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Graduate & Professional | In-Person

Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts

Build your methods for sustaining a dynamic studio practice that connects to your life and place.

Why Study Visual Arts? 

The low-residency MFA in Visual Arts at Watkins College of Art recognizes that artists and makers have malleable studio practices that are not dependent on specific mediums, methods or places. Over a two-year and one-month period, our low-residency model of learning provides a flexible curriculum designed to immerse the artist in a rigorous relationship integrating research, writing and making.

Our Low-Residency Curriculum

Our program only requires students to be on campus for the 23-day Summer Residency and the 4-day Winter Residency. The flexibility of the curriculum allows our students to hail from anywhere in the country and works in conjunction with their busy work schedules.

A major component of the low-residency curriculum is the relationship between the student and their artist-teacher. Each fall and spring, with the help of the core faculty, a student chooses an artist-teacher for their semester-long studio project. These projects are discussed and honed during the previous Summer and Winterim residencies with the help of the core faculty. Under the guidance of the artist-teacher, the student is expected to challenge and develop specific aspects of their practice while the artist-teacher engages the student in rigorous and critical dialogue concerning the conceptual and material issues they confront in their work.

A Snapshot of a Year in the Program

The 23-day Summer Residency is when we welcome incoming cohorts. You will be immersed with fellow students and faculty in an intensive time of lectures, classroom readings and discussions, studio mentoring, critiques, workshops and panels featuring active professionals in the art world. During the residency, students work with faculty to develop specific research bibliographies and studio proposals for Fall Away semester. 

The 4-day Winterim residency allows students to present their work and research from the Fall Away semester for faculty review. During this active residency, students build their independent research bibliographies and studio proposals for the Spring Away semester. 

The Fall and Spring semesters are designated as the “Away” semesters in the low-residency model. The studio and research proposals that each student develops during the on-campus residencies is activated during the Away semester. During the Away semester, the student registers for three courses: (1) Graduate Studio Project, (2) Graduate Research Project and (3) Special Topics Seminar (online). Students are paired with a faculty for their Graduate Research Project and with an Artist-Teacher for their Graduate Studio Project. The students work from their respective homes across the country during these Away semesters.

Virtual Info Session: March 21, 2024

Date: Thurs. March 21st, 2024 from 6:00-7:00 pm CST. 
Now is the time to learn about the Watkins College of Art's low-residency, MFA in Visual Arts program. Join us for an information session and a Q+A panel with current students. This session will cover tuition, scholarships, the residencies, artist-teacher mentors, our community and more. This is a wonderful opportunity to speak with our Program Director and hear from the students' perspectives. We hope to see you there!

What You'll Learn 

  • Reflect on and develop formal, conceptual and contextual aspects of your artistic practice
  • Pursue intensive studio work and independent research projects
  • Deepen your grasp of the historical, social and cultural contexts of your work
  • Hone your ability to articulate your vision in spoken and written formats
  • Work with artist-teachers in your designated area of the country or abroad

Get an Inside Look

Why get your MFA from Watkins?

See what students have to say!

Program Details

The program requires 60 hours of coursework.

See All Program Requirements

Courses you'll take include:

First & Second Years

  • Summer | Art History/Theory

This graduate seminar course explores selected writings on topics in visual art and critical theory. Designed to introduce students to multiple approaches to critical inquiry and analysis of contemporary artistic practice, this course will introduce critical texts and theoretical positions as seen in contemporary processes. Topics vary but may include related issues in areas such as critical theory, identity politics, institutional frames, sustainability, urbanization and globalization.

  • Summer | Studio Seminar

The graduate studio seminar is a forum for students to hone their ability to identify and articulate the personal, formal, conceptual and historical cues embedded in their work. Summer sessions consist of weekly studio visits and weekly conferences. Students will meet individually and in small groups with core faculty and visiting artists in their studios. Visiting artists will give public presentations and lead weekly colloquia in gatherings that include all students, core faculty and visiting artists. A wide variety of readings chosen by faculty will guide discussions that concentrate on problems concerning methods of art making, distribution and interpretation.

