MFA | 2-year program

MFA candidates in Digital + Media explore art, technology and emergent practices. The program encourages students to use a wide range of research methods and forms—both digital and analog—to investigate technology as a creative medium and cultural-historical phenomenon.

Informed by critical and decolonial theory, environmental science, sound studies and more, the curriculum supports students in developing robust research agendas and independent studio practices. Faculty also encourage cross-disciplinary dialogue with researchers at Brown University, the University of Rhode Island and with other individuals and institutions outside the world of art and design.

MFA FIRST YEAR

FALL
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar I
Media Perspectives
Digital + Media studio elective
WINTERSESSION
Open elective
SPRING
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar II
Critical Theory + Artistic Research in Context
Digital + Media studio elective

MFA SECOND YEAR

FALL
Digital + Media Grad Studio/Seminar III
Digital + Media Writing
Open elective
WINTERSESSION
Open elective
SPRING
Thesis Project
Open elective

Graduate student work

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • develop a thorough understanding of a range of technologies, including their material capabilities and characteristics, appropriateness for specific strategic applications, relevance within larger systems and impact on people and society.
  • demonstrate proficiency with a vocabulary of multiple material practices.
  • exhibit fluency in history, theory and criticism with respect to art, technology and new media practice.
  • organize teams and work collaboratively with people from a range of disciplines.
  • present work professionally through exhibitions, publications and other relevant contexts.
  • communicate cogently about their ongoing studio art process.
  • demonstrate effective writing skills as part of or in support of artistic practice.
  • contribute to the ongoing dialogue about research and new work in the field.

Academic experience

Each year D+M admits a small cohort of graduate students from a variety of backgrounds and fields, including art, computing, music, science and anthropology, among many others. Throughout the program students and faculty engage in ongoing dialogue through research studios and seminars, such as the recurring Techlands and Sonic Practices, as well as electives that explore intersections of technology and race, gender, ecology and more. 

In dialogue with faculty, D+M students chart a tailored course of study that defines their personal and collaborative approaches to art practice. The closely affiliated Computation, Technology and Culture concentration helps majors make connections across the college, and RISD’s long-standing relationship with Brown University allows for course cross-registration and access to Brown’s many libraries and research centers.

Faculty expertise

D+M faculty bring wide-ranging backgrounds in studio art, software and hardware design, scholarship and performance to the department’s teaching, research and culture of creative practice. Their expertises span digital art, sonic practice, environmental and sustainability studies, digital activism, coding, and decolonial practices, among many other focus areas.

In addition to widely exhibiting work internationally in galleries and performance spaces, faculty in D+M create environmental sculpture and site-specific installations, and design code and software that push the possibilities of technology as an art medium.

Extended learning

In combination with coursework, students may assist in faculty research and develop skills through technical assistantships. The college also provides opportunities to explore exhibition and curatorial opportunities through RISD's Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery and other spaces in and around Providence. During Wintersession second-year graduate students in D+M may apply to teach a course of their own design to gain valuable experience in the field.

Graduate students also find several internal funding opportunities that support new or developing work and extended, professional research practice, such as the Graduate Studies Grant and the Maharam STEAM Fellowship. RISD Careers also hosts professional networking events such as the annual Design Portfolio Review and a separate Fine Arts Portfolio Review, and offers students and alumni individual advising on grants, residencies, entrepreneurship, Fulbright applications and more.

Thesis project

Studies in art, technology and emergent practice culminate in a thesis project that D+M majors complete at the end of the two-year MFA program. Working with a thesis committee, degree candidates integrate conceptual thinking and technical skill in a variety of forms, including experimental games, environmental art, sound installations and speculative design. All graduate students participate in RISD’s annual graduate thesis exhibition and publish a thesis book that expands on their work or sheds light on their critique of existing technologies and social structures.