MFA Program

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PROGRAM 

Artists change the way we see the world.  Artists impact local and global economies and affect the health and well-being of individuals and communities. Artists enrich our emotional world and illuminate our personal experience. Artists produce structures that resonate, cause interaction and establish connection. Artists educate. 

MECA’s MFA program offers an interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to think across traditional academic boundaries and challenge their art practice and intellectual curiosity. The curriculum emphasizes the intersection of studio production, individual research and critical analysis. This structure promotes the development of a sustainable lifelong practice.  

Among the first low residency MFA Programs in the country, MECA now has two tracks to choose from. Our full residency MFA gives you the option of moving to the Arts District in Portland, Maine, with 24/7 access to 200,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facilities and a vibrant creative community. Our low residency MFA combines intense periods of on-campus instruction with the freedom and independence of working from any home location, anywhere in the world. 

  • Choose from a full-time MFA in Studio Art or low residency option

  • Two years of in-depth structured course and studio work

  • Trimester structure promotes continuity, flexibility and independence



  • Emphasis on developing a studio practice that is grounded in contemporary art history and critical issues

  • Only 15 students accepted each year allows for a remarkably high degree of engagement and access to faculty compared to other MFA programs

  • Carefully selected Studio Advisor for Fall and Spring trimesters

  • Engaged core faculty and consistent one-on-one student mentoring

  • 24/7 access to studios and facilities

  • Online and in-person course work emphasizes research, experimentation, reflection, collaboration, and engaged problem-solving

  • National and International Field Trips

  • Designed for artists looking for a transformative learning experience who are passionate about risk-taking and thinking critically through their practice

  • May Thesis Residency for Graduating students

  • Thesis exhibition and final thesis defense in MECA's Institute of Contemporary Art

  • Rigorous written and published thesis

  • Curriculum highlights and promotes the development of a sustainable lifelong practice.

Graduate Studies at MECA offer a dynamic and supportive learning environment for artists who are passionate about taking risks, thinking critically, and advancing their careers.   

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2015–2016 academic year.

EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY 

At MECA, we believe in the transformational power of an arts education to serve as the foundation for a lifelong pursuit of personal and professional goals. As educators and artists, our philosophy is built on the premise that there is a growing demand for creative problem solvers who understand the importance of research, exploration, reflection, collaboration, and thinking beyond traditional boundaries. Our students discover and build on their own unique creative process through immersive studio practice.

 

ACCESS TO EXCEPTIONAL FACILITIES, RESOURCES, AND SPACE

MECA’s MFA takes place in the historic five-floor Porteous Building, which provides 200,000 square-feet of academic classrooms, computer labs, studio facilities, and administrative services. During the Summer Intensive and throughout the academic year every student is given 24/7 access to individual studio space and specialized labs. Also located in the Porteous Building, the Institute of Contemporary Art at MECA serves a critical regional role in its commitment to presenting contemporary, provocative work by living artists from Maine and around the globe. The Joanne Waxman Library is one of the largest independent libraries in Northern New England and a major resource for the region.

Full Residency

Drawn by its rugged beauty and reputation for fierce individualism, artists have long favored Maine as a place of retreat and focus.  Artists well versed in current discourse, engaged in global politics, and committed to pushing the boundaries of aesthetics, ethics and individual practice repeatedly choose this place to gather and work. 

MECA’s Full Residency structure is designed and recommended for Graduate candidates who are able and willing to relocate to Portland, Maine to take advantage of state-of-the-art facilities, a vibrant, creative community, and the programs, exhibitions and City-wide events that run throughout the year.   

Portland is an amazing city.  Located on the southern coast of Maine, it’s just the right size, easy to navigate on foot, filled with arts and culture and minutes from beaches, lakes and forests. The city is a collection of unique neighborhoods with a strong commitment to community. Between the outdoor activities, the booming local food movement and the vibrant visual and performing art scene, Portland offers a place to live and a way of life.

Trimester Structure

MECA’s MFA program runs on a trimester system.  The academic year begins in June with an eight-week Summer Intensive for all Graduate candidates and is followed by Fall and Spring trimesters, a Winter Intensive and a May residency for graduating students. Our trimester curriculum is professionally advantageous because it requires continuous studio practice combined with regular feedback. This structure promotes the development of a sustainable lifelong practice.

In the Fall and Spring trimesters, MFA faculty foster rigor and consistency. Students take academic courses  on-campus and on-line and work independently with a carefully selected Studio Advisor who is chosen to support and critique the development of your studio work.  Advisors visit with students twelve times over the course of both semesters. Our full residency structure also includes opportunities to meet and work MECA faculty and Visiting Artists throughout the year.