  • Summer | Professional Practices

A series of specialized professional practice courses will be offered throughout the summer residencies. This course is a workshop designed to introduce the student to online library resources and all digital research, communication and dissemination tools necessary to use during on and off-campus semesters.

  • Fall | Graduate Research Project

These research/reading/writing-based projects are designed to integrate studio work with art history, theory and philosophy. The student is paired with a Faculty mentor for these off-campus projects. During the summer residencies, the student builds a bibliography and research plan with assistance from the faculty. The flexibly structured curriculum allows for individualized areas of research and appropriate levels of rigor.

  • Fall | Graduate Studio Project

The Graduate Studio Project course allows students to focus in private sessions on the development of their work and research from their home studio. The continued development of ideas and approaches initiated during the summer Studio Seminar will be supported through in-person and on-line conversation with approved program mentors. These liaisons are intended to support the off-campus development of work.

  • Winterim | Process Critique

An intensive four-day session where students meet on campus and receive feedback on work produced during Graduate Studio Project. During Winterim, core faculty determines the advancement of the graduate student within the program.

  • Spring | Graduate Research Project

These research/reading/writing-based projects are designed to integrate studio work with art history, theory and philosophy. The student is paired with a Faculty mentor for these off-campus projects. During the summer residencies, the student builds a bibliography and research plan with assistance from the faculty. The flexibly structured curriculum allows for individualized areas of research and appropriate levels of rigor.

  • Spring | Graduate Studio Project

The Graduate Studio Project course allows students to focus in private sessions on the development of their work and research from their home studio. The continued development of ideas and approaches initiated during the summer Studio Seminar will be supported through in-person and on-line conversation with approved program mentors. These liaisons are intended to support the off-campus development of work.

Final Summer

  • Art History, Theory and Culture

This graduate seminar course explores selected writings on topics in visual art and critical theory. Designed to introduce students to multiple approaches to critical inquiry and analysis of contemporary artistic practice, these courses will introduce critical texts and theoretical positions as seen in contemporary processes. Topics vary but may include related issues in areas such as critical theory, identity politics, institutional frames, sustainability, urbanization and globalization.

  • Studio Seminar

The graduate studio seminar is a forum for students to hone their ability to identify and articulate the personal, formal, conceptual and historical cues embedded in their work. Summer sessions consist of weekly studio visits and weekly conferences. Students will meet individually and in small groups with core faculty and visiting artists in their studios. Visiting artists will give public presentations and lead weekly colloquia in gatherings that include all students, core faculty and visiting artists. A wide variety of readings chosen by faculty will guide discussions that concentrate on problems concerning methods of art making, distribution and interpretation.

  • Thesis Exhibition and Defense

In the final summer residency, the Thesis Exhibition and Defense course will focus on the production of advanced work and writing to be exhibited, published and defended in the final thesis presentation.

Admissions Requirements

1. Apply to the University

  • Create a BU4U account
  • Complete the Belmont University Graduate Studies Application for Admission
  • Write a statement of purpose addressing your artistic goals or considerations in a personal, as well as, critical context
  • Pay the $50 Application Fee

Create a BU4U Account

2. Submit Application Materials

Once the application is submitted and the application fee is paid, an email will be sent with instructions for submitting the supplemental pieces of the application. Applicants will be required to provide the following:

  1. Two completed recommendation forms from individuals who know the applicant's artistic abilities. At least one recommendation must be completed by an individual who can address the applicant's accomplishments and potential in the academic classroom setting.
  2. Current curriculum vitae (CV)
  3. Official transcripts of all previous college and masters level work. International applicants with college level coursework from foreign institutions must have their transcripts evaluated by a credential evaluation service such as World Education Services (wes.org). Applicants must have a minimum of a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Students who have earned below a 3.0 may be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  4. Portfolio of work (15–20 pieces)- Applicants will submit their portfolio via SlideRoom. Students will receive an email with a link to submit their portfolio. Students will create a new, free account with SlideRoom to begin the process. SlideRoom is a file management system the Watkins College uses to review portfolios. In SlideRoom, applicants can upload still images, documents and multimedia files. If you would like to receive feedback on your portfolio in a casual setting, join us for a National Portfolio Day event. Click here to learn more.

