Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies

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A Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is offered through a joint program with SUNY Brockport and the Visual Studies Workshop, providing a unique opportunity in graduate studies. All of the courses for the MFA program are held at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. This interdisciplinary program reflects the diverse and hybrid nature of the field of Visual Studies with roots in art practice, history and theory, film and museum studies, philosophy and psychoanalysis. The Visual Studies program emphasizes studio work in photography, digital imaging, film, video, multi-media, installation, and visual books and critical studies in the history and theory of these media.

To discuss questions about the program, or to visit, contact the MFA Program in Visual Studies, Visual Studies Works op, 31 Prince Street, Rochester, NY 14607; (585) 442-8676; email address; or Web site at

Admission to the Program

Only full-time students will be admitted to the MFA in Visual Studies program. Applicants must present evidence that they have received a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university (see Graduate Admissions section in this catalog for further details). The program does not require that applicants have a BFA.

To be considered for admission, an applicant must submit:

  • a completed application
  • a statement of objectives
  • a résumé
  • official transcripts from each institution attended as an undergraduate or graduate student
  • two letters of reference
  • a portfolio of his or her most recent and mature work
  • a concise statement about the work

Please see the Center for Graduate Studies for deadlines or to begin the application process.

Program Requirements

This is a 60-credit program, requiring five semesters and one summer. The program is designed to introduce students to the field of visual studies in general, as well as to provide specializations in any of three areas of emphasis: 1) photography; 2) digital media, video and film; and 3) imaging systems and book arts. The Summer Institute provides several intense involvements in specialized areas enabling students to work with visiting faculty. During the fourth semester, students take a research seminar in preparation for the internship and final project.

Core Courses (first fall semester)

  • ART 532 Interpretive Strategies (Advanced Photography I)
  • ART 513 Digital Media I
  • ART 555 Imaging Systems I

Seminars in Visual Studies (one per semester for four semesters)

Students take FOUR of the following courses by advisement:

  • ARH 561 History of Photography
  • ARH 563 Contemporary Media Survey
  • ARH 565 Alternative Views of Art
  • ARH 599 Independent Study in Art History
  • ARH 664 Media Culture (Art Theory and Philosophy)

Internship and Final Project

During the fourth semester, students will develop project proposals and do preparatory work for the internship and final project. The internship is self-generated and designed to benefit students' work by providing experience in the field. Internships may be done at the Visual Studies Workshop. The final project is a studio project resulting in an exhibition, video, film, artists' book or equivalent. Two faculty members and one outside educator/professional act as advisors to the project. Students are encouraged to work in at least at two media for their final project.

  • ART 797 Graduate Project I Research Seminar
  • ART 790 Internship
  • ART 798 Graduate Project II Final Project

Summer Institute (6 Credits)

The Summer Institute is a series of intensive one-week workshops conducted by current and visiting faculty. The Summer Institute is designed to stimulate new ways of working and thinking about work, as well as to provide opportunities to expand technical skills and work with new processes. The workshops address a wide variety of concerns in photography, artists' books, film, video and related media. The six credits of Summer Institute courses may fulfill either studio or seminar distribution requirements.

  • ART 591 Topics in Art Studio

Studio Courses in Visual Studies (18 credits)

Offerings vary by semester. As of the publication of the catalog, options include:


  • ART 533 Advanced Photography II
  • ART 636 Advanced Studio Problems in Photography

Film, Video and Digital Media

  • ART 514 Digital Media II
  • ART 515 16mm Film I
  • ART 516 16mm Film II
  • ART 617 Advanced Studio Problems in Media

Imaging Systems and Visual Books

  • ART 556 Imaging Systems II
  • ART 657 Advanced Studio Problems in Imaging Systems
  • ART 658 The Structure of the Visual Book

Additional Studio Courses

  • ART 531 Historical Photographic Processes
  • ART 535 Expanded Issues in Exhibition
  • ART 568 Working with Visual Informat ion
  • ART 735 Arts Organization Practicum Seminars in Visual Studies

Academic Electives (6 credits)

Students may select 500- and 600-level courses offered at SUNY Brockport for which they are eligible. Courses may be from the sciences, humanities (including visual culture), social sciences, non-profit administration or the professions. Electives may include a maximum of three credits of independent study. Studio courses from the Department of Art may not be used to satisfy the academic elective requirement.