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School of Visual Art and Design

  • Graduate student painting in her studio at 707 Catawba

Studio Art Graduate Programs

Studio art graduate programs at the University of South Carolina provide an opportunity for professional growth and mastery of skills in various areas of studio art practice.

M.F.A. in Studio Art

The Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Studio Art is a 60 credit, three-year program of study that allows students to pursue major and minor areas of concentration in drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, and sculpture. Students take courses in art history and/or art education and electives.


Graduate Areas of Study

Today’s art program should provide options for individual self-development. We recognize that the artist’s role has become more complex; technology has opened new frontiers, and divisions between mediums have all but disappeared. During the graduate years, students are expected to work as maturing artists motivated by independent ideas. In the sculpture area at SVAD, students find an atmosphere of stylistic freedom, which allows the realization of their visual concepts.

Sculpture at USC occupies more than 4,000 square feet of studio and shop space. Graduate studios are in a building separate from the undergraduate area. Each graduate student has approximately 400 square feet of individual studio space with 24-hour access to their studios and studio equipment. Additionally, due to the generally mild climate, students take advantage of the large covered outdoor working area. The sculpture facilities include equipment appropriate for most sculptural techniques.

Table saws, band saws, scroll saw, radial arm saws, chop saws, drill presses, belt and disc sanders, planer, four mobile oxyacetylene rigs, mig and arc welders, plasma cutter, bench grinders, foundry and mold making area, large metal cutting horizontal band saw, various pneumatic tools, large sandblasting cabinet and mobile pressure pot, forge with treadle hammer, paved, lighted and covered outdoor work area, fork lift, and most major hand and power tools.

The sculpture faculty is committed to an ongoing program of visiting artists. This policy gives our students exposure to the realities of the professional art world along with a chance to exchange ideas with some of today’s top artists. Visiting artists have included: James Surls, Greg Elliott, William Martin, Nam June Paik, Leo Castelli, William Wegman, Gregory Armanoff, Alfred Leslie, Shaun Cassidy, Robert and Paula Winokur, Norwood Viviano, Bernadette Vielbig, James Alexander, John Douglas Powers, and Jason Ferguson, to name a few.

MFA students' personal interests vary from a strong vessel orientation to sculptural and conceptual art forms in clay. Students are encouraged to develop a sense of ceramic history and contemporary art issues through graduate seminars, guest speakers, and art history classes. The size of our program allows for considerable interaction between students and faculty. 

The drawing program is designed to provide a wide range of drawing experiences and approaches. Class enrollments are limited to ensure one-on-one instruction. USC has three dedicated drawing studio classrooms (two for general drawing and one for figure drawing) that are available for students both during classes and during off class hours. Each studio has a high ceiling,  windows, and overhead specialty lighting. The drawing faculty are all exhibiting professional artists and excellent teachers who look forward to working with you to achieve your creative potential. Numerous visiting and adjunct faculty also teach in the drawing area.

The painting program's focus is to create a community in which students can develop as serious committed artists who express themselves through painting. Our objective is to expose students to the history and aesthetic breadth of the medium, to challenge them to develop their own initiatives and to pursue excellence. Our focus is broad and interdisciplinary, it follows no ideological agenda, yet remains centered in a celebration of the medium of painting.

The photography program at USC is run by Professor Kathleen Robbins. We offer a classroom with print finishing and display areas, two black and white darkrooms with a total of 20 enlargers (including 3 new Saunders 4x5 VCCE's), a film developing area, and a fully equipped lighting studio. Digital facilities include: film and flatbed scanners, large-format inkjet printers, piezography and archival inkjet output, a comprehensive ICC profile library, and 20 calibrated E-Mac workstations. A selection of cameras and equipment are available for check-out through Media Services. 

In the photography program, emphasis is on personal exploration of ideas within the context of contemporary art and critical theory. B.F.A. photography students will explore a variety of techniques & concepts including: advanced black & white printing, medium & large-format, studio lighting, digital imaging, non-silver, early processes, critical theory, and career practices. At the 400-level, students pursue individual projects in depth and work to create a course web gallery and an editioned portfolio project. Additionally, 400-level students complete an individual portfolio and group exhibition.The photography concentration in Studio Art prepares students for a variety of careers including: fine art photographer, educator, curator, critic, gallery owner, and arts administrator.

The M.F.A. degree in photography consists of a 60 hour program of study, which typically takes three years to complete. Successful completion of the program requires an understanding of one's work within the context of critical theory and contemporary art. Upon completion of the degree requirements, students are expected to demonstrate expertise within the field of photography through the exhibition of a substantial body of work.

Our facilities are equipped for all the major printmaking processes: relief, intaglio, serigraphy, lithography, and digital imaging. There are two hand-driven lithograph presses (and many stones to go with them), three hand-driven etching presses, a large vacuum table for screen printing, an exposure unit for large-format screen printing, and a photographic plate maker. There is also a well-equipped computer lab with a large plotter printer.

 In addition to the facilities in McMaster College, there is a variety of letterpress and papermaking equipment in the new USC Studio for Book Arts. Along with the presses, there is another large vacuum table for screen printing and a motorized fiber beater for papermaking.The creative atmosphere is one of tradition, experimentation, and variety in terms of format and technique. In addition to creating prints in traditional methods, many students create installations and combine printmaking processes with photography, drawing, painting, or three-dimensional work. There is a strong communal aspect among students and faculty, and a great deal of interaction with the other areas and programs in the School of Visual Art and Design.


Core Faculty

  • Catherine Chi, M.F.A. / Graphic Design + Illustration
  • Brent Dedas, M.F.A.  / Drawing and Graphic Design + Illustration
  • Naomi Falk, M.F.A.  / 3D Studies
  • Dawn Hunter, M.F.A.  / Foundations Studies
  • Meena Khalili, M.F.A.  / Graphic Design + Illustration
  • Stephanie Nace, M.F.A.  / Graphic Design + Illustration
  • Jess Peri, M.F.A. / Photography
  • Kathleen Robbins, M.F.A.  / Photography
  • Sara Schneckloth, M.F.A.  / Drawing
  • Virginia Scotchie, M.F.A. / Ceramics
  • Jordan Sheridan, M.F.A. / 2D Studies/Painting
  • Marius Valdes, M.F.A.  / Graphic Design + Illustration

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.