Low-Residency MFA Painting Programs

Apr 03, 2019

This article provides students interested in enrolling in low-residency MFA programs in painting with general information about these programs, including common curriculum components and admissions standards.

Students who are interested in earning an MFA in painting but who would like to do so without having to sacrifice a full-time job may be interested in a low-residency program. Below, we explore low-residency MFA programs in painting in greater detail by covering program structure, common course requirements, and admission standards.

Information About Low-Residency MFA Programs in Painting

Low-residency MFA programs that offer painting concentrations are available at a number of universities and art institutes around the country. Generally, these programs are structured so that enrolled students only have to attend multi-day residencies once or twice per year, during which they will listen to lectures, attend seminars and workshops, and meet with faculty members to discuss their work and progress toward their thesis. Some programs may require that students complete online courses during the time in-between the on-campus portions and all programs generally require that students continue working on their painting independently while off-campus. Students in these programs, which are generally completed over two or three years, often already are working and may have obtained professional experience, but are interested in the degree as a way of further advancing their skills and careers. The following courses are common to these types of programs.


The largest component of the curriculum of these types of programs is typically studio courses in which students will work on their painting independently. However, students are also often frequently in contact with an advisor or faculty member in order to provide them with updates on their work, discuss any challenges, and receive feedback and critiques. In low-residency programs, students may work off-campus in their own studio space to complete the requirements of these courses.

Studio Critique

Students also typically take courses that are focused on providing critiques to other students and receive critiques on their own work. Because students are not in-residence all the time during a low-residency program, it is common that these courses entail sharing images and feedback on various online platforms. Critique courses typically are required parts of the curriculum that students must take throughout the program.

Career and Professional Development

It is also common that students take a course that focuses on preparing them for the transition out of school into the world of a working professional artist. In this course, students will learn various practical skills that will be necessary in the professional world, like how to do taxes and arrange payment plans, as well as information about various career possibilities that may be of interest to them.

Art History

Generally, students will also be required to take courses in art history which may cover different periods of art. For example, one course may focus on 20th century art, in which case students would discuss some of the major milestones in the artistic community during this time as well as notable pieces of artwork and the resulting affect that the art had on society. Students will also learn about different methods of creating art and how this has changed over the years.

Master's Thesis

MFA programs in painting generally require that students complete a master's thesis by the time the program is finished. In preparation for this, students will typically take a course during the last year of the program that helps them prepare for and develop their own thesis. This thesis generally involves the creation of some large painting exhibit, which students must then write about and may be required to present on.

General Admissions Guidelines for Low-Residency MFA Programs in Photography

When applying to a low-residency MFA program in painting, students will need to supply admissions committees with various documents and pieces of information about themselves as applicants. One of the most important components of the application is the portfolio, which students must submit according to the program's specifications, and is intended to provide admissions committees with samples of the student's artistic abilities in painting and helps them determine if they would be a good fit for the program. Additionally, students must provide letters of recommendation, past academic transcripts, a completed application form, and a personal statement in order to be considered for admission.

Low-residency MFA programs in painting are an option for students who are interested in this degree but would like to be able to complete it without having to be a full-time on-campus student. These programs typically require a thesis and significant work in the studio to develop students' artistic abilities and knowledge.

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