Summer and winter intensives offer a different kind of rhythm from the fall and spring, and provide the valuable experience of group interaction, shared studio experience, and feedback from faculty, peers, and nationally and internationally known artists, critics, curators and scholars.  During the residency periods students from both tracks have the chance to gather and network.  

 

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FULL RESIDENCY CURRICULUM

YEAR ONE

SUMMER:

MST851 Studio I:  The Summer Intensive studio course is supported, monitored and evaluated by Core Faculty. In addition to ongoing individual studio critiques, students will participate in formal group critiques with Visiting Faculty and fellow students. Students maintain a private studio throughout the summer. 6 credits

MCR868 Studio in Context: Applied Theory and History:This course explores the many methodologies employed by art historians to understand works of art. The goal of this course is to expose students to primary sources whose archive demonstrates significant contributions to the material and intellectual culture in the Twentieth Century and beyond. 2 credits 

MEL 874 Studio Seminar I: This course focuses on studio practices and research. Students investigate the work and themes of other artists, design experiments for their studio and participate in discussions around maintaining a studio as a professional artist. Studio Seminar I is complementary to the Studio I experience and is conducted in two parts. Visiting artists will join the class for a series of student-led interviews. 2 credits 

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the summer, faculty must grant 1st year students permission to proceed into the Fall trimester. 

FALL:

MST852 Studio II: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST853 Graduate Studio Elective: In consultation with the Graduate Chair students may chose from a variety of course offerings.  The choice of elective is designed to engage students in experimental, technical or exploratory aspects of studio practice as a path to developing and refining ideas and questions in the work. This course operates in support of the more in-depth studio production with the Non-Resident Studio Advisor.  2 credits

MCR860 Views on Contemporary Art: This course will reinforce and continue the conversation that was started during the Summer Intensive with a focus on Art History. The purpose of this course is to introduce key historical periods and fundamental ideas for studio artists and to expose students to primary sources whose archive demonstrates significant contributions to the material and intellectual culture in the Twentieth Century and beyond.2 credits

Teaching Assistantship:  Graduate Teaching Assistantships are awarded based on demonstrated professionalism in work, attitude and aptitude.  Each semester a list of TA positions is published.  MFA students have the option to apply, be interviewed and if selected assist a MECA faculty member in a studio or academic class in our BFA program.  The Graduate Chair may advise students to refrain from applying on a case- by-case circumstance due to issues with studio or academic performance and/or scheduling conflicts.

All students who wish to be considered for a Grad Teaching assistantship must be enrolled in our Full Residency track.  The TAship is a monetary award that will be paid via payroll during the semester. 0 credits 

Winter Intensive I: Based in Portland, this five to ten-day early December residency includes seminars, critiques, presentations, guest lectures and individual program planning plus a trip to visit a local art center — Boston or NY — to visit galleries, museums and studios with core faculty serving as guides and facilitators. 0 credits

SPRING:

MST854 Studio III: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST862 Studio Seminar: Studio Writing The Artist Statement: An in-depth examination of studio production through conversation, written and visual analysis. This course serves as a writing studio in which students use writing to discover, analyze and refine studio projects. A survey of influential artist writings will be examined as case studies. 2 credits

MST870 Approaches to Critical Theory: Drawing from current articles and publications, exhibitions, field research, and artist interviews, this course will encourage broader questions of existence and art through a transdisciplinary sweep that aims to lay a foundation for future research and production. 2 credits

STUDIO ELECTIVE:  Optional

Teaching Assistantship:  Graduate Teaching Assistantships are awarded based on demonstrated professionalism in work, attitude and aptitude.  Each semester a list of TA positions is published.  MFA students have the option to apply, be interviewed and if selected assist a MECA faculty member in a studio or academic class in our BFA program.  The Graduate Chair may advise students to refrain from applying on a case- by-case circumstance due to issues with studio or academic performance and/or scheduling conflicts.

All students who wish to be considered for a Grad Teaching Assistantship must be enrolled in our Full Residency track.  The TAship is a monetary award that will be paid via payroll during the semester. 0 credits 

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the first year, the Chair of the Studio must grant permission to proceed in order for a student to proceed into the second year.

