• MFA | 2-year program

    The MFA program in Painting emphasizes critical and artistic growth through the evolution of a rigorous studio practice. While a shared passion for the history and craft of painting binds the department together, professors are committed to assisting each student in developing his or her own vision, supporting an enormous diversity of formal and conceptual approaches, painting styles and interests.

  • Learning Outcomes

    Graduates are prepared to:

    • display an understanding of contemporary visual art

    • demonstrate the intention, motivation and tools required to pursue a career as an artist and sustain a rigorous fine arts practice

    • demonstrate the strong visual, verbal and technical skills needed to engage with cutting-edge discourse in contemporary art

    • produce artwork that makes use of the interdependence between content, form, process and context

    • appreciate the material qualities and physical aspects of works not intended exclusively for reproduction

    • display an intimate familiarity with historical and contemporary approaches to visual art and their interrelationships

    • demonstrate enhanced critical reasoning with broad historical overviews and social insight

    • support intellectual and academic freedom

    • deliver discerning critiques of their own work and that of others at a level appropriate to faculty in most collegiate visual arts programs

    • individuate their approaches to visual artmaking and address self-defined research projects with distinct and challenging parameters


  • Inspiring Community

    MFA candidates work in dedicated Painting studios in close proximity to grad students in other fine arts majors. This fosters informal support and a virtually nonstop exchange of ideas among peers – an ongoing dialogue informed by critical feedback from professors, visiting artists, critics and curators via individual and group critiques.

  • Learning Environment

    Graduate students in Painting are given 24-hour access to private and semi-private studios in RISD’s Fletcher Building, a facility designed to promote interdisciplinary discourse with peers in other fine arts graduate programs. This building also offers critique spaces, a woodshop and a computer area for shared use. Regularly scheduled trips to museums and galleries in New York City give students a taste of the professional art world, and visits to artists’ studios provide insight into what it’s like to be a practicing artist.

  • Teaching Opportunities

    Each graduate student in Painting is granted a Teaching Assistantship and has the opportunity to teach a course on his or her own during Wintersession of the second year. Other opportunities for teaching are available off campus and through programs such as Project Open Door, run by the department of Teaching + Learning in Art + Design.

  • Kevin Zucker | associate professor + graduate program director

    “We keep the graduate program in Painting open-ended as a reflection the department’s philosophy as a whole. The idea is to help students work better and develop practices that will serve them well for life—beyond their studio explorations here at RISD.”

  • Curriculum

    During two years in residence at RISD, graduate students undertake a serious investigation of the broad range of possibilities and realities presented by contemporary painting.

    MFA first year

    • Fall
    • Grad Painting Studio Critique I
    • Graduate Drawing
    • Graduate Printmaking Project
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Grad Painting Studio Critique II
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Elective

    MFA second year

    • Fall
    • Grad Painting Studio Critique III
    • Graduate Seminar
    • Elective
    • Wintersession
    • Open elective
    • Spring
    • Grad Painting Studio Thesis
    • Elective

  • Thesis Project

    In the final semester, degree candidates focus on creating a comprehensive body of work under the guidance of a thesis committee. All MFA candidates produce a written thesis and participate in the RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition, a large-scale public show held annually.

  • Application Requirements

    1. application form + fee
    2. academic transcripts
    3. 3 letters of recommendation
    4. portfolio of work
    5. statement of purpose (500–750 words) outlining your interest and goals in pursuing graduate study
    6. TOEFL scores (for non-native English speakers)
      • In determining admission to the MFA program, the faculty selection committee in Painting looks for evidence of an applicant’s commitment, drive, technical competence and openness to experimentation. Portfolios should be professionally presented using the highest quality representation of work showing the breadth and depth of art, design and creative thinking capabilities. Phone interviews are followed by invitations for finalists to visit campus for in-person meetings.
      • For more information or to begin the application process, visit the Apply page.