Fine Arts (MFA)

Applications are currently being accepted for this program on a rolling basis. 
Time to degree: two-year and three-year options available (60 credits)
Part-time options are available

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 visual 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, our faculty 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.


Victor le. Givens ’17

Chicago: A Cultural Hub

Chicago’s contributions to the contemporary art world make it an ideal place to establish your career. The city is an affordable cultural hub, where artists push boundaries and the bounds of their creativity. As a working artist, your success will depend on your network, and at Columbia, we will help you plan and initiate your own strategy for building and nurturing professional relationships, audiences, and supporters.

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 shares and supports 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 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, author, and the director of the graduate program. His works include installation, performance, video, experimental sound, projections, 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 is a feminist interdisciplinary artist, writer, and curator whose work has been exhibited in numerous venues including White Columns, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Through interdisciplinary collaborations with ethnographers, teachers, and artists, her multi-media projects range from felt crafts in the Tusheti region of Republic of Georgia, to a film about the dying Montenegrin tradition in which a girl child becomes a man to preserve her family's legacy.

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 in media arts, 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.

Fine Arts MFA Thesis Interviews

Each year, our graduating MFA students put together thesis exhibitions. Below are three interviews with recent alumni discussing their visual arts practice, their time at Columbia, and the ideas behind their culminating work.

MFA Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition 2022, Caitlyn Doran


MFA Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition 2022, Kelsey Bogdan


MFA Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition 2022, Samantha Trace Foster

MFA Studios and Facilities

Every graduate student gets their own dedicated studio space at Columbia, all located on the same floor in the same building. The proximity in studio space allows for greater collaboration between our MFA students and our senior BFA students, allowing for an ongoing dialogue and inspiration among our students. Watch the video below for a peek into some of the students for our MFA '24 and MFA '25 students, featuring an interview with Andre Barker Jr, MFA '24.

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.

fine arts mfa

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.

Read More

Computer Lounge

Edit, design, and sketch the day (or night) away in the computer lab. Work on the latest professional software for Mac OS and Windows, with expert staff on-hand to help along the way.

Read More

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.

Read More

Photography Facilities

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

Read More

Fashion Lab

Take your garments from concept to reality in the fashion lab, with all the industry-standard equipment and software you’ll need to make runway-ready garments under one roof.

Read More