 

YEAR TWO

SUMMER:

MST856 Studio IV: The Summer Intensive studio course is supported, monitored and evaluated by Core Faculty. In addition to ongoing individual studio critiques, students will participate in formal group critiques with Visiting Faculty and fellow students. Students maintain a private studio throughout the summer. 6 credits

MCR869 Studio in Context: Critical Writing: This class considers the theoretical issues and related historical framework that come together in the critical interpretation of art. Through the act of critical writing, students will engage in a series of exercises as a way to examine the foundations, concepts and categories that structure art historical and theoretical discourse in preparation for writing their thesis. 2 credits

MEL876 Studio Seminar II: This course focuses on studio practices and research. Students investigate the work and themes of other artists, design experiments for their studio and participate in discussions around maintaining a studio as a professional artist. Studio Seminar II is complementary to the Studio II experience and is conducted in two parts. Visiting artists will join the class for a series of student-led interviews. 2 credits

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the summer, faculty must grant second year students permission to proceed into the Fall trimester.

 

FALL:

MST857 Studio V: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST863 Studio Seminar: Professional Practices: The MECA MFA program in Studio Arts recognizes the importance of developing strategies for career development. The syllabus addresses practical and philosophical questions around students' work relating to audience, collectors, funders, curators, cultural institutions, community, art markets and art world/s. 2 credits

MCR866 Thesis Proposal: This course serves to focus studio research increasingly toward deepening the unique ideas and pursuits surrounding each student’s own art production. Students will define and articulate the theoretical discourse pertinent to their written thesis; their responsibility as an artist in the world; pertinent themes related to contemporary art and their individual studio practice; and an understanding of the histories and traditions of the disciplines they work within. 2 credits

Winter Intensive II: Based in Portland, this five to ten-day early December residency includes seminars, critiques, presentations, guest lectures and individual thesis planning. 0 credits

TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIP:  Graduate Teaching Assistantships are awarded based on demonstrated professionalism in work, attitude and aptitude.  Each semester a list of TA positions is published.  MFA students have the option to apply, be interviewed and if selected assist a MECA faculty member in a studio or academic class in our BFA program.  The Graduate Chair may advise students to refrain from applying on a case- by-case circumstance due to issues with studio or academic performance and/or scheduling conflicts.

All students who wish to be considered for a Grad Teaching assistantship must be enrolled in our Full Residency track.  The TAship is a monetary award that will be paid via payroll during the semester. 0 credits

SPRING:

MST859 Studio VI: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST860 Studio Seminar: Studio Thesis: This course is the final studio course for 2nd year students. Each student will work with a Core Faculty member who will help them prepare for their studio thesis project to be mounted at MECA’s Institute of Contemporary Art in May. 2 credits

MCR871 Thesis Composition:  This course focuses exclusively on assisting graduating students to compose and edit 7,500 word thesis text published as an essay through Lulu Books. 2 credits

Teaching Assistantship:  Graduate Teaching Assistantships are awarded based on demonstrated professionalism in work, attitude and aptitude.  Each semester a list of TA positions is published.  MFA students have the option to apply, be interviewed and if selected assist a MECA faculty member in a studio or academic class in our BFA program.  The Graduate Chair may advise students to refrain from applying on a case- by-case circumstance due to issues with studio or academic performance and/or scheduling conflicts.  In this final semester of the MFA Program students are encouraged to leave their schedule more open to allow for more concentrated focus on studio and course work and preparation for the Thesis Exhibition and Defense.

All students who wish to be considered for a Grad Teaching assistantship must be enrolled in our Full Residency track.  The TAship is a monetary award that will be paid via payroll during the semester. 0 credits

May Intensive — Studio and Thesis Defense: In May of the second year, students return to Portland to participate in their final week-long residency for graduating second year students. During the week the MFA Thesis Exhibition is mounted and the written and studio theses are defended. The intensive and the individual student defenses are facilitated by MFA Chair of Studio and includes a panel of core faculty and by invitation, nationally established critics, historians and artists, all recognized for teaching excellence. Required for graduation. 0 credits.

LOW RESIDENCY

Our low-residency structure is designed for experienced artists who want the ability and independence to maintain their ongoing careers while earning an MFA. We support flexibility and the pursuit of a sustainable professional practice by offering two years of in-depth structured studio and course work with periods of on and off campus study.

On-campus Residencies and Intensives

The academic year begins in June with an on-campus Summer Intensive. While most low residency programs offer one to two week on-campus intensives, MECA is unique in offering an eight-week experience followed by full fall and spring trimesters. The MFA summer in Maine gives students a full semester of on-campus access and interaction with nationally and internationally known artists, critics, curators and scholars.  Students return to Maine for a one-week Winter Intensive and a final May Residency for the culminating thesis defense, exhibition and graduation events.  The summer and winter residencies in Maine complement the fall and spring trimesters and provide the valuable experience of group interaction, shared studio experience, and feedback from faculty, peers, and visiting artists, critics, curators and scholars.

