Department of Art {College of Liberal & Creative Arts}

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Master of Fine Arts in Art

The Master of Fine Arts in Art is designed to provide professional competency for the student pursuing a career as an artist.

Applications for the Master of Fine Arts in Art program are accepted November 1 through January 15 for admission the following fall semester. All candidates must apply to both the University and the Department of Art Graduate Program. This is a separate but parallel process.

The art department is no longer accepting applications as a hard copy. We are now using SlideRoom for our graduate program admissions process. Please download and read the Master of Fine Arts in Art Application Procedures for instructions on applying to the M.F.A. program.

About the Program

The three-year Master of Fine Arts in Art degree program at San Francisco State University is designed to provide professional competency for the student pursuing a career as an artist including working in public roles. Students are accepted into the program in the following areas of concentration: Ceramics, Conceptual and Information Arts, New Practices, Painting and Drawing, Photography, Printmaking, Sculpture, or Textiles.

Complete procedures and guidelines for admission to the Master of Fine Arts in Art are contained in the SF State Bulletin (Catalog).

Admissions Requirements

Complete procedures and guidelines for admission to the Master of Arts in Art History are contained in the SF State Bulletin (Catalog).

  1. An undergraduate art degree or an equivalent preparatory degree, with three units of contemporary art history taken within the last five years. If the applicant does not complete this upon admission to the program, enrollment in a contemporary art history class during the first semester is required.
  2. A 3.0 grade point average in the last 60 units completed in undergraduate degree.

The division of graduate studies has a helpful FAQ section for domestic applicants and international applicants .

Recommended 3-year Program

First Year

Fall Semester

  • Art 700: Seminar in Art Theory & Criticism 3 units, Academic Credit * (Note) /li>
  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3units, Studio Credit, taken every semester
  • Studio Elective, 3 units, Studio Credit
  • Academic Elective, 3 units, Academic Credit

Semester Total: 12

Spring Semester

  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3 units, Studio Credit, taken every semester
  • Art 705: Seminar in Art History, 3 units, Academic Credit, must be taken this semester
  • Academic Elective, 3 units, Academic Credit

Semester Total: 9

Second Year

Fall Semester

  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3 units, Studio Credit, taken every semester/li>
  • Art 780: Visiting Artist Studio, 3 units, Studio Credit
  • Art 850: Directed Experience in Public Roles, 3 units, Academic Credit

Semester Total: 9

Spring Semester

  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3 units, Studio Credit, taken every semester/li>
  • Art 780: Visiting Artist Studio, 3 units, Studio Credit
  • Academic Elective, 3 units, Academic Credit
  • Studio Elective, 3 units, Studio Credit

Semester Total: 12

Third Year

Fall Semester

  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3 units, Studio Credit, taken every semester/li>
  • Art 882: Tutorial, 3 units, Studio Credit
  • Art 890: Creative Work Research, 3 units, Studio Credit

Spring Semester

  • Art 704: Seminar in Art, 3 units, Studio Credit, taken every semester/li>
  • Art 882: Tutorial , 3 units, Studio Credit
  • Art 894: Creative Work Project, 3 units, Studio Credit

Semester Total: 9

Cumulative Total: 60

Note: Art 700 is mandatory for First Year MFA Students

Area Descriptions


The Ceramics Area provides each graduate student with his/her own workspace. General facilities include 20 Robert Brent wheels, hand building tables, 3 gas kilns, 5 electric kilns (including a glo-bar kiln), 2 Raku kilns, 1 soda (salt) kiln under construction, a clay mixer, slab roller and 2 extruders. There is a large glaze room with a spray booth, spray guns, air brush, etc. Ceramic instructors work with Raku, pit fire, high and low firing processes. They have explored large mural formats and industrial clay pipes. The area is looking for dedicated clay artists; hungry to work with clay.

