Learn more about the MFA in Visual Arts low-residency program.
What do you mean by "low residency?"Our low-residency program is structured so you can complete your MFA while living in your own community, thus integrating your art-making into your daily life. Once each semester, you attend an intensive 10-day residency at the Lesley campus in Boston. After the residency, you return home and continue your course work over the semester. The course work consists of your studio practice and your academic work. There are two semesters per year.
[ back to top ]What is the structure?The MFA in Visual Arts at Lesley consists of five residencies over four semesters (2 years) for a total of 60 credits. During your final residency at Lesley you participate in the Graduate Exhibition and present your MFA thesis. Your Graduate Exhibition is accompanied by a full color catalog of the exhibition.[ back to top ]How is my time during the semester spent?After you are accepted, you come to Lesley for your first 10-day residency, bringing the work from your application and any other work you think is relevant. During the residency, you participate in critiques, critical theory classes, elective seminars, and attend various presentations and panels by visiting artists and faculty. It is a full schedule from morning until late evening; a typical day runs from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. Altogether, you will attend five residencies over the course of your MFA.The Critique Sessions:The focus of the MFA program is the critique sessions—both group critiques and individual meetings. Much of your time at the residency will be spent in dialogue about your work with the MFA faculty, your fellow students, and visiting artists. We provide wall space so that you can display the work you have produced.
The Faculty Advisor: Prior to each residency, incoming students are assigned a Faculty Advisor for the upcoming semester. Returning students are asked to rank their choices for Faculty Advisor. During the residency, you and your Faculty Advisor map out the direction of your work. This includes determining which artists to research, what exhibitions to visit, which books and articles to read, and so forth. You also choose or start to think about choosing a local Studio Mentor who will work with you when you return home. Your Faculty Advisor will guide you through this process.Critical Theory Seminars: Each of the first four residencies includes a Critical Theory Seminar which combines art history with critical theory. Well before the beginning of each residency, you will receive the readings for the Critical Theory Seminar that you will attend. The reading should be completed before the residency begins. In some instances, you may be asked to present a paper or make a presentation in the Critical Theory Seminar during the residency. The seminars are designed to aid you in framing your own work discursively as well as providing a context in which to understand current art world practices. For your final residency, you participate in the Final Seminar. This is conducted by the director and is designed to aid you in pursuing your goals after graduation and beyond.Elective Seminars:During each residency, you participate in an elective seminar taught by one of the MFA Faculty. The topics for these seminars vary each semester and cover a wide range of contemporary studio issues and practices. As we are located in Boston, these seminars often take advantage of the wide-range of cultural activities available in a large cosmopolitan city. Often they incorporate field trips to galleries, exhibitions, and to other artists' studios.The Studio Mentor: The MFA program maintains a list of almost 500 artists nationwide approved to act as mentors, and pays them a stipend for their work with students. You may also work with an artist who is not on our list, with your faculty advisor's approval. After researching potential mentors, you approach them to see if they are available to work with you, notify the program, and a contract is sent to the mentor. Mentors are expected to meet with you between four and six times during the semester to view and discuss your work, and send mid-semester and final reports on your progress to the program. You work with a different studio mentor in each of your four semesters.Ongoing throughout the semester: Your Faculty Advisor is in contact with you throughout the semester to discuss the scope of work that you both agreed upon. Additionally, you submit your work electronically to your advisor so she or he can keep up with your work and the fulfillment of your academic and studio plans. You are expected to devote a minimum of 25 hours a week to your work. When you return for the next residency, you will bring the work you produced over the previous semester.[ back to top ]Will I get studio space?We are a low-residency program and since you will not be at the Lesley campus except during the residency periods, we do not provide personal studio space. One of our missions is to encourage self-reliance and self-motivation so you can integrate art-making into your routine in your own community. Hence, we encourage you to set up your own studio within the framework of your daily life. During the residency, some seminars do, however, make use of the College of Art and Design studio facilities.[ back to top ]Is the program accredited?Yes. The MFA in Visual Arts program is fully accredited by both NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges) and NASAD (National Association of Schools of Art and Design) and is the only low-residency program based on the two ten-day residencies to be approved by NASAD. [ back to top ]How does this program differ from others?Our program is designed to support its mission: to foster the artist's ability to work independently with discipline and focus both during the MFA program and, especially, after graduation. The interdisciplinary nature of our program encourages artists to combine an understanding of current art and cultural theory within the on-going development of their own media and methods. The low-residency format of our program is ideally suited to developing good work habits and self-reliance along side of strong, individually tailored career goals. Our extensive critique structure during the residencies, coupled with the faculty and studio mentoring over each semester, facilitates the cultivation of a broad network of art world dialogues/contacts within the student's home environment and beyond. Additionally, the Graduate Exhibition and accompanying catalog, as well as the MFA Thesis, provide an entry into many aspects of an artist's future career—from showing in galleries to teaching at the college level, to the invention of new, hybrid possibilities.[ back to top ]
Can I visit?We designate one day during each residency for prospective applicants to visit and experience the program first hand. Visitors can observe group critiques, attend a Critical Theory seminar, and join students and faculty for dinner. Please contact our Graduate Admissions team for information on arranging a visit during a residency or at another time. We also participate in Open Houses several times a year on the Cambridge campus. Typically, a program administrator and faculty member attend each Open House to speak with prospective students, give a presentation about the program, and provide portfolio reviews.[ back to top ]Do I need a BFA undergraduate degree? If not, what do I need?We will accept applicants whose Bachelor's degree is in an unrelated field, based on the strength of their portfolio, and their understanding of art history as demonstrated in their personal statement. We may also admit students who do not hold a Bachelor's degree, however a formal application for a waiver must be submitted. Several criteria are assessed when an applicant is being considered for a waiver. The criteria include, but are not limited to:
[ back to top ]
What are you looking for in the portfolio? How should the portfolio be formatted?For the portfolio you should submit 20 images of your strongest recent work completed within the last five years. Think of this as an exhibition. We are interested in seeing a cohesive body of work that indicates clear authorship and intent. Your images should demonstrate that you are actively engaged with your work and that you have good work habits. If you do not have recent work, then we suggest sending a variety of work with a clear explanation as to why you are including particular works. Additionally, you can submit supplementary materials in book/CD form or through Slide Room. If you decide to include supplemental work, clearly identify the first group of 20 works in the title of the image and clearly identify the supplemental work so that we know which you want us to consider first.Portfolios should be submitted electronically through Slide Room. The link to upload images is lesley.slideroom.com. As you upload each image you will also be asked to submit the title, size, date, and medium for each image and this is required.
