Curriculum & Courses

Art History/Theory18
Flex Credits6
Participation in all Graduate Studio Seminars 
Participation in Graduate Exhibition or equivalent Public Presentation of thesis 
Total Credit Hours60


 SummerFallSpringAny semester
Year 1
  • Graduate Studio Seminar (4.5)
  • Art History/Theory: Attention (3)
  • Professional Practice: Digital Interfaces (1.5)
  • Graduate Projects: Ind. Studio (Program Mentor) (3)
  • Art History/Theory: Art Ideas (3)
  • Graduate Projects: Ind. Studies (Alumni Advisor) (3)
  • Art History/Theory: Writing Art (3)
  • Completion of Flex Credits
Year 2
  • Graduate Studio Seminar (4.5)
  • Art History/Theory: Sensation (3)
  • Professional Practice: Cultural Liaisons (1.5)
  • Graduate Projects: Ind. Studio (Program Mentor) (3)
  • Art History/Theory: Special Topics (3)
  • Graduate Projects: Ind. Studies (Program Mentor) (3)
  • Thesis Composition (4.5)
  • Completion of Flex Credits
Year 3
  • Graduate Studio Seminar (4.5)
  • Art History/Theory: Perception (3)
  • Thesis: Public Presentation (1.5)
  • Professional Practices: Expanded Networks (1.5)

Flex Credits

As part of their 60 credit MFA degree, students will choose 6 Flex Credits. Flex Credits can be taken in all semesters, time permitting, and with consent of Director.

The Flex Credits can be customized based on the student's needs. These credits can be satisfied in a number of ways:

  • SAIC study trips (during SAIC Winter Interim  sessions)
  • Ox-Bow (courses year round or over the summer, time permitting)
  • Guided study courses with SAIC faculty
  • On-campus graduate courses offered during the winter interim or summer terms (time permitting)
  • Increasing the credit load of Graduate Projects

All LRMFA students must take the required Art History credits within the low residency program. Students may also elect to take additional Art History courses as part of the Flex Credits.

Low-Res MFA Degree Requirements and Specifications

  1. Completion schedule: Students have a maximum of five years to complete the coursework and submit a final, approved thesis. This includes time off for leaves-of-absence.
  2. Transfer credits: A minimum of 45 credit hours must be completed in residence at SAIC. Up to 15 transfer credits may be requested at the time of application for admission and are subject to approval at that time. Transfer credits are possible at the discretion of the Program Director. No transfer credit will be permitted after a student is admitted.
  3. Full-time status minimum requirement: 9 credit hours during summer semesters, 6 credit hours during the fall and spring semesters, and, if enrolled, 3 credit hours during the winter semester.

Graduate Studio Seminar

Students are expected to arrive with completed or in-process works and be prepared to make and re-make new works throughout the summer sessions. Summer sessions in the Low-Res MFA program consist of weekly studio visits and weekly colloquia. You will meet individually and in small groups with core faculty and visiting artists in your studios. Visiting artists will give public presentations and participate in weekly colloquia, gatherings that include all students, core faculty, and visitors. 

A wide variety of readings chosen by faculty will guide discussions that concentrate on problems concerning methods of artmaking, distribution, and interpretation. Readings will include examples drawn from the emerging category of conceptual writing as well as crucial art historical texts, literature, and poetry. Graduating students will use summer critique sessions to gain constructive feedback on the final stages of studio and written productions for presentation.

Art History, Theory, and Criticism (On-Campus and Online)

Throughout the program, you will engage in interdisciplinary, faculty-driven, student-responsive seminar courses designed for both face-to-face and online delivery that will introduce you to critical texts and theoretical positions in contemporary praxis. For Low-Res MFA students, the required Graduate Survey of Modern and Contemporary Art (ARTHI 5002) will be delivered in the second summer primarily using the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection and temporary exhibitions. All other Art History on-campus and online courses will be thematically focused.

Professional Practices

For the Low-Res MFA, a series of specialized professional practice courses will be offered throughout the three years. During the first summer, you will be introduced to online library resources and to all digital research, communication, and dissemination tools necessary for your use during off-campus semesters. In the second summer, student-initiated interviews, site visits, conversations, and tours of cultural partner organizations in Chicago will increase your exposure to other arts-related professional contexts. In your final year, you will be supported in developing the networks, tools, resources, and contacts needed to transition from a graduate program to your desired professional contexts.

MFA Thesis Studio

In your final two semesters, you will enroll in advisor-led, intensive graduate thesis studios focused on the production of advanced work and writing to be exhibited, published, and defended in the final thesis presentation. You must publicly exhibit/perform your final thesis project and submit for review a written accompaniment to a community of faculty and peers at SAIC. Off-campus development of individualized research plans will help focus your explorations of historical, theoretical, and material studies. Within thesis studios, you will be introduced to research methods, self-publishing platforms, general graphic design skills, and print-on-demand specifications.

Graduate Projects (SAIC Alumni Advisors)

During your off-campus semesters, you will be expected to engage in independent work and research from your home studio or mobile platforms. The continued development of ideas and approaches initiated during summer Graduate Studio Seminars will be supported through online conversation with SAIC faculty and (whenever possible) in-person studio visits per year with LRMFA program mentors. 

No matter where you live during your degree, the Low-Res MFA program will attempt to connect you with advising mentors who reside within your geographic area. These liaisons are intended to support you in the off-campus development of your work while also providing personal connections to SAIC's vast global network of distinguished faculty and alumni.

Take the Next Step

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242, or