Low-Residency MFA: Students


“The online format to course study for the fall and spring sessions has proven to be highly effective for me. Many of the instructors have included the structural aspects of the digital format itself in their pedagogical framework, incorporating its limitations and specificities as a model for the many real-world limited networks of communication and relationship.

In this way, I’ve had to be incredibly concise with my efforts, which has promoted an increased rigor on my part as a student. As writing has been the primary tool of communication, this has been rigorously attended to as well– which has wonderfully prepared me for the vast online domain we find ourselves in currently. Our program is very nicely balanced with the summer sessions, which offer an intense deep dive into our practice, community and pedagogy – however I must admit it has been the online format that has instigated my deepest dives into course material."

Brendan Getz (MFA 2018)


“I found online learning to be extremely beneficial, especially for students who are naturally inclined to learn and communicate through reading and writing. In online learning, I felt as though I had a voice that was heard frequently by both faculty and students. In addition, the online reading and writing format allows time to cognitively process information and provide detailed personal observations, as well as in-depth responses to students’ posts. Another positive feature of online learning was that it was flexible enough to accommodate a variety of work and family schedules.

The most beneficial features of the summer residencies included the vast amount of resources to which we were exposed to a top-notch visiting artist program, SAIC’s many fabrications facilities, the library and artist book collections, and courses and critiques of exceptional quality from nationally and internationally-recognized faculty.

Erin Schalk (MFA 2017)


“Having been out of school for the past sixteen years, it was a pleasure to begin the Low Residency at SAIC with the six-week stay in Chicago. I was treated to a series of classes that prepared my mind in a concrete manner. My classmates and I discussed Art under the lens of the program’s emphasis, Poetics. This offered me the ability to find ways to speak to the rigorous course load without feeling like I was ill prepared, not having the prior “Art” knowledge, in order to participate. I was also introduced to a host of visiting artists that helped to further aide my comprehension of difficult concepts. Then the online courses began. I know that I am an “in the classroom” student, but I was met with generous teachers who provided a platform where I could interact with my classmates and have access to speak with them via Skype or email. I have since become comfortable with this online presence and it has made me an expressive writer, a methodical reader, and a conscientious thinker. This is my last year and I feel as if I want to continue these in-depth conversations; the readings have transformed from being mandatory to a desire. I have at least seven teachers/ advisors that I am in contact with that can provide a different way of looking at the work, and how to move forward. Gregg and the Low-Res faculty have fashioned a program where various art forms cross breed seamlessly.

Needless to say, I am enjoying myself and look forward to the work I will produce because of this program.” 

Ayo Jackson (MFA 2018)


“My overall experience of this incredibly unique and innovative LRMFA program has been at times quite challenging due ironically to its rigorous and loose structure however I always remain deeply satisfied with what I’ve learned. As a non-traditional student I was extremely eager to embrace the enormous flexibility the program offered (the lure of not having to disrupt and uproot one’s life for the sake of school) was an extraordinary feat but I underestimated the amount of work that came along in adopting such an academic model. I couldn’t have imagined how precarious things will become for though my 'regular' work/home life hasn’t been totally upended my daily habits have been completely overhauled due to program’s influence. During the summer residencies everything is super fast, super intense, super exhilarating, super hands-on, super interactive and super real while during the course of the year though pace slows down considerably the momentum is still back-breaking as the expectation to maintain a rigorous reading-writing schedule and a robust and highly productive studio practice is quite a delicate balancing act. In many ways this program prepares one for the 'real' world for there are no buffers to contend with. You are immersed in the contentious reality of being a creative person...you learn very quickly to take command and engender responsibility for one’s individual learning. Being independent, witty, quick wit, quick-thinking inoculates you from ever being intellectually lazy or overly dependent on another to achieve one’s goals.”

Yanique Norman-Santiago (MFA 2018)


"The Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts (Low-Res MFA) program was unique in that it offered a structure that allowed me to set the direction of my art making and take the lead with my education. It was flexible and fluid and presented opportunities that challenged and deepened my engagement with contemporary issues and theories.

