MFA Program in Studio Art Feature Image

MFA Program 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 three-year program provides unique access and exposure to the changing ideas and forms of contemporary art, and an array of opportunites in the New York art world. Our educational goal is to develop professional artists capable of sustaining their practice and continued growth once they leave the structure of an academic environment.

Our Students

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 comprised of a dynamic mix of painters, sculptors, photographers, combined media and performance artists, all working in proximity to one another at 205 Hudson Street. Experimentation and collaboration is encouraged. This chemistry and dialogue between artists is an important characteristic that defines our program.

Students and faculty gathering for the Mid-program Review.

Hunter Faculty

Hunter’s esteemed faculty represent a broad spectrum of ideas related to their studio practice, scholarship, and pedagogical approach. Through interaction with faculty in critiques, as well as theory and art history classes, students receive critical feedback and gain knowledge from these different perspectives while simultaneously developing their own studio practice. The Hunter College Department of Art and Art History currently has ?? full time Studio and Art History faculty.

Professor A.K. Burns addresses the students and faculty in the Mid-program Review.

Hunter MFA Alumni

Hunter’s MFA  alumni have literally shaped the landscape of contemporary art, and have made signifcant contributions as educators, art professionals, and in other fields. One measure of Hunter’s impact is the prestigious Bucksbaum award, that is given every two years in recognition of an artist included in the Whitney Biennial whose work “demonstrates a singular combination of talent and imagination.” Of the eight artists chosen since the award’s inception in 2000, two are Hunter MFA alumni: Paul Pfeiffer (‘95) and Omer Fast (‘99). There are countless other examples. In 2016, Cheryl Donegen (‘92) had a major exhibition at the New Museum covering twenty-three years of work. Other notable MFA alumni include Jules De Balincourt, Wade Guyton, Lawrence Rinder, Julia Jacquette, Jeff Sonhouse, Marie Losier, Sarah Crowner, and Shellyne Rodriquez.

“My time at Hunter was critical to development of my work, and building the community around me.”

The History of Art at Hunter College

The history of the Department of Art and Art History at Hunter 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. This commitment to working artists has served the program well, and over the years Hunter’s studio art faculty has included—among many other well-known names—William Baziotes, Roy de Carava, Hollis Frampton, Raymond Parker, and Tony Smith. Long before Hunter awarded its first MFA degree in studio art in 1981, its list of artist alumni included Robert Morris, who would go on to teach at Hunter for nearly three decades, Alice Aycock, Robert Barry, Judy Rifka, Alan Saret, and Alan Sonfist, among many others. From 1960 and the hire of curator and historian Eugene Goossen from Bennington College, Hunter’s Art History program has been equally strong, and equally engaged with the cultural life of New York. Over the past decades, Hunter students have been taught by the eminent renaissance historian and theorist Leo Steinberg; the groundbreaking modern art historian, theorist and critic Rosalind Krauss; and the longtime curator and historian of American art William Agee. For nearly 30 years, from the late 1970s through 2005, colorfield painter and Department Chair Sanford Wurmfeld, along with notable faculty such as Vincent Longo, Doug Ohlsen, and Ron Gorchov, reinforced Hunter’s reputation internationally as a leading school for the study of art. During this period artist Joel Carriero became the Director of the MFA Program during it’s tenure at 450 West 41st Street, a vital time... Howard Singerman; 205 Hudson Street; and Carrie Moyer.

Left: Tony Smith on the cover of Time Magazine. Middle: Robert Morris at Green Gallery. Right: Rosalind Kraus

MFA Program Structure and Degree Requirements

The MFA in Studio Art is a  three year program spread out over six semesters. Students apply in one of six areas of concentrations—Clay and Casting, Combined Media, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, and Works on Paper (Drawing and Printmaking)—but once in the program 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 memeber; and Electives, which are courses outside of your area of concentration. Students are also required to take Art History and Theory & Criticism courses. Free Electives may be used to take additional Art history or Studio courses, and for apprenticeships, teaching assistantships, and participation in the International Exchange Program. 

After three semesters, all students present their work in the Mid-program Review, an open forum where the entire faculty assesses your work. In the final semester, the program culminates with the MFA Thesis exhibition in the 205 Hudson Street Gallery.

Students must obtain a total of 48 credits to complete the MFA degree. This consists of three seminars (9 credits); three tutorials (9 credits); three electives (9 credits); three Art History and Theory & Criticism classes (9 credits); two Free Elective (6 credits); and the MFA Thesis project (6 credits).

