foundry that supports bronze and aluminum pouring, was-working, patina, and rubber mold making. Relevant electives are available across the full spectrum of RISD disciplines, as well as at Brown University. RISD’s proximity to Boston and New York affords ready access to museums, galleries and practicing professionals.


MFA candidates engage in two years of intensive individual research and creative activity in residence at RISD. During the second year, graduate students are invited to teach a course that they conceive and develop themselves – usually during the six-week Wintersession.

Thesis project

In the final semester, MFA candidates focus on creating a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All Sculpture grad students produce a written thesis and 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 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.


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