Art & Design

Visual Arts

Master of Fine Arts (MFA), two-year, low-residency graduate program

Integrate artistic practice into the existing structure of your life.

Pursue an MFA that’s rigorous yet individually tailored for the 21st century artist. Over a two-year period, the interdisciplinary focus of the program allows you to craft a course of study that integrates creative work into your daily life. Flexible enough to mold as your interests evolve, our program—one of the oldest and most established low-residency MFAs in the country—will help you advance your art practice and develop necessary skills for a career in the arts.

Each January and June, you'll participate in 10-day residencies within a supportive arts community of diverse faculty and students. An immersion of critique, seminars, visiting artist talks, and exhibitions, the residency experience is catalyst for the development of your critical dialogue and personal vision. And our new Lunder Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, a center of academia and the arts, gives you access to a vibrant arts culture. 

Each individual residency is connected by a semester of academic advising from our MFA program faculty, as well as mentored independent studio work. Working with a local artist mentor over the entire semester, you'll be exposed to new feedback and conversations about your art, while gaining access to an arts community in your region.

As you work toward sharing your portfolio of work during your final thesis residency, you will establish the tools and community support necessary for promoting lifelong artistic inquiry and professional growth.

Program Structure

Master of Fine Arts (MFA), two-year, low-residency graduate program

60 Credits
MFA Visual Arts faculty Jan Avgikos in critique
10-Day Residencies

In January and June, invigorate your practice during 10-day residencies in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The structured residencies include critique, seminars, presentations, exhibitions, and arts talks by our prominent MFA faculty and visiting artists, all designed to strengthen your approach to visual art.

Lunder Arts Center on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge
Curriculum Geared Towards Working Professionals

The interdisciplinary focus of the program is diverse yet independently guided, allowing you to craft a course of study that integrates creative work into your daily life. You'll advance your critical dialogue, become a member of dynamic art communities, and gain the necessary professional skills for a career in the arts.

students participate in an MFA visual arts critique
Professional Arts Mentor

Each semester, choose a new arts professional whose work is of particular interest to you to mentor you during your independent study. Through our network, students have worked with highly visible artists.

“The visual arts are a place where one can really have a powerful voice—a place where social and cultural dialogues truly exist.”
Ben Sloat, MFA in Visual Arts Director
wall installation with textiles and mixed media
Visiting Artists
Tomashi Jackson
Jackson’s multi-media practice works across painting, video, textile, and sculpture. Examining the relationship between the aesthetic and the political, she creates layers of content which bridge historical actions with shifting artistic structures. Her work has been shown at MoMA PS1, the New Museum, Mass MoCA, and the Walker Art Center. Jackson is represented by Tilton Gallery in New York.
film still of man next to clock-in station with long hair and also bald head
Tehching Hsieh
Between 1978 and 2000, Hsieh used the concept of extended time as the context for his performance work, making his art and life exist in simultaneity. His "One Year Performance 1978-1979" (also known as Cage Piece) was shown at MoMA in 2009. Other recent exhibitions of his include those shown at the Guggenheim Museum, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Gwangju Biennial. Hsieh has also represented Taiwan at the 2017 Venice Biennial.
Dion 25tmag Slide WLIV Master 675
Mark Dion

Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkammern of the 16th and 17th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. His work has been shown at major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum, MoMA, and the Tate Modern. His largest American survey of work opened at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston in October 2017.
collaged painting of person sitting on couch covered in cloth and flowers
Amir H. Fallah
In his paintings, sculptures, and installations, Fallah utilizes personal history as an entry point to discuss race, representation, the body, and the memories of cultures and countries left behind. He has exhibited widely across the United States and in the Middle East including at The Third Line, Dubai; Schneider Museum, Oregon; the 56th Venice Biennial; and the Sharjah Biennial. 
Visiting Artists
Receive guidance and critique from internationally recognized visiting artists, art critics, curators, and art historians. Every residency, new thought leaders become active participants in our community's ongoing dialogue about art and art making.
donna woodley painting with hammer
MFA in Visual Arts
Donna Woodley ’16
The female figure in my paintings is confrontational toward the visibility and value of black women within American society, both historically and in a contemporary context,” explains Donna Woodley, a Nashville-based artist who found the voice and confidence to push her work in a different direction during Lesley’s MFA program. Opening a new dialogue, her portraits began to feature female figures obscuring their eyes with white underwear, underscoring issues of self-esteem and a desire to be seen.
Alumni Highlights


Total approximate cost for this master's degree program.
Visual Arts
  • Tuition
    $1,030/credit x 60
  • Fees
    Residency Fees
    MFA Visual Arts Culmination Evaluation Fee
    Registration Fees
    Degree Completion Fee
  • Merit Scholarship
    Merit Scholarship
  • Total
Estimated Cost

Each year, the College of Art and Design awards $497,000 in merit scholarships to newly admitted MFA students to offset the cost of attending the program. Awards for students in this program range from $15,000 to $21,000. Other forms of financial aid may also be available. Review all graduate tuition and fees, and what they cover. Tuition and fees are subject to change each year, effective June 1.

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Total approximate cost for this master's degree program. Tuition and fees are for the 2019-2020 academic year.
Use our step-by-step guide to apply for federal and university funding. Scholarships, grants, Work-Study, and loans. It’s all right here.

Next steps to apply

Ready to get started? We're here to make the application process as smooth as possible. Just answer a few quick questions, and get your customized application guide.