Fine Arts (MFA)

Time to degree: two years (60 credits)
Part-time options are available
We are currently accepting applications for this program for Fall 2021.
The Master of Fine Arts program in the Art and Art History Department at Columbia College Chicago will prepare you to be a professional working artist. In this MFA program, you'll develop your art practice in your chosen medium while gaining professional skills related to the business of fine art practice. We're especially proud of our graduate teaching seminar, a unique-to-the-field course where you gain hands-on experience learning pedagogies for teaching art to others. We want you to have options in how you structure your career, so we have designed the program with your professional success in mind. Working with award-winning faculty, you will create a professional body of artwork while demonstrating mastery of materials and techniques and participating in critiques of your work and the work of others. As mentors, the faculty members will share advice on making a living in the constantly changing contemporary art field. The program culminates in a gallery exhibition for graduating MFA students. fine-arts-mfa-legivens.jpg

Victor le. Givens ’17

Chicago: A Cultural Hub

Chicago’s contributions to art make the city an ideal place to establish your career. It’s an affordable cultural hub, where artists push boundaries and make important, innovative contributions to the field. As a working artist, your success will depend on your network, and at Columbia, we will help you plan and initiate your own professional strategy.

There is no shortage of art to see and explore in Chicago. Columbia is located within walking distance of world-renowned museums and some of the country’s finest alternative and mainstream galleries and spaces. The city is also home to a welcoming artist community that is always sharing and supporting new work in innovative ways.

Graduate Faculty

At Columbia, you’ll study with award-winning professional artists/educators making innovative contributions to the field. Our faculty members take their roles as mentors seriously. They give thoughtful, supportive critiques and share candid advice about professional practice. They’ll be in your studio, discussing your work and facilitating feedback from your peers.

Graduate faculty in the Art and Art History Department include:

Adam Brooks

Adam Brooks is cofounder of Industry of the Ordinary, a collaborative art project dedicated to exploring and celebrating the customary, the everyday, and the usual through sculpture, text, photography, video, sound, and performance.

Paul Catanese

Paul Catanese is a hybrid media artist, professional association leader, and the director of the graduate program. His works include installation, performance, video, sound, projection, site-specific events, and print media. His art has been widely exhibited, notably at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago Cultural Center, SFMOMA Artists Gallery, and La Villette.

Joan Giroux

Joan Giroux is an interdisciplinary artist, activist, and educator whose work takes the form of discrete handmade objects, digital photomontage, kinetic sculpture, installation, full-scale theatrical productions, and community interventions. In her latest work, Giroux translates aspects of care-giving in domestic and institutional settings to frame reflections on diminishment, frailty, vulnerability, loss, and death.

Duncan MacKenzie

Duncan MacKenzie, chair of the Art and Art History Department, is an artist, pundit, educator, and a founding member/producer of Bad at Sports, a weekly podcast produced in Chicago that features artists talking about art and the community that makes, reviews, and critiques it.

Mel Potter

Mel Potter’s interdisciplinary research and art practice consider women’s culture through their handicraft, social customs, and gender rituals. Through interdisciplinary collaborations with ethnographers, teachers, and artists, her multimedia projects range from felt crafts in the Tusheti region of the Republic of Georgia and a film about the dying Montenegrian tradition in which a female child becomes a man to preserve her family’s legacy. 

Fo Wilson

Fo Wilson uses constructed space and furniture forms to create experiences that reposition historical objects and/or aesthetics in a contemporary context, offering audiences new ways of thinking about and interacting with history. Her long-term installations include Eliza’s Peculiar Cabinet of Curiosities at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Sounding Bronzeville, a public work commissioned by the Field Museum and Chicago Park District in the park’s Burnham Wildlife Corridor in Chicago.

Combine Art and Entrepreneurship


Columbia’s Master of Fine Arts program takes a pragmatic approach to educating fine artists. We believe that your artistic practice should be supported by thoughtful and deliberate professional experiences. We’ve incorporated courses and experiences into the curriculum that ensure you’re gaining the practical skills needed to build a sustainable career. You’ll think critically about topics like grants, residencies, contracts, networking, and audience cultivation in addition to refining your artistic work. You’ll take graduate-level courses on topics like media arts and law and leadership in arts management. You’ll work closely with our faculty to hone the skillset that’s right for your particular career path. You’ll also take a graduate teaching seminar, which makes you eligible for opportunities to teach as instructor of record in the Art and Art History Department.

Studios and Resources

Every graduate student gets their own dedicated studio space at Columbia. In addition to a studio on campus in downtown Chicago, you’ll have access to an incredible wealth of facilities—like our 15,000-square-foot Fabrication Facility as well as our digital printing bureau and media center outfitted with projectors, cameras, lighting, and sound equipment. Our creative spaces in downtown Chicago include book binding, papermaking, and print media studios as well as photography facilities. We have plenty of space for you to set up work, including dedicated installation spaces and a highly flexible, 1,200-square-foot, multiuse black-box-style lab.

Our on-campus galleries host student exhibitions, including the culminating exhibition for the MFA program.

Explore your creative spaces:

Book, Paper, and Printmaking Facilities

We have everything you’ll need to explore book arts, hand papermaking, letterpress, and printmaking. With four distinct studios spread across two buildings, you’ll have plenty of space to experiment.

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Fabrication Facility

Experience 15,000 square feet of state-of-the-art equipment in Columbia’s central making space. With the latest machines, power tools, and equipment, you can create everything from jewelry to 3D models to furniture in one collaborative space.

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Photography Facilities

Photography students have access to a state-of-the-art ink jet print lab and lighting studio, as well as extensive darkrooms.

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