Conceptual and Information Arts

The Conceptual and Information Arts area focuses on contemporary art explorations in non-traditional media that integrate the information bases, work styles, and perspectives of disciplines outside the arts—especially those involving science and technology. The program stresses integration of intuitive processes typical of the arts with structured processes of planning and problem solving more characteristic of other disciplines. The area promotes non-conventional art media, new media, and the movement of artists into non-art contexts. Faculty helps students develop concrete skills related to contemporary technology such as structured problem solving, analysis of biological systems, computers, telecommunications, interactive media, and the electronic synthesis of image, text, and sound, and explores the integration of these technologies into performance and installation. The program places emphasis on the perspectives of critical analysis of cultural systems, language and media. Students who can demonstrate outstanding work that moves beyond traditional art categories or which shows innovative use of new technologies are encouraged to apply. A formal undergraduate background in the arts in not required as long as the documentation demonstrates significant art explorations.

New Practices

"New Practices" is an area within the Art Department for graduate students, who choose to explore art practice, conceptual ideas, and theory in two or more media. While New Practices is not a specialized emphasis within the Art Department, it is a category that allows incoming candidates whose work bridges two or more media to shape their graduate program in accordance with their particular art practice. Students wishing to enter as New Practice candidates must have a firm foundation in historical and current art practice, and be seeking a new synthesis of expression. Candidates must identify their current media, or the areas in which they are intending to work in their application. Objectives for graduate study must also be specified. Candidates can combine any two or more areas from within the Art Department, including Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Textiles, Conceptual and Information Arts, Ceramics or Photography. All New Practice MFA candidates must work regularly with advisors from the areas they have designated for each year they are in the MFA program.


The area offers guided development of personal ideas, images and theory through the disciplines of painting, drawing and related art-making processes. The faculty consists of a unique blend of highly professional artists whose work reflects a spectrum of trends in the field. Classified Graduate students are accepted into the program in all areas of that spectrum. The faculty looks for students with high levels of achievement and maturity and with potential for the development of significant expression while they are in the program. At the present time there is some shared graduate painting space available. Students accepted into the program are encouraged to provide their own work space. Independent study is available and encouraged for a portion of the program. Some teaching assistantships are also available on a "for credit" basis. The program focuses specifically on the development of ideas in the context of painting as a Fine Art. Portfolios that include only examples of illustration competency are strongly discouraged.


The photography area at San Francisco State University is dedicated to instruction in the methodologies of photography in context of contemporary art practice. These processes include black-and-white chemical based photography as well as digital technologies. Faculty works closely with the MFA candidate to develop a program that builds skills and work well-suited for exhibition. The curriculum encourages student teaching, where the student works with the photography faculty in developing their presentation skills in a classroom situation. Facilities for photography include black-and-white and digital labs. For black-and-white processes, there is a twenty-station group darkroom with 4x5 enlargers for processing prints, individual darkrooms for processing film and a group area for processing film. The digital labs consist of 12 Macintosh based work stations that are networked to two 24" wide Epson printers. There is a specialized lab for working with extra large media up to 44" with directly linked Macintosh computers. Graduate students also have access to a separate black-and-white darkroom that they may set up for a number of specialized processes.


The Printmaking area is equipped with studio space that promotes a cross-disciplinary approach. Intaglio, relief, letterpress, and lithography print shops are all connected allowing a free flow of alternative research to new methods of impressions. A new computer lab for printmaking students also provides opportunities for digital explorations. The area provides graduate and undergraduate students with a wealth of possibility in mixed media work. Through continued manipulation of the print, new relationships can be formed and limitation expanded. Flowing from their individual concerns, by their concentrated efforts as printmakers, the dissemination of information through the artist's book, or the image of commercial reproduction, all contribute to the influence that defines contemporary printmaking. Equipment and Facilities available: 3 hand litho presses capable of printing up to 30" x 40" images from aluminum plates and stones, 3 etching presses, 2 with the capability of printing up to 30" x 40", 2 Vandercook letterpresses, darkroom including enlarger, Copy camera, NuArc platemaker, and digital options. Depending upon funding a graduate assistantship may be available through the printmaking area.


Sculpture at San Francisco State University provides instructional emphasis aimed at stimulating development of self-knowledge, engagement with contemporary artistic and cultural issues, and communication using a wide range of processes, materials and venues. The sculpture area encourages open-ended investigations, creative risk-taking and the strengthening of observational, research, analytical, reflective and strategic-thinking skills. Sculpture faculty have strong traditional studio knowledge as well as commitment to exploring the boundaries of current 3-dimensional investigations. The sculpture area equipment centers on fabricating processes, particularly metals and non-ferrous materials. The area also encourages wide-ranging explorations with site specific installations, publicly sited works, art and community processes, multi-media and multi-disciplinary expressions as well as performance art and collaborative and inter-active processes. The Sculpture area consists of approximately 9000 sq. ft. of work space and has a graduate population of 5 to 6 students. Each graduate student is provided approximately 300 sq. ft. studio space adjacent to instructional areas. Depending upon funding, graduate assistantship positions may be available through the sculpture area.


