Programs and Courses: Graduate Program

**Please note: As a part of our continuing effort to go green, we are no longer sending out hard copy brochures of our program.**

The mission of Art Practice:

As practicing visual artists, we, the faculty of the Department of Art Practice hold as our principal goal the representation and analysis of human experiences through creative research in visual art. 

In making art, we seek to expand boundaries of our cultures and limits of our perceptions through rigorous experimentation with art forms, media, and content. Considering human experiences from an emotional, experiential standpoint, our experimentation leads us and our audiences to questions about our beliefs, rituals, philosophies, as well as our social, economic and institutional structures. In teaching, our mission is to help students pose such questions by developing their creative voices, by mastering their practices, by relating to their audiences, and by connecting to histories of art and cultures. 

Art Practice seeks to graduate students who demonstrate an original, inventive, and singular vision in their approach to practice, form and content, and who have the potential for significant artistic and cultural impact. A successful Art Practice graduate is articulate about his/her work, and has an understanding of the professional landscape he/she is entering. This graduate is a young artist: deeply engaged with his/her art form, rigorously committed to his/her craft, and capable of transcending boundaries of mind, media or method through creative research. 

Our methods:

Our curriculum is designed to teach students to think visually, and to help students develop a creative intelligence through the disciplined practice of a visual art. We provide technical and conceptual training in most traditional and new media: painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, installation, performance, video, animation, sound, and in the emerging fields of programming, interactivity, and game design. 

All undergraduate art courses are comprised of studio and lecture components. Additionally, while the undergraduate major is made up largely of studio courses, it also requires at least three courses in art history. Our students are required and expected to be broadly familiar with the aesthetic strategies that artists have devised to understand and invent their worlds, not just in the 20th and current centuries, but throughout the millenia of human culture. Field trips to area museums, galleries, and artists' studios provide an important on-site learning tool, one which emphasizes the primacy of direct contact with works of art for understanding them, and learning from them.

Small studio classes with frequent critiques are designed to foster a supportive community, productive debate, and collaborative thinking. Students are encouraged to be both open-minded and tough-minded, to look closely, think critically, and challenge assumptions.

May upper-level studio courses will involve an exhibition requirement; early on students are asked to consider questions of audience, context, site, and timing. Several gallery spaces, among them the Worth Ryder Art Gallery, offer exhibition venues, and the department also maintains web space for on-line exhibitions and video streaming. 

Graduate Program:

The pedagogical goals of the MFA program in Art Practice represent a continuation and deepening of our undergraduate educational mission.  We strive to graduate artists who  demonstrate an original, inventive, and singular vision in their approach to form and content, and whose work will  have a significant artistic and cultural impact.

A feature unique to Berkeley's MFA program is the curricular requirement that our graduate students take courses from the broader university community. Our students connect and study with faculty and other graduate students in areas as diverse as Geography, Environmental Sciences, Classics, Art History, Disability Studies, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Interactive Design, Rhetoric, Film Studies, Comparative Literature, etc.  Art Practice Faculty are highly interdisciplinary in their work on campus, and can enable close connections between our students and our colleagues in other fields.  

Incoming MFA students are expected to already be deeply engaged in their creative process, and to possess technical proficiency in their chosen media.  Graduate coursework and independent study are designed to help students develop a critical understanding of their creative work in the context of different Arts, Humanities and Sciences. The program seeks to help students develop a keen sense of their audience, and to consider how they will reach, or even create, that audience for their work. We support and endeavor to facilitate the exposure of graduate student work to a broader audience, whether that be in museum contexts, galleries, public places, or a venue uniquely suited to the artist's creative format.  A visiting artist lecture series, and visiting artist studio visits offer graduate students the chance to make contact with internationally-known artists, and to receive feedback on their work from these visitors. 

Peer to peer discussion and critique forms the heart of Berkeley's MFA program. Students are expected to spend a great deal of time making your own work, considering their classmates' work, and learning to speak and write thoughtfully about both.  Students have the opportunity to teach in the second year, and are mentored and closely supported by a faculty mentor.  Exhibitions in the first and second year of study demand that students maintain a rigorous pace of creative research and an established professional practice. 

Why an MFA from Berkeley?

INNOVATION Art Practice is committed to artistic innovation and intellectual rigor. We emphasize critical thinking about art, and strongly encourage work that rethinks context, material form, and conceptual approach.

FACULTY The department's faculty is comprised of established and emerging figures in contemporary art practice. All students work closely with individual faculty members through a system of independent study and programmatic coursework. Every student is guided through the program by his or her mentor, a faculty member who serves as that student's artistic and academic advisor.

ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE In just the past three years, MFA students have enrolled in courses offered in Physics; Asian Studies, Rhetoric, Film Studies; Peace and Conflict Studies; Art History; Environmental Science; Botany; Mathematics; Middle-Eastern Studies; Religion; Classics; Poetry; Theatre, Dance and Performance Studies; Architecture; Philosophy; and Engineering. We see the outstanding faculty and academic programs of UC Berkeley as a powerful force in the educating of developing as well as the more established artists who enter our MFA program.

The graduate program leading to the MFA degree in the Department of Art Practice at Berkeley is a two-year course of study that emphasizes independent studio work in the broadly defined areas of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, digital media and new genres.The aim of the program is to broaden the visual, intellectual and aesthetic faculties of students in their pursuit of careers as professional artists.

The MFA program in Art Practice is exceptional for its emphasis on inter-disciplinarity and its unique teaching opportunities. We offer our students superb studio facilitites, a curriculum that emphasizes the richness of UC Berkeley's broader research community, and close working relationships with faculty.

Rigorous and highly selective, the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program is designed to prepare students for a professional exhibiting career, and for teaching at the college level. The MFA program supports 14 graduate students per year, and the degree is a two-year program. The final thesis exhibition, completed after the second year of study, is held at Berkeley Art Museum.

We admit artists working in 2D, 3D, interactive- and time-based media; and the MFA curriculum is not medium-specific.

Key aspects of the program include:

  • A curriculum that integrates Art Department faculty and visitors, as well as courses taught in other University departments (of the student's choice).
  • Professional development supports, including privileged applicant status to various studio residency programs and grant programs.
  • Significant teaching experience in the second year: MFA students are invited to teach their own section of our undergraduate foundation course, Art 8. Opportunities to teach this course again, and/or others, during summer sessions exist as well.