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.

two mfa students discuss each other's work during residency
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
sculpture installation of peacocks hanging from trees
Visiting Artists
Petah Coyne
Sourcing from natural forms and materials, Petah Coyne creates large-scale works filled with materials ranging from silk flowers to wax to taxidermy. As described in her solo exhibition at Mass MoCA in 2010: "All of Coyne’s works take inspiration from personal stories, film, literature and political events. Coyne takes these sources and applies a Baroque sense of decadent refinement, imbuing her work with a magical quality to evoke intensely personal associations."
Sculpture installation made from steel, wood, plaster and fiberglass
Diana Al-Hadid
Al-Hadid is a Syrian-American artist who lives and works in New York. Her sculptures and installations, made from materials such as plaster, Styrofoam, wax, cement, and cardboard, often transform classical motifs into ethereal and dynamic states. Her work is in the collection of the deCordova, Whitney Museum, MFA Houston, among many others. Al-Hadid is represented by Marianne Boesky, New York; Morán Morán, Los Angeles; and Galleri Brandstrup, Oslo.
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 institutions such as the Miami Art Museum, MoMA, and the Tate Modern. His largest American survey of work opened at the 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 Careers


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.

Apply Now

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.

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.