3. Interview

Interviews will be done by invitation only. Please see the information below for more details.

Interview with the MFA Program Coordinator and at least one faculty member teaching in the MFA program. Interviews can be completed in person or virtually.

Deadline:

The first term of the MFA program starts in the summer and the application deadline is April 30. All prospective students should apply as soon as possible to complete the interview process.

Cost of Tuition

The MFA in Visual Arts program is 60 hours to complete. The cost of tuition per hour, as well as information on need-based scholarships, grants or loans can be found on our Graduate Tuition and Aid Webpage.

Merit Scholarships

Funded through the Watkins Endowment, the College of Art prides itself on offering over 80% of incoming students a merit scholarship, with awards being renewable for each year you attend. Scholarships are awarded through a faculty jury of student applications, portfolios, and interview. In order to be given priority consideration for scholarships, apply by Friday, March 10th, 2023.

Graduate Assistantship

The Watkins College of Art is proud to offer one Graduate Assistantship to an incoming, MFA student that covers full tuition. This position requires the applicant to live locally, have flexible hours, and the ability to work approximately 15-20 hours a week. The position will be crafted around the student's skill set and may include studio technician work, gallery assistance, classroom support and more. To be considered for this full-ride, you must apply to the program and notify Kristi Hargrove (kristi.hargrove@belmont.edu) of your interest. More information and further steps will be communicated in the candidate's interview.

Belmont Bruin Alumni Grant

Students who have graduated from Belmont University with an undergraduate degree earn a 20% reduction in the cost of graduate tuition. Students must complete the graduate application by the appropriate deadline and be accepted to the graduate program. This discount cannot be combined with other awards.

Veterans

Individuals who have completed U.S. military service should contact one of Belmont’s V.A. Education Counselors (615-460-6871).  The University supports several armed forces educational benefit programs, including Yellow Ribbon.

In addition to Belmont University's Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accreditation, the Watkins College of Art is a fully accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Career Possibilities

  • Fine Artist
  • Professor
  • Gallery/Museum Curator or Manager
  • Entrepreneur
  • Arts Leadership
  • Teacher/Arts Educator
  • Community Organizer
  • Any profession requiring critical problem-solving coupled with the social skills of active group dynamics and emotional intelligence  

Alumni Testimonials

"I chose Watkins College of Art at Belmont because it was flexible for me on a personal, practical, and financial level. Being in a low residency MFA program, I was able to maintain my professional career and pursue my higher education. I sought an MFA program that wouldn't box me into a medium or way of working, and this program allowed me the flexibility to establish a studio-research practice that was focused on my interests as an artist and practitioner."

Heriberto Palacio III, Class of 2020

MFA Student Danny Broadway

"I have received a wealth of knowledge from the Watkins College of Art at Belmont University. I have expanded the thought processes behind creating my work and have a stronger appreciation and understanding of the history of art and it's connection to my artistic practice."

Danny Broadway, Class of 2022

National Portfolio Review Days

Looking to receive some feedback on your portfolio before submitting it? Join the Watkins College of Art at one of the National Portfolio Day events. Be inspired, gain advice on how to improve or present your portfolio, and speak with professors from the program. These events are free for students to attend.

REGISTER HERE

Events Watkins College of Art will attend
Event Time
Sept. 30 - Online (Saturday) 12:00 PM- 4:00 PM CT 
Oct. 21 - Chicago, IL (Saturday) School of the Art Institue of Chicago 10:00 AM CT 
Nov. 19 - Online (Sunday) 11:00 AM- 3:00 PM CT 

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Contact Us

Watkins College of Art

Elise Haines
Admissions Coordinator
615.460.6772
Email Elise