MFA in Studio Art

The Hunter College MFA Program in Studio Art offers students the time, space, and critical framework to develop their artistic practice. Located at 205 Hudson Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, the affordable, three-year program provides exposure to the changing ideas and forms of contemporary art. Students have unique access to an array of opportunities in the New York art world. Our educational goal is to develop professional artists capable of sustaining their practice once they leave the structure of an academic environment.

Madhini Nirmal (MFA 2018) in her studio at 205 Hudson Street.

Our students come from all over the world and represent a diversity of backgrounds and approaches to contemporary art. At any given time, the program is composed of a dynamic mix of artists including painters, sculptors, photographers, video and performance artists, working in traditional and new genres, side-by-side at 205 Hudson Street.

Hunter’s esteemed faculty represent a broad spectrum of approaches to studio practice, scholarship, and pedagogy. Through individual and group critiques with faculty, as well as art history and theory classes, students are exposed to and challenged by a variety of perspectives as they develop their own ideas.

Hunter’s MFA alumni have shaped the landscape of contemporary art, and have made significant contributions to the field as artists, educators, and art professionals. The prestigious Bucksbaum Award, given in conjunction with the Whitney Biennial to an artist whose work “demonstrates a singular combination of talent and imagination,” has gone twice to Hunter alumni, Paul Pfeiffer (‘95) and Omer Fast (‘99). Other recent MFA alumni include Jules De Balincourt, Sarah Crowner, Cheryl Donegan, Zachary Fabri, Derek Fordjour, Wade Guyton, Julia Jacquette, Marie Losier, Guadalupe Maravilla, Lawrence Rinder, and Jeff Sonhouse.

The history of Hunter’s Department of Art and Art History is woven through the story of modern art in New York City. Beginning in 1951 when the painter Robert Motherwell joined the department to teach both painting and “The Artist and Modern Society,” the College made a conscious decision to hire working artists engaged with contemporary issues. Over the years Hunter’s studio art faculty has included—among many other well-known names—William Baziotes, Roy de Carava, Hollis Frampton, Ron Gorchov, Doug Ohlsen, Raymond Parker, and Tony Smith. The program’s alumni are just as noteworthy and include Robert Morris, Alice Aycock, Robert Barry, Judy Rifka, Alan Saret, Alan Sonfist, and many others. In 1981, when Hunter awarded its first MFA degree in studio art, both the undergraduate and graduate studio programs were directed by Sandford Wurmfeld. Joel Carriero assumed the helm of the MFA Program in 1990s, followed by Carrie Moyer in 2017.

Starting in 1960 with the hire of curator and historian Eugene Goossen, Hunter’s Art History program has been equally strong and engaged with the cultural life of New York. Over the past decades, Hunter students have been taught by Leo Steinberg, Rosalind Krauss, William Agee and many other leaders in the field. The Department of Art and Art History is currently headed by Howard Singerman.

Robert Motherwell with his students, from the Hunter College yearbook, 1953. (Archives and Special Collections, Hunter College Libraries.)

The MFA in Studio Art is a three-year program spread out over six semesters. Students apply in one of six areas of concentrations: Painting, Sculpture, Photography, New Genres, Works on Paper (Drawing and Printmaking), and Clay and Casting. Once accepted into the program, students have the flexibility to explore other media and change concentrations.

Studio courses consist primarily of Seminars, which are group critiques; Tutorials, which are individual critiques with a faculty member; and Electives, which are courses outside of your area of concentration. Students are also required to take Art History and Theory courses. Electives may be used to take additional Art History or Studio courses, and/or for apprenticeships, teaching assistantships, and participation in the International Exchange Program.

A performance by Alison Kizu Blair in Midprogram Review

Students during their third semester present their work in the Mid-Program Review, a three-day, school-wide gathering of faculty and students. The program culminates in the sixth semester with a written thesis paper and the MFA Thesis exhibition in the 205 Hudson Street Gallery.

Students must obtain a total of 48 credits to complete the MFA degree. The 48 credits are comprised of three seminars (9 credits); three tutorials (9 credits); three electives (9 credits); three Art History and Theory classes (9 credits); two additional electives (6 credits); and the MFA Thesis Project (6 credits).