Course Descriptions

Graduate Studio


Graduate studio has two major components.


1) Creative Research / Faculty Visits: The first component of Graduate Studio is individually directed creative research. New approaches and an expanded frame of reference for creative work are encouraged. Each Monday students have a one-on-one, 40-minute visit in their studios with a faculty member. Eight faculty serve as principal instructors each semester.  The instructors rotate between studios so that students see most instructors twice per semester.


2) Visiting Critics: The second component of this course includes scheduled studio critiques with some of New York’s most distinguished art practitioners, and is meant to offer multiple perspectives relevant to the training of contemporary artists. The Visual Arts program invites 20-25 artists and critics a semester, and each student sees at least two Visiting Critics per semester.


Visiting Artist Lecture Series (VALS)


VALS is organized by a small team of second year MFA students. Up to 28 visiting artists and critics are invited over the course of the academic year to give a lecture followed by discussion. Students organize the lecture series based on suggestions made by the MFA students and  community. Recent presenters include Marina Abramovic, David Altmejd, Ayreen Anastas, Lothar Baumgarten, Gina Beavers, Zoe Beloff, Jonathon Berger, Daniel Bozhkov, Matthew Barney, Matthew Brannon, Kerstin Brätsch, Connie Butler, David Byrne, Paul Chan, Trisha Donnelly, Nicole Eisenman, Okwui Enwezor, Omer Fast, Rochelle Feinstein, Coco Fusco, Rene Gabri, Chitra Ganesh, Lia Gangitano, Andrea Geyer, Paul Graham, Amy Granat, Nicolas Guagnini, Fritz Haeg, Sharon Hayes, Nancy Holt, Alex Hubbard, Anthony Huberman, Pierre Huyghe, Tim Hyde, Arthur Jafa, Joan Jonas, Ella Kruglyanskaya, Michelle Kuo, Elad Lassry, Jose Lerma, Sam Lewitt, Justin Lieberman, Glenn Ligon, Kalup Linzy, Sharon Lockhart, Charles Long, Mary Ellen Mark, Kerry James Marshall, Nick Mauss, Keith Mayerson, Josiah McElheny, Shana Moulton, Laura Mulvey, Laurel Nakadate, Bob Nickas, Yoko Ono, Gabriel Orozco, Trevor Paglen, Mai-Thu Perret, Lari Pittman, Genesis P-Orridge, Yvonne Rainer, Scott Rothkopf, Mika Rottenberg, Tom Sachs, Aki Sasamoto, Jacolby Satterwhite, Pieter Schoolwerth, Taryn Simon, Alexandre Singh, Michael Smith, A.L. Steiner, Mika Tajima, Cheyney Thompson, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nicola Tyson, Philippe Vergne, Charline Von Heyl, Antek Walczak, Kelley Walker, Jordan Wolfson, and Andrea Zittel.


Critical Issues


Critical Issues is a core component of the Columbia MFA program and is designed to be a catalyst for making art. In this class, students build a common discourse with classmates by sharing and debating ideas. This, in turn, helps students form critical and conceptual foundations for their work. This class examines political, social and cultural questions as they relate to the production and reception of art. The aim is to acquaint students with a broad range of contemporary thought, and for students to develop their skills in verbal and textual analysis. This two-year-long course is divided into two sections. In the fall semester, first- and second-year MFA students attend separate reading seminars. During the spring semester, first- and second-year students study together in a guest-lecture course where they engage face-to-face with visiting faculty, eminent critics, historians, curators, theorists, writers and artists. Recent lecturers include Alex Alberro, Hilton Als, Arnold Aronson, Lynne Cooke, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Jonathan Crary, Wade Davis, Hal Foster, Aaron Fox, Andrea Fraser, Jane Gaines, Kenneth Goldsmith, Elizabeth Grosz, Siri Hustvedt, Tom Kalin, Laura Kurgan, Park McArthur, Reinhold Martin, Fred Moten, Eileen Myles, John Pemberton, Lane Relyea, Dr. Oliver Sacks, Mira Schor, Kaja Silverman, Jovana Stokic, Michael Taussig, Mark Taylor, and Lance Weiler.


Group Critique


Weekly group critique workshops are led by distinguished artists, full time faculty, or critics. During these critiques, students expose their work to their peers and get the necessary feedback to a) determine how their work is communicating and b) learn to articulate the ideas that are in the work to their colleagues.




Students may choose courses from anywhere in the University, subject to the course’s registration requirements. Students are required to take four elective courses total, or one elective each semester.


Mentor Program


The Artist-Mentor program allows an intense and focused relationship to form between a core group of students and their mentor. Students are assigned to two mentors who will each meet with a student group for one week per semester. The content of the workshop varies according to the mentor’s expertise and the needs of the students, and may include individual critiques, group critiques, studio visits, gallery and museum visits, special topics, readings, and writing workshops. Current mentors are: Rochelle Feinstein, Valerie Hammond, David Humphrey, Michael Joo, Ralph Lemon, Matthew Ritchie, Rachelle Mozman, Rona Yefman, and Craig Zammiello.


The Herman and Eve Gelman Studio Visit Series


In this ongoing program supported by a generous grant, celebrated New York artists open their studios to a small group of graduate students to observe and discuss works-in-progress. Past participants have included Vince Aletti, Mamma Andersson, Dave Arnold, Huma Bhabha, Cecily Brown, Elinor Carucci, Paul Chan, Luis Gispert, Barbara Hammer, David Hoey, Jacqueline Humphries, James Hyde, Robert Lazzarini, An-My Le, Robert Longo, Vera Lutter, Lorraine O’Grady, Gilles Peress, Cai Quoqiang, Patricia Sharon Chang, Michael Spano, Sara Vanderbeek, Stanley Whitney, Sasha Wolf and Lisa Yuskavage.

Public Exhibitions


First-Year Exhibition


The first year of study culminates in a curated exhibition mounted in the The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery. This exhibition begins to prepare the MFA candidates for the experience of the MFA Thesis Exhibition in the following year.


Open Studios


Typically, at the end of each fall semester, the second-year MFA candidates open their studios to the public and invited guests from the art community. Each student is present to discuss his or her work in an informal setting.


Thesis Project


The Thesis Project is the culmination of the MFA Candidate’s course of study. Each student selects a thesis Committee, composed of full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and visiting critics and artists. A curated Thesis Exhibition opens in April and is mounted in The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery.





Graduate studios are located at Watson Hall, 612 West 115th Street, and Prentis Hall, 632 West 125th Street. Each graduate student is assigned a studio with 24-hour access. Watson Hall also houses a Digital Media Center, a large format printer and a seminar room. Prentis Hall has classrooms, a ceramics studio, wood and metal shops and a Digital Media Center. Students have access to digital video and photography equipment. Black-and-white photography and printmaking facilities are located in Dodge Hall.