Both the summer residencies and online classes were filled with urgency and agency. In the summer, there were great visiting artists, workshops, studio visits, and field-trips. There were many opportunities to explore and engage within the arts community of Chicago. The summer experience was a safe place to investigate and challenge my own methodology of artmaking. It was an environment where all voices were valued and respected.

The online classes were distinct and crucial to the program’s structure. The quality and depth of the classes were consistent, lively and offered real time activity and engagement with professors and classmates. This generated a positive online presence with timely assessments and engagement of work. The discussion boards were springboards for research and study. Another positive element of the online structure was that it remained up and active throughout the semester because the SAIC technology infrastructure of the online courses was strong and supported the feasibility of student activity.

My learning experience has been challenging and rewarding. The Low-Res MFA program fostered constructive and productive methodologies for me to explore. It helped me redefine my artistic practice and broaden my skill set."

Laura Drey (MFA 2018)


“During my time as a Low Residency MFA student, engaging with my professors and fellow cohort from a distance in a meaningful way was made possible through our online classes. I found that the curricula over the two years I was enrolled were well planned, considered the program’s guiding theme of Poetics, challenged us to formulate relative ideas and multi-layered conversation with each other through the portals…professors encouraged us to think about the material through the lenses of our respective work and disciplines.

Despite the distance-based learning aspect and knowing that many of the students are busy with professional careers, families, and other responsibilities, and SAIC’s “no-grades” policy, we were held accountable for completing our assignments on time and critical engagement was expected. During the summer residency, high level critical engagement, professor commitment to developing well planned curricula, significant amount of writing, meaningful interactions with a well-curated roster of visiting artists, and high expectations for all of our papers and presentations has prepared us for our continued paths as professional artists. All of this was in addition to the encouragement we received in our studio practice. I was truly grateful for the insight, availability, critical engagement, technical advice and honest support support I received from faculty, visiting artists and shop/lab technicians in my studio. One of the most challenging aspects of the residency was trying to manage having enough time to work in my studio, attend all of our classes (attendance was mandatory) and completing all writing assignments. The workload was intense. As I meet and speak with others who have attended or are considering other Low Residency MFA programs, I am without a doubt sure that the LRMFA program at SAIC is second to none and often highly recommend it to anyone I know who is considering a LRMFA program.”

Nyugen Smith (MFA 2016)


“I am honored to be a graduate of the Low Residency Masters of Fine Arts Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. My journey through the SAIC-LRMFA was challenging in that I had been out of school for many years and found myself in the beginning at a loss. There was so much for me to revisit from past years art history classes from undergrad. (1980’s), but this program was worth every tear and frustration that I endured as I made my way through.  I am saying this with great admiration...classes taught by Andrea Ray, Pamela Sneed and D. Denenge Duyst-Akpem, each having different styles of teaching, but very dedicated and passionate about their subject matter.

These classes were filled with information pertaining to a wide scope of ideas and historical info that I found very relevant and inspiring to my art practice as well as the overall theme of this program. The residency component of the program was just as inspiring and each class that I encountered was equally informative, challenging and enlightening. Lastly, I am grateful for the various studio advisors that I had each year, each one bringing a different outlook and ideas, while encouraging and modeling how to think and talk about your own art practice. This experience opened my eyes to new views, gave me a voice and platform to create, as well as develop relationships that I would not have had access to without this program.”

Monica Kelsie (MFA 2017)


"I became acquainted with SAIC through the Teachers Institute in Contemporary Art. Andrew Falkowski (LRMFA and PTDW faculty) was a TICA instructor. When I heard he would be teaching Low Res, I was excited to apply. 

Instructors and presenters with their specialties generated new ideas through writing and doing. My cohorts were and are incredible. The online work was more strenuous then I expected but worth the time spent. Writing had not been a significant part of my practice before the program. It is now. 

Where do I go now? I continue to teach high school. I am making some time to do my own work or even adapt my demos so they fill a need in my art story. I have a couple pieces in a local show. Possible directions for next steps were suggested, and some contacts made. I am continuing to operate in this blurry but fabulous language that seems both earnest and necessary in this time of my life. I will begin applying for residencies at the end of this month. Wish me luck. And I wish you the best."

Elisabeth Dzuricsko (MFA 2018)