Master’s Program

Our MFA program in Painting emphasizes critical and artistic growth through the evolution of a rigorous studio practice. With a shared passion for the history and craft of painting binding the department together, faculty assist you in developing their own vision, supporting an enormous diversity of formal and conceptual approaches, painting styles and interests.


During your two years in residence here, you take on a serious investigation of the possibilities and realities presented by contemporary painting.

View the curriculum

Learning outcomes

Graduates are prepared to:

  • display an understanding of contemporary visual art.
  • demonstrate the intention, motivation and tools required to pursue a career as an artist and sustain a rigorous fine arts practice.
  • demonstrate the strong visual, verbal and technical skills needed to engage with cutting-edge discourse in contemporary art.
  • produce artwork that makes use of the interdependence between content, form, process and context.
  • appreciate the material qualities and physical aspects of works not intended exclusively for reproduction.
  • display an intimate familiarity with historical and contemporary approaches to visual art and their interrelationships.
  • demonstrate enhanced critical reasoning with broad historical overviews and social insight.
  • support intellectual and academic freedom.
  • deliver discerning critiques of their own work and that of others at a level appropriate to faculty in most collegiate visual arts programs.
  • individuate their approaches to visual artmaking and address self-defined research projects with distinct and challenging parameters.

Inspiring community

MFA candidates work in dedicated Painting studios nearby grad students in other fine arts majors. This fosters informal support and a virtually nonstop exchange of ideas among peers—an ongoing dialogue informed by critical feedback from faculty, visiting artists, critics and curators via individual and group critiques.

Learning environment

Graduate students in Painting have 24-hour access to private and semi-private studios in RISD's Fletcher Building, a space that promotes discourse with peers in other fine arts graduate programs. It also houses critique spaces, a woodshop and a computer area for shared use.

Regularly scheduled trips to museums and galleries in New York City give you a taste of the professional art world, and visits to artists' studios provide insight into what it's like to be a practicing artist.

Teaching opportunities

Grad students in Painting receive teaching assistantships and enjoy the opportunity to teach a course on their own during Wintersession of the second year. You may also find other opportunities to teach off campus and through programs such as Project Open Door, which is run by RISD’s Teaching + Learning in Art + Design department.

Thesis project

In the final semester, degree candidates create a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All MFA candidates produce a written thesis and participate in an annual graduate thesis exhibition of work by students graduating from RISD's advanced degree programs.