About the Program Overview
Founded in 1981 as the first of its kind, Bard MFA is a nontraditional school for interdisciplinary study in the visual and creative arts. It has set the standard others have followed. Our program combines a flexible approach to art education with a strong foundation of interdisciplinary dialogue to meet the ever-changing needs of our students and faculty. Innovation and risk taking are necessary for the growth of our students and are integral to our educational mission. Aesthetic discourse—the vocabulary of attention and response—establishes the groundwork for each student’s artistic exploration of personal empowerment, social efficacy, and cultural value in the contemporary world.
At Bard, the MFA community itself is the primary resource for the M.F.A. candidate—serving as audience, teacher, and peer group in an ongoing dialogue. Immersion in this community ultimately influences each artist’s practice, within the program and beyond. The community promotes diversity of approach, fosters imaginative responses and insights, and develops innovative solutions to aesthetic problems in all disciplines. In interdisciplinary group critiques with 80 students and 30 faculty, discipline caucuses of 20 artists, and one-on-one conferences, our students learn to address video, writing, painting, sculpture, photography, and sound. Our summer session provides intense critical response to students’ artistic practice, enabling them to reflect upon and refine their work over the 10-month independent study period.
We encourage you to visit us on Bard’s campus or attend one of our information sessions.
Arthur Gibbons, Director
Bard MFA takes place over two years and two months, with students in residence on campus during three consecutive summers, and two winter sessions of independent study completed off campus. Each summer session runs for eight intensive weeks; the 2015 summer session dates are Monday, June 8 through Friday, July 31. We do not offer an MFA program that runs on a traditional academic year schedule.
The day-to-day focus is on the individual process and work in progress, as each student confronts the conceptual and practical questions that are at the core of all artistic production. Work toward the M.F.A. degree continues during independent study sessions in the two intervening winters. The schedule of summers in residence and winter independent work can make earning the M.F.A. degree possible without sacrificing employment or other commitments. The result of this program design is a diverse group of students, including active mid-career artists, teachers, and professionals in other fields, as well as recent college graduates.
When applying, each candidate chooses a primary field— film/video, music/sound, painting, photography, sculpture, or writing. Regular meetings with faculty in the student's chosen field and meetings with faculty from other disciplines are an intrinsic and necessary aspect of the program. Students are their own taskmasters in achieving credits for individual work and participation in community activities.
Program faculty members are drawn from a range of mid-career working artists from diverse backgrounds. Their experience is available to students in all six disciplines: a writer will meet with a painter, a sculptor with a filmmaker, a musician with a photographer. These intense one-on-one Conferences are the core of the program.
The broad intellectual and artistic concerns of those who teach and learn at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts call for, and create, a context of critical support and respect that extends beyond professional boundaries and categories. An awareness of other disciplines and a willingness to take risks mark successful artists in every field. Students must be willing to become actively and articulately involved in the interdisciplinary program while concentrating on their chosen discipline. Knowledge of, and interest in, other fields should accompany primary involvement in their own.