Off-campus Study

In the Fall and Spring trimesters students return to their home location and work one-on-one with a carefully selected local studio advisor who is specifically chosen to support and critique the development of their work. Non-resident Studio Advisors visit with students twelve times over the course of both semesters.  

MECA’s low residency structure also features year round contact with Core faculty who use an easy-to-use teaching website to deliver relevant and topical academic courses that are supplemented by podcast lectures, discussion forums, self-directed research and personal conversation.  On-line coursework supplements and illuminates studio work and Core faculty foster rigor and consistency. 

The MECA MFA low residency track is a full-time 60 credit program of study.

 

>>See Full Size 

LOW RESIDENCY CURRICULUM

YEAR ONE

SUMMER:

MST851 Studio I:  The Summer Intensive studio course is supported, monitored and evaluated by Core Faculty. In addition to ongoing individual studio critiques, students will participate in formal group critiques with Visiting Faculty and fellow students. Students maintain a private studio throughout the summer. 6 credits

MCR868 Studio in Context: Applied Theory and History:This course explores the many methodologies employed by art historians to understand works of art. The goal of this course is to expose students to primary sources whose archive demonstrates significant contributions to the material and intellectual culture in the Twentieth Century and beyond. 2 credits

MEL 874 Studio Seminar I: This course focuses on studio practices and research. Students investigate the work and themes of other artists, design experiments for their studio and participate in discussions around maintaining a studio as a professional artist. Studio Seminar I is complementary to the Studio I experience and is conducted in two parts. Visiting artists will join the class for a series of student-led interviews. 2 credits

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the summer, faculty must grant 1st year students permission to proceed into the Fall trimester. 

FALL:

MST852 Studio II: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST853 Studio Seminar: Research Methodologies I: This course is designed to engage students in experimental and exploratory aspects of studio practice as a path to developing and refining ideas and questions in the work. This course operates in support of the more in-depth studio production with the Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 2 credits

MCR860 Views on Contemporary Art: This course will reinforce and continue the conversation that was started during the Summer Intensive with a focus on Art History. The purpose of this course is to introduce key historical periods and fundamental ideas for studio artists and to expose students to primary sources whose archive demonstrates significant contributions to the material and intellectual culture in the Twentieth Century and beyond.2 credits

Winter Intensive I: Based in Portland, this five to ten-day early December residency includes seminars, critiques, presentations, guest lectures and individual program planning plus a trip to visit a local art center — Boston or NY — to visit galleries, museums and studios with core faculty serving as guides and facilitators. 0 credits

SPRING:

MST854 Studio III: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST862 Studio Seminar: Studio Writing The Artist Statement: An in-depth examination of studio production through conversation, written and visual analysis. This course serves as a writing studio in which students use writing to discover, analyze and refine studio projects. A survey of influential artist writings will be examined as case studies. 2 credits

MST870 Approaches to Critical Theory: Drawing from current articles and publications, exhibitions, field research, and artist interviews, this course will encourage broader questions of existence and art through a transdisciplinary sweep that aims to lay a foundation for future research and production. 2 credits

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the first year, the Chair of the Studio must grant permission to proceed in order for a student to proceed into the second year.

YEAR TWO

SUMMER:

MST856 Studio IV: The Summer Intensive studio course is supported, monitored and evaluated by Core Faculty. In addition to ongoing individual studio critiques, students will participate in formal group critiques with Visiting Faculty and fellow students. Students maintain a private studio throughout the summer. 6 credits

MCR869 Studio in Context: Critical Writing: This class considers the theoretical issues and related historical framework that come together in the critical interpretation of art. Through the act of critical writing, students will engage in a series of exercises as a way to examine the foundations, concepts and categories that structure art historical and theoretical discourse in preparation for writing their thesis. 2 credits

MEL876 Studio Seminar II: This course focuses on studio practices and research. Students investigate the work and themes of other artists, design experiments for their studio and participate in discussions around maintaining a studio as a professional artist. Studio Seminar II is complementary to the Studio II experience and is conducted in two parts. Visiting artists will join the class for a series of student-led interviews. 2 credits

PERMISSION TO PROCEED: At the end of the summer, faculty must grant second year students permission to proceed into the Fall trimester.