1st9Tutorial I; Seminar I; Contemporary Art Seminar
2nd9Studio Elective I; Studio Elective II; Art History (19-20th Century)
3rd9Tutorial II; Seminar II

Mid-Program Review at the end of the 3rd semester

4th9Studio Elective III; Teaching Assistantship; Art History (pre-1800s)
5th9Tutorial III; Seminar III; Free Elective
6th9Thesis (MFA Project)

Students and faculty gather for the mid-program review.

Example Program Schedule


There is a three-year time limit for students to complete the MFA Program in Studio Art. Some international students may be permitted to complete the program into two years for visa or funding reasons.


The Mid-Program Review typically takes place during the third semester or the semester in which the student is enrolled their second tutorial and seminar and prior to completing 24 credits. Before entire MFA Program, students present work that best demonstrates their development thus far. All graduate studio classes are cancelled so that students and faculty may attend the 3-day Mid-Program Review. Each review begins with faculty-only discussion of the work; for the last 10 minutes the student is invited into the discussion. Students who do not pass Mid-Program Review are asked to re-submit the following semester. The Mid-Program Review functions both as a critical assessment as well as an accountability check. Is the student’s work developing? Are they receiving the pedagogical support and input needed to realize their ideas? At the halfway point in the Program, Mid-Program Review creates the opportunity to tailor the coursework to the perceived goals and needs of the student.


Thesis is the final requirement for completion of the degree. Students must secure a full-time faculty sponsor for their thesis prior to the final semester. The culmination of the thesis is a formal group exhibition with catalogue in which the students present their work, and an original paper of 8-10 pages about their work. The Thesis Exhibition takes place at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters in the 205 Hudson Gallery. In addition to departmental sign-off, each thesis must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies before a degree is granted.


Candidates for Graduation must file a Degree Audit Application Form (DAAF) with the Office of the Registrar (Room 217 North) in their final semester.


The Advanced Certificate in Curatorial Studies, open by application to students in either the MA or MFA Program, is a sequence of four courses designed specifically to offer both a theoretical and historical grounding in curatorial practices and practical experience in exhibition organization and display and object research and preservation.  Every student enrolled in the certificate program will have the opportunity to work on an exhibition from inception to fruition, whether in the annual Curatorial Seminar or in faculty-supervised guided internships at the Artist’s Institute, or at cultural institutions beyond the College. Members of the Hunter faculty are actively engaged as curators for special projects at both local and international museums.


Several students per year are selected to receive stipends for a period of one semester at the École des Beaux Arts (Paris), Slade School (London), Glasgow School of Art, Scotland, Mohr Institute (Groningen, Holland) or Hochschule der Kunst (Berlin). Students must have passed Mid-Program Review to be eligible to participate. Applications are reviewed once a year in the Spring Semester for the following Fall and Spring Semesters.


Teaching assistantships are not paid positions and are offered for credit only. However, if a student simply wishes to gain teaching experience without using an elective credit, s/he may make an informal arrangement with a professor to assist in a class.


Within the Art and Art History Department and Hunter Galleries, there are opportunities for hourly paid work available to students. Gallery attendants, studio monitors and studio maintenance workers are hired each semester as needed. Students who are interested in these and other possibilities should inquire at the Leubsdorf Gallery office, the Art Department office and at the MFA Building office.



Students may apply to the MFA Faculty Committee for a leave of absence for up to one year. The one or two semesters that the student is on leave do not count towards the three year time limit for completing the MFA degree. Leaves are approved only for documented illness, maternity, military service, or other unusual circumstances. Any student who withdraws from active participation in the program for a semester without permission of the MFA Faculty Committee will be automatically dropped from the program. Any student who has been dropped from the program must apply for re-admission by submitting current work at the time of the mid-program review in the semester prior to readmission.


The MFA Program in Studio Art is located at 205 Hudson Street in Tribeca, a neighborhood known for its 19th century iron-clad facades and cobbled streets. Studios, workshops, classrooms and a large gallery occupy four floors of a converted printing building. 205 Hudson also houses common workshop areas including a woodworking shop, metal shop, clay studio, computer lab and a black and white and color photo darkrooms. A studio at 205 Hudson is assigned to all students matriculated in the MFA Program. The building has a loading dock and freight elevators, allowing for the easy entry of bulky and/or oversized materials. The building is accessible seven days a week from 7 AM to 1 AM throughout the year (24-hour access during preparation for Thesis Exhibition). Living in the studio is not permitted. Students are required to maintain a studio at 205 Hudson throughout their residency.


Located at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, the main Hunter campus houses the offices of the Art and Art History Department, the Leubsdorf Art Gallery, and the Zabar Art Library, a dedicated library for art and art history students. Many graduate courses are held at the 68th Street campus. The undergraduate studio art program is located on the 11th floor of the Hunter North Building.

A typical studio space at 205 Hudson Street.