We strongly suggest that your portfolio submission be made through Slide Room. However, you can also mail in a Mac Compatible CD/DVD with images to:Graduate and Adult Bachelor’s AdmissionsAdmissions Services29 Everett StreetCambridge, MA 02138For Hard Copy Submissions, use JPEGS only, no larger than 100dpi. Along with the CD you should include a numbered, annotated list of the images you are submitting including medium, size, and date. When submitting images on a CD you must also include a print out of the images to accompany the CD. Be sure to test your CD before you send it. CDs should also be labeled with your name. For film/video/new media please submit a DVD (MAC only) no longer than 30 minutes, cued to a 5 minute section that you want us to view. Enclose a SASE along with your application if you want your CD/DVD returned. We retain the application portfolios of those students who are accepted and attend the program.[ back to top ]If I’m working in two styles is it okay to submit them both in the portfolio or is it better to submit one style only?It is fine to submit both styles, but an explanation of the evolution of these styles is suggested both on the slide sheet as well as in the body of your application letter essay. It is not recommended that you submit more than one style for the purpose of showing your versatility.[ back to top ]What are you looking for in the application letter essay that accompanies the application?This statement is not meant to be a personal autobiography. You should discuss your work in terms of the art issues and ideas that your work addresses. The essay should be 1,500 words maximum. For example: which artists or movements have influenced you? How has your work changed over time? What are your goals for your work? What do you hope to accomplish in an MFA program?[ back to top ]If I’m working in one medium, but want to pursue another in the residency (for example, from photography to film) how does that work, or is that acceptable?That is acceptable, but you must be able to demonstrate proficiency in your new medium when you switch to your new medium. That may require that you take additional classes alongside the MFA program.It is important to put your best work in your portfolio and to pursue projects at a graduate level that are appropriate to your skill level. We do, however, encourage experimentation and pushing the boundaries of your work. If you have an intent to pursue a different medium from one that you are proficient in, we encourage you to contact the Director of the MFA Program to discuss this.[ back to top ]What if I am an international student?The program works no differently for International students than it does for U.S. residents with the exception of Visa and TOEFL requirements. International students can stay and study in the United States for the duration of the 10-day residency only. Students will be permitted to enter the United States a few days before the residency begins and will be able to leave the United States a few days after the residency ends. However, it is important to note that international students in this program must remain outside of the United States between each residency. Please read the information relevant to international students in the paper application, or refer to the International Students information page. Once you are ready to apply, more detailed information and forms can be found at the Lesley International Graduate and Adult Bachelor’s Admissions page. Please note that according to U.S. regulations, international students enrolled in this program are not permitted to work off campus while in the United States.[ back to top ]How much will it cost?Review the total approximate cost for the program.
Meals are provided by the program. If you are not a local student, you will need to consider the cost of housing during the residencies. The program provides a list of local housing options, which may include a block of discounted hotel rooms.[ back to top ]Are teaching assistantships or scholarships available?Applicants are automatically considered for a limited number of merit scholarship awards. Awards are made at the discretion of the MFA Admissions Committee. University teaching assistantships are available by application.[ back to top ]What is the your acceptance rate?We currently have an approximate acceptance rate of about 25-35%. We accept 15 to 20 new students twice per year.* Lesley University reserves the right to alter fees and tuition at its sole discretion.[ back to top ]
Sunanda K Sanyal
Professor of Art History and Critical Studies
Professor of Fine Arts
MFA in Visual Arts
Art Talks Lecture Series
Application Deadlines and Residency Dates
Frequently Asked Questions
Faculty, Student and Alumni Highlights
Graduate Application Requirements
Graduate Tuition and Fees
Graduate Student Financial Aid
College of Art and Design
Meet Our BFA Students and Alumni
About College of Art and Design
Directions to Campus
888.LESLEY.U / 617.349.8300
Request more information
Schedule a campus visit
Get your application started today!
John Chang, a 2009 Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Arts graduate, offers a look behind the scenes at his dedication and passion for his artwork. Read More>>
View Gallery of MFA in Visual Arts Alumni Artwork
The interdisciplinary focus of the MFA in Visual Arts program encourages students to explore the integration of a variety of visual arts media.
View Gallery of MFA in Visual Arts Faculty Artwork.
The MFA in Visual Arts program is led by internationally known faculty and mentors.