FALL:

MST857 Studio V: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST863 Studio Seminar: Professional Practices: The MECA MFA program in Studio Arts recognizes the importance of developing strategies for career development. The syllabus addresses practical and philosophical questions around students' work relating to audience, collectors, funders, curators, cultural institutions, community, art markets and art world/s. 2 credits

MCR866 Thesis Proposal: This course serves to focus studio research increasingly toward deepening the unique ideas and pursuits surrounding each student’s own art production. Students will define and articulate the theoretical discourse pertinent to their written thesis; their responsibility as an artist in the world; pertinent themes related to contemporary art and their individual studio practice; and an understanding of the histories and traditions of the disciplines they work within. 2 credits

Winter Intensive II: Based in Portland, this five to ten-day early December residency includes seminars, critiques, presentations, guest lectures and individual thesis planning. 0 credits

SPRING:

MST859 Studio VI: Studio production supported by Non-Resident Studio Advisor. 6 credits

MST860 Studio Seminar: Studio Thesis: This course is the final studio course for 2nd year students. Each student will work with a Core Faculty member who will help them prepare for their studio thesis project to be mounted at MECA’s Institute of Contemporary Art in May. 2 credits

MCR871 Thesis Composition:  This course focuses exclusively on assisting graduating students to compose and edit 7,500 word thesis text published as an essay through Lulu Books. 2 credits

May Intensive — Studio and Thesis Defense: In May of the second year, students return to Portland to participate in their final week-long residency for graduating second year students. During the week the MFA Thesis Exhibition is mounted and the written and studio theses are defended. The intensive and the individual student defenses are facilitated by MFA Chair of Studio and includes a panel of core faculty and by invitation, nationally established critics, historians and artists, all recognized for teaching excellence. Required for graduation. 0 credits.

Q: What is the difference between the Full Residency track and the Low Residency track?

Students who choose the Full Residency option move to Portland, may have a studio, have consistent 24/7 access to MECA facilities and the activities that occur that happen in the College and around Portland during the school year.  They are also able to take advantage of Graduate electives and Teaching Assistantships.

Our low residency MFA combines intense periods of on-campus instruction in Maine with the freedom and independence of working from any home location.  Our low-residency structure is designed for experienced artists who want the ability and independence to maintain their ongoing careers while earning an MFA.

Both of MECA’s MFA tracks offer an interdisciplinary approach that encourages students to think across traditional academic boundaries and challenge their art practice and intellectual curiosity. 

Q. What is MECA's low residency structure?
While most low residency programs offer 1-2 week on campus intensives, MECA is unique in offering an 8 week summer intensive trimester and a full fall and spring trimesters. The Summer Intensive trimester allows students a full semester of on campus experience each summer, while the Fall and Spring trimesters offer a full academic year of studio and coursework from a student’s home studio. Short Winter and May residencies (for graduating students) complement the fall and spring triemesters.

The low residency structure features year round contact with core faculty and a local studio advisor who meets with each student in their home studio during the fall and spring trimesters. Studio time is complemented by a rigorous program of online coursework.

The MECA MFA low residency track is a full-time 60 credit program of study.

Q. When does the program begin?
The academic year kicks off annually with an eight-week Summer Intensive in Portland, Maine. The Intensive generally begins in mid-June and runs through early August. See the Academic Calendar for more information.

Q. How do I request program materials?
You may request a catalog here.
You may open the downloadable PDF here

Q. What advice would you give about submitting my portfolio?
Documentation of your work should be of professional quality.  Choose images that best represent you as an individual. You may submit up to twenty images but we recommend that you thoughtfully edit the selection to support the ideas communicated in your letter of intent.

Q. What should I put in my letter of intent?
Describe your intended field of exploration to show us what materials, ideas, and approaches you are ready to embrace as part of your graduate study. Alongside an analysis of  your recent work, describe how you anticipate your work moving in new directions in the future.  Tell us how you are ready to challenge yourself and why you think MECA’s MFA  will help you do this.

Q. Who are the Visiting Artists and Curators for Summer 2014?

For Summer 2014 we were joined by Abigail DeVille, Sharon Hayes, Rick Lowe, Michael Oatman, Richard Renaldi, Jay Sanders, Lisa Sigal, and Trevor Smith. The roster of visiting Artists and Curators for summer 2015 is forthcoming.

Q. How do I find out more about Financial Aid and Scholarships at MECA?
To be eligible for aid at MECA accepted applicants must have completed a FAFSA form online.  Please visit the Financial Aid section for more information.  All students may apply for remote research fellowships.

Q. What are the academic dates for the year?
Please see our Academic Calendar.
    
Q. Is there someone I can speak to about the MFA in Studio Arts Program at MECA?
Please do not hesitate to contact Rachel Katz in the MFA office with questions about our MFA program. You can reach Rachel at 207.699.5030, or by email at mfa@MECA.edu.