The Department of Art and Design offers two graduate programs of study in art and design. The Master of Fine Arts in Art is a 60-credit program.

Full-time students normally complete the MFA degree within 6 semesters.

The Department’s facilities and services include fully equipped studios housed in the Kenilworth Square East building and the main campus Art Building.

The Peck School of the Arts’ Kenilworth Square East (KSE) Gallery provides a year-round schedule of exhibitions, with galleries that are housed in the Kenilworth Square East building, a research facility approximately one mile from campus. The Department of Art and Design offers a schedule of workshops and special lectures each year. In addition, graduate student studios are located in the Kenilworth Square East building.

Frederick R. Layton Fellowships are awarded each year to incoming and continuing graduate students, depending on funding. Visit the MFA website to obtain information and application forms.

A limited number of Teaching Assistantships and Project Assistantships are offered through the Department of Art and Design. Visit the MFA website to obtain information and application forms.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus these departmental requirements to be considered for admission to the program:

  1. An undergraduate major in art, or a related field, including at least 40 studio credits and at least 45 academic credits outside the major.
  2. Submission of a digital portfolio with 20 images of original work.
  3. Submission of a written personal statement of the proposed program of study.
  4. Three (3) letters of recommendation.

See the department’s website for more details, including required file formats and submission process for application materials.

At the completion of 30 graduate credits (minimum 18 credits studio art, 3 credits Art History, 3 credits of graduate-level coursework in a discipline related to the student’s research interests, and 6 credits graduate art seminar), the MFA candidate is required to complete a mid-program review. The mid-program review consists of a written reflection on the first 30 credits of study in the program, a plan of action for the final 30 credits and MFA Thesis Exhibition, and a presentation (to the student’s Thesis Committee) of a body of work completed during the first 30 credits. After the Thesis Committee approves this mid-program review, the student may proceed to the final 30 graduate credits, MFA Thesis and oral and written qualifying examinations.

If the applicant already holds the Master of Science or Master of Arts degree, the applicant must submit graduate transcripts in addition to the digital portfolio, personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. If the MS or MA degree is approved by the UWM Graduate School and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Design (in consultation with the Graduate Faculty), the MFA candidate will complete 30 credits toward the MFA degree.

Applicants may be admitted to the program with specific program-defined course deficiencies.

The student is expected to satisfy deficiency requirements within three enrolled semesters. The Office of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Design monitor the deficiencies. Deficiency course credits may not be applied towards the degree.

Credits and Courses

Minimum degree requirement is 60 graduate credits for MFA candidates who do not hold an MA or MS degree. Sixty-credit degree candidates plan a program of studies that includes the following:

Select 36-42 credits in studio art36-42
Select 3 credits in Art History3
ART 901Seminar in Art-Philosophy and Concepts3
Select 6 additional credits in graduate art seminar6
Select 6-12 credits in graduate-level coursework in a discipline related to the student’s research interests6-12
Total Credits60

MFA Candidates Holding Previous MA or MS Degrees

Minimum degree requirements for MFA candidates holding a previous MA or MS degree is 30 graduate credits. 30-credit degree candidates plan a program of studies that includes the following:

Select 3 credits in a graduate art seminar3
Select 18 to 24 credits in studio art18-24
Select 3 credits in a graduate-level course in a discipline related to the student’s research interests3
Select 0 – 6 credits in areas related to student’s research interests0-6
Total Credits30

All graduate students must be enrolled full-time for at least one semester, earning a minimum of 8 credits during that semester. Graduate students with a PA or TA appointment are considered full-time earning a minimum of 6 credits per semester.

Additional Requirements


Upon admission, the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Design in consultation with the Graduate Faculty will assign the incoming graduate student to a First Year Advisory Team. The head Advisor will contact the student and the Advisory Team at the beginning of the student’s first semester to arrange a schedule for meetings to discuss course enrollment and the first year studio research agenda.

By the end of the student’s second semester in the program, the student must select a Major Professor, and in consultation with the Major Professor, assemble his or her Graduate Thesis Committee. The committee consists of three or more members (usually not larger than four). At least three members must be UWM graduate faculty, and at least two must be from the Department of Art & Design. At least one member of the committee must be a faculty member in the student’s area of focus. If a student desires, the fourth member of the committee may be from outside the university. The student’s Major Professor will serve as the Chair of the student’s Graduate Thesis Committee.

A student who wishes to change his/her designated area of focus must first apply and be accepted into the new focus. The student would make this decision in consultation with his or her Thesis Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Design. If the student is accepted into the new area of focus, he or she will assemble a new Thesis Committee and select a new Major Professor, if necessary.

If the student’s Major Professor takes a leave of absence or leaves the University, the student should contact the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Art and Design for advice in selecting a new Major Professor, and notify the Director of subsequent changes to the student’s committee.

Transfer of Credits

Upon admission, an applicant may be permitted to transfer a maximum of 12 graduate credits earned at another institution. However, the student must apply to the Graduate School for an evaluation of such credits to determine if they are acceptable for transfer to the MFA program.

Graduate Review

MFA candidates must participate in at least one Graduate Review each academic year.

Thesis Exhibition

Upon recommendation of the major professor the student presents a thesis exhibition of work executed since admission to the program. The exhibition is held during the semester in which the student completes the coursework for the degree.

Comprehensive Examination

The student must pass a final oral and written examination.

Time Limit

The UWM Graduate School requires that the student complete all degree requirements within a specific time limit. A student in the 60-credit MFA program must complete all degree requirements within seven years. A student in the 30-credit MFA program must complete all degree requirements within five years.

Art MFA Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with the MFA in Art from the Art & Design Program will be able to: 

  • Develop strategies, approaches, and methodologies to support a sustainable, self-directed artistic practice.
  • Conceptualize and communicate orally and in written form, a breadth of understanding in contemporary art and/or design.
  • Integrate and synthesize information associated with practice in their area(s) of specialization.
  • Apply critical skills pertaining to meaning and concept and assess their work from a variety of perspectives.
  • Contextualize their work historically and/or theoretically and within contemporary practices and conceptual concerns.
  • Demonstrate depth of knowledge through the presentation of a body of work and a sustained written engagement with a body of work through an MFA Thesis.
  • Engage actively in visual arts culture and community (local, regional, national, or international) and present in exhibition/s in public galleries or other cultural venues.