The visual language of textiles reaches broadly across disciplines in fine arts and design. Today, textile techniques, materials and traditions are ubiquitous in contemporary fine arts. From the resurgence of needle crafts to the use of repeat pattern conventions - textiles, and the principles of the discipline, are at the center of much of the most exciting art and design of the day. The Textiles area strives to bring a modern vocabulary to a centuries-old language. In addition to a strong emphasis on technique and craftsmanship, the Textiles area stresses the importance of process and research in the development of creative work. The curriculum considers the aesthetic and emotional qualities of traditional cloth and craft as a touchstone for how contemporary creative work can be informed and contextualized. Within this framework, students are required to create artwork that is self-directed, inventive, and original. The textile facility consists of two large studios and a dye lab. It has a good supply of four and eight harness floor looms and three AVL sixteen-harness computerized dobby looms. The dye lab is spacious, well-ventilated, and thoroughly equipped.

Course Descriptions

Studio Courses

Seminar in Art (Art 704): The Art 704 seminar is the nucleus of the M.F.A. program and is taken each of the six semesters in the program. During the course of the program, students will find opportunities to take seminars from faculty in their principal concentration as well as from faculty in other areas.

Visiting Artist (Art 780): In order to assure a broad, critical studio experience, M.F.A. students take two courses with visiting artists not part of the regular faculty. These visiting faculty are selected on the basis of their exceptional contribution to contemporary art-making activities, and their ability to present approaches to art making which expand the Department's directions.

Studio Electives

Students are required to take two studio electives, from any studio courses offered in the University, by advisement. Please speak with your advisor.
Tutorial and Creative Work (Art 882, 890, 894): In order to complete the M.F.A. degree, students must demonstrate the development of a mature body of individual work. The last year in the program is reserved for this purpose. This work is done within the context of tutorial and creative work courses which involve direct supervision by members of the graduate faculty. An exhibition and written documentation is part of the requirement.

Academic Courses - Required

Students take take two seminars which require scholarly research and writing in academic fields closely allied to art making, Art 700; Seminar in Art Theory and Criticism, taken the first semester of the first year, and Art 705; Seminar in Art History, taken the second semester of the first year. These seminars present a wide variety of contemporary issues and professional concerns for practicing artists.

Directed Experience in Public Roles for Artists (Art 850): One semester of field experience, either as a teaching assistant for a member of the studio faculty or as an intern in an arts-related organization is required. This course is designed to address the growing multiple roles in which artists often function in addition to or in conjunction with exhibiting work. Art 850 includes periodic meetings in a seminar format.

Academic Course - Electives

In addition to the three required academic seminars (Art 700, 705, 850), students are required to take four of additional academic courses as electives. These classes are taken, by advisement, in art-related fields such as history, theory, criticism and directed experience, or in academic fields throughout the University related to a student's interests and art-making activities.

Seminar in Teaching Art Practice (Art 750): Designed to help prepare graduate students in art to teach in a college/university setting. The primary emphasis of the course will be to guide students to be effective teachers of studio practice in different disciplines. This is an elective course that satisfies an academic requirement.

Transfer of Credit for Previous Graduate Work

All transfer of credit must be approved on a course-by-course basis by a Graduate Advisor, the Graduate Coordinator, and the Office of Graduate Studies. This transfer should be arranged before the first semester of graduate studies begins.

A maximum of 12 units total may be transferred towards credit for the M.F.A. degree.

  • A student previously enrolled in any accredited MFA program may transfer up to 12 units from that program.
  • A student who has taken graduate courses in an unclassified post-baccalaureate status may transfer no more than six units in studio, and six units of other, creditable, coursework, for a total of 12 units.
  • A student who has accrued credits both as an enrolled candidate in an accredited MFA program and taken courses in an unclassified
    post-baccalaureate status may transfer no more than 12 units total.
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