Graduate Curriculum Overview
The Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is designed to offer maximum flexibility in addressing your individual needs as a student. Following admission through a department, you will design your two-year plan of study based on optimizing the offerings and opportunities available throughout SAIC. You are encouraged to seek out curricular advising as needed from a variety of available sources including the dean, graduate dean, graduate division chair, department heads, academic advising, the graduate admissions office, and your peers.
In fall 2023, the Department of Art and Technology Studies and the Department of Sound are merging into Art and Technology / Sound Practices (AT/SP). New applicants can use this pathway to explore Art and Technology Studies work, Sound work, or both. This new synergy creates a place to explore, critique, and imagine the potentials of artistic production through focused study and interdisciplinary experimentation. Visit Sound to learn more about their ethos and courses.
Studio—MFA 6009 Graduate Projects, Seminars and/or maximum of 12 credits of 3000-level and above studios
Electives—any course in any area at 3000 level or above
Participation in four graduate critiques
Participation in ONE of the following as appropriate to artistic practice:* Graduate Exhibition, AIADO or Fashion Exhibition, Graduate Performance Event, Graduate Screenings
Total Credit Hours
* Students who wish to use an alternative venue or presentation outside of these options must receive permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies. The AIADO Department encourages students in their MFA design programs to participate in the AIADO and Fashion Graduate Exhibition.
Degree Requirements and Specifications
- Completion schedule: You have a maximum of four years to complete your MFA in Studio degree. This includes time off for leaves of absence. Students will have access to studios for four semesters only.
- Transfer credits: You must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours in residence at SAIC. You can request up to 15 transfer credits at the time of application for admission, which are subject to approval at that time. No transfer credits are permitted after a student is admitted.
- Art History requirement: MFA students are required to take ARTHII 5002 Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art OR ARTHI 5120 Survey of Modern and Contemporary Architecture and Design. Art History courses must be at the 4000-level and above.
- Undergraduate studio courses: Graduate students are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000-level and above) per semester without permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000-level are allowed only with permission.
Full-Time Status Minimum Requirement: 12 credit hours
MFA 6009 Graduate Projects
MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advising, an ongoing individual dialogue with a wide range of full-time and part-time faculty advisors, is at the heart of the MFA program at SAIC, encouraging interdisciplinary study across the curriculum. You are required to register for one MFA 6009 Graduate Projects advisor each semester, and we highly recommend you register for two.
In the registration process, you may elect to earn 3 or 6 hours of credit with each advisor. This option is designed to allow for maximum flexibility in designing your program. You can earn as few as 3 and as many as 6 credits with each advisor each semester, thus dedicating a maximum of 12 credit hours to your studio activity. The number of credits you earn has no correlation with the length or frequency of the advising sessions or to faculty assessment of student work.
The remainder of credits required for the full-time 15 credit hour load may include graduate seminars and academic or studio electives. MFA students are urged to take graduate seminars, and an introductory seminar in their department of admission is highly recommended. In addition, the MFA student may choose from all the art history, studio, and academic offerings across the curriculum (including undergraduate offerings above 3000 level) in any given semester to customize their degree experience.
As one of the principle means of assessment each semester, you will be required to participate in Critique Week, a week-long schedule of critiques during which classes are suspended.
Fall semester critiques are organized by department with panels representing the discipline. This provides you with an opportunity to understand the department’s expectations, have your work reviewed from a disciplinary point of view, and to reiterate the expectations for graduate study.
Spring semester critiques are interdisciplinary, with panel members and students from across SAIC disciplines. Interdisciplinary critiques allow for a broad range of responses to your work, and are intended to assess the success of your work for a more general, albeit highly informed audience. Critique panels include faculty, visiting artists, and fellow graduate students.
Graduate Exhibition or Equivalent
At the conclusion of your studies, you will present work in the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition, other end-of-year events at SAIC, or the Gene Siskel Film Center—or arrange with the graduate dean or division chair for an alternative thesis of equal professional quality. Each year more than 200 graduate students exhibit work, screen videos and films, and present time-based works, writings, and performance to a collective audience of 30,000 people.
Students wishing to install work around prevalent themes, strategies or stylistic affinities can participate in a juried and curated section of the SAIC Graduate Thesis Exhibition. A faculty and staff committee conducts extensive studio visits and as a collaborative project with student participants, organizes and installs the show in designated space at the exhibition.
MFA students are advised to understand the expectations of their faculty when enrolled in undergraduate studio classes. Although graduate students are an asset to the group dynamic, faculty requirements for graduate students in undergraduate classes are variable. The student is responsible for understanding the faculty member's expectations about completion of assignments, attendance, and any other criteria for earning credit. To assure that graduate students are working at degree level, they are permitted no more than one undergraduate studio course (3000 level and above) per semester without permission of the dean of graduate studies. Courses at the 1000 and 2000 level are allowed only with permission.