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 student cohort encouraged to regard one another as part of a lifelong community. 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 spring of the first year, graduate students are invited to propose a course that they conceive and develop themselves, with the possibility of teaching it during the five-week Wintersession.
MFA FIRST YEAR
- Advanced Critical Issues Seminar I
- Graduate Sculpture Studio I
- Studio elective or Graduate Seminar
- Studio elective or Graduate Seminar
- Advanced Critical Issues Seminar II
- Graduate Sculpture Studio II
- Studio elective or Graduate Seminar
MFA SECOND YEAR
- Graduate Sculpture Studio III
- Studio elective
- Graduate Seminar
- Studio elective or Graduate Seminar
- Graduate Sculpture Thesis Project
- Studio elective or Graduate Seminar
Graduate student work
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
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.
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.
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 an annual graduate thesis exhibition of work by students graduating from RISD's advanced degree programs.
Submit your RISD application form, and all other credentials, through the RISD Applicant Portal. The application fee is $60.
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.
Graduate applicants to studio programs are required to submit 10–20 examples of visual work, with certain programs suggesting more specific ideas or portfolio requirements.
Use SlideRoom to submit your graduate portfolio here.
Specific program instructions:
Digital + Media: Your portfolio should contain 10 samples total, which can be a combination of media (e.g., images, video, sound). You may submit up to five videos as project documentation or excerpts of time-based media. In your portfolio you are encouraged to submit at least one video that clearly demonstrates your research and/or work process. Total runtime for all videos should be no more than five minutes.
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 (50 words maximum). If collaborative projects are presented, you must clearly identify your individual contribution.
Furniture Design: In the MFA programs, students often make their own work as a means to understand complex ideas. The idea is that critical making combined with critical thinking leads to innovative objects. This experimental approach 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 interest. Choose your strongest work for your portfolio presentation—and it doesn't necessarily have to be furniture. If possible, you should aim to show finished photographed work and minimize the number of process images you include.
In addition to your portfolio materials uploaded to SlideRoom, we ask you to include a self-made video (no more than 20 seconds duration) of you making something. The committee is not looking for video with professional production values, but rather is interested in seeing you making something: small, large, modest or complex, any making action can work—the choice is yours. This option shows the committee more about your interests. Please title your video.
Jewelry + Metalsmithing: The rigorous studio-based orientation of the graduate program leverages traditional skills and fabrication techniques to critically approach new territories and ways of making.
In addition to your portfolio materials uploaded to SlideRoom, you are encouraged 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. 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: 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: Submit a portfolio of 20 images that most clearly represent your creative practice as an artist or designer.
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.
Global Arts and Cultures: Applicants to the master’s program in Global Arts and Cultures must submit an academic statement of purpose of 1,000–2,000 words. The object of your statement is to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee as a thinker, scholar and writer, and you should address in detail your intellectual interests and proposed topic(s) of graduate study. Be as specific as possible in describing your prior college-level experience in areas encompassed by Global Arts and Cultures and how this work has contributed to your professional and personal goals in pursuing a master’s degree. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the contours and demands of graduate study in Global Arts and Cultures at RISD.
Illustration: In 750–1500 words, please describe how you hope to engage your values as a critical thinker and maker within the context of your illustration studio practice and as a citizen of the world. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the Illustration MFA course of study and what you hope to gain by completing the program.
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.
Master of Arts in Teaching:
Submit a statement (500–700 words) describing why you desire to become a K-12 art educator and to enter the TLAD MAT program specifically. Please be sure to address the following questions within your statement:
- Why do you want to become an art educator and enter the TLAD MAT program specifically?
- How do you feel your academic, studio, and work experiences have prepared you for RISD’s graduate program in art teacher education?
- How will your own identity as an artist/designer contribute to your practice as an art educator in the classroom?
- What, in your opinion, is the purpose of art education in K-12 schools?
- What do you believe high-quality K-12 art education looks like?
Master of Arts in Art + Design Education:
Submit a written statement (500-750 words) describing your interest in art and design education and your desire to enter the TLAD MA program specifically. Please be sure to address the following questions within your statement:
- Why do you want to become an art educator and enter the TLAD MA program specifically (especially as opposed to a MFA program)?
- What are your specific interests related to art and design education?
- How might these specific interests contribute to the thesis research you would engage in within this program?
- Our MA program is unique in that students customize a program of study. How you would customize your MA program to maximize the resources of RISD, Brown and Providence, and that would support your potential research interests at the same time?
- How do you imagine the MA will support your future goals and interests after graduation (i.e., where do you see yourself in the future and how will the MA help)?
Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies: Applicants to the master’s in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies must submit an academic statement of purpose of 1,000–2,000 words. The object of your statement is to introduce yourself to the Admissions Committee as a thinker, scholar and writer, and you should address in detail your intellectual interests and proposed topic(s) of graduate study. You should be as specific as possible in describing your prior college-level experience in the areas of Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies and how this work has contributed to your professional and personal goals in pursuing a master’s degree. Your statement should also reflect your understanding of the contours and demands of graduate study in Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies at RISD.
Photography: Please submit each of the following: a clearly written statement of purpose (max. 750 words) that explains why you need to attend graduate school now, why you want to attend RISD, and what you believe that you and your practice needs that RISD and its community can offer; and an accessible artist’s statement (max. 750 words) that elucidates the work you’ve included in your submitted portfolio, its aims, forms, development, trajectory, possibilities, meanings and relevance as you construe these things.
Applicants to the MA programs in Global Arts and Cultures and Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies are required to submit an example of critical and/or analytical writing. See below for all program-specific instructions.
Global Arts and Cultures: Applicants are required to submit a writing sample that represents your strongest critical and/or analytical writing on a topic clearly related to Global Arts and Cultures. Please indicated if your writing sample is excerpted from a longer work. If it is, please make sure it forms a coherent argument and is framed such that the Admissions Committee understands its function as part of a longer work.
Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies: Applicants are required to submit a writing sample that represents your strongest critical and/or analytical writing on a topic clearly related to Nature–Culture–Sustainability Studies. Please indicated if your writing sample is excerpted from a longer work. If it is, please make sure it forms a coherent argument and is framed such that the Admissions Committee understands its function as part of a longer work.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the Graduate Admissions Office.
English language proficiency test
All applicants who speak English as a second language, including US citizens, must submit results from any one of these three options: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System) or Duolingo (an online English test). Since proficiency in English is a prerequisite for acceptance, applicants must attain an acceptable score on their chosen test; RISD requires a minimum result of 93 on the TOEFL or a 6.5 on the IELTS.
Duolingo is changing its scoring system beginning with tests completed on July 15, 2019 and beyond. If you took this test prior to the change, we require a minimum result of 63. Applicants who completed the Duolingo test on or after July 15, 2019 must achieve a minimum score of 115, which is the equivalent of 63 in their prior scoring system.
Plan to take the TOEFL or IELTS well in advance of the application deadline since it may take three weeks for your scores to be sent to RISD by the test agency. Duolingo test results may take up to four days to be received by RISD.
The language test requirement may be waived for applicants who have studied in an institution where English is the language of instruction. You must contact the Admissions Office to explain your school history and determine if you are eligible.
Graduate Record Exam (GRE)
Results from the Graduate Record Examination are not required as part of the application process.