The Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts (Low-Res MFA) program is designed for the 21st-century artist whose work and life demands both a rigorous engagement with an artistic community as well as flexibility, fluidity, and a self-directed approach.

SAIC's Low-Res MFA program is open to artists, writers, educators, curators, and historians. The flexibly structured curriculum supports a three-year plan of study that integrates studio work with art history, theory, philosophy, and poetry.

Three consecutive summer residencies at SAIC bring students together to create, construct, and critique work during six-week intensives structured through both studio- and classroom-based courses and symposia. Studio work builds toward a major thesis project with both exhibited and written components. Supported by faculty based at SAIC, students spend spring and fall semesters taking classes online and working remotely from a home studio, paired with a local SAIC program mentor.

The three-year program is organized into three topic-driven themes that investigate the philosophy of art.

  1. The first year focuses on the notion of attention. Students learn to mobilize the senses and construct objects to explore the process of capturing or destabilizing the attention of the viewer.
  2. The second year, devoted to the subject of sensation, explores the thoughts, feelings, moods, and actions that drive the process of making.
  3. The third year explores the history of perception, including theories of questioning the distinction between the viewing subject and the object of his or her perception.

Summer Sessions

Summer sessions in the Low-Res MFA program consist of weekly colloquia and studio visits with faculty and visiting artists. A wide variety of readings—drawn from artists' writing, art historical texts, literature, philosophy, and poetry—guide discussions that concentrate on methods of artmaking, distribution, and interpretation. Graduating students will use summer critique sessions to gain constructive feedback on the final stages of studio and written theses.

In addition, a series of specialized professional practice courses are offered throughout the three years. During the first summer, students are introduced to online library resources and to all digital research, communication, and dissemination tools necessary for use during off-campus semesters. In the second summer, student-initiated interviews, site visits, conversations, and tours of cultural partner organizations in Chicago increase exposure to other arts-related professional contexts. In the final year, faculty support students in the development of networks, tools, resources, and contacts needed to continue transitioning from a graduate program to professional contexts.

2017 Residency Dates: June 19–July 30
Program and Studio Orientation: June 18

Connection with SAIC Faculty and Visiting Artists

A rotating core of SAIC faculty continuously delivers on-campus and online curricula through a range of methods, including individual and group critiques, one-on-one studio advising, seminars concerning art history and philosophy, technical labs, discussion groups, online forums, and thesis composition tutorials, as well as pedagogical and professional development workshops.

During the summer residency, visiting artists spend weekends presenting their work, participating in the Graduate Studio Seminar and making studio visits. These practicing mentors and peers will serve as models for navigating the current art world and engage MFA students in a collective learning experience—exchanging ideas and thinking in an environment committed to mutual support and constructive criticism.

Interested in learning more?

Click around the pages of this website for information on admissions and curriculum requirements, Low-Residency program faculty, visiting artists, and more.

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or