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Graduate Program Overview

The JMU School of Art, Design and Art History is a collaborative community 
that fosters independent thought and creativity, embraces the diversity of cultural expression, and cultivates excellence in the making and understanding of visual art. 

A distinguished graduate faculty of practicing artists and scholars is dedicated to exemplary teaching and research, and to the professional growth of each student.  Graduate students are challenged through a rigorous curriculum of study that seeks to develop their personal practice of contemporary art, and the historical and theoretical contexts that inform it.

The JMU School of Art, Design and Art History is one of the most notable and time-honored public university visual art programs in the United States, dating its foundation to the creation of the institution in 1908. The Master of Fine Arts degree was the first terminal degree granted by the university, and today the M.F.A. is a nationally ranked program by U.S. News and World Report. 

The graduate visual art programs are administratively housed in the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA). All of the art programs in the college are professionally accredited making JMU one of the select few universities in the country that can boast this distinction.  The interdisciplinary interactions of music, theatre, dance and visual art students are encouraged, which in turn supports a vibrant creative environment for the serious study of art. 

MFA student receiving critique

The School of Art, Design and Art History offers the following graduate degrees:


Admission to the Graduate Program in Visual Art at JMU is selective and highly competitive. The application deadline for the MFA and MA Studio Art program is mid-January for full consideration. The admission deadline for the MA in Art Education program is rolling, and extends into the late Spring of each year.

New students are enrolled in the summer for the MA Art Education program, and the Fall for the MFA or MA in Studio Art curriculum.  

The MFA program is a traditional 60 credit hours, three-year, residential program. The MA in Art Education degree may be non-residential, but students enrolled full-time may receive a tuition waiver and stipend.

Admission materials to all programs are submitted online, including the portfolio, letters of recommendation and transcripts. Once begun, the application process may be completed in part. Incomplete applications will not be considered.  The GRE is not required for admission to the Art graduate degree programs.

The admission process may be started HERE.

Studio MFA and MA portfolio submission materials may be uploaded HERE.

On-Campus Review and Open House:

November 12, 2016
9:00am -12:00pm


All MFA full-time students admitted to the graduate program are awarded a Graduate Assistantship with a full tuition waiver and material stipend covering their entire course of study.  Students in their third year of MFA study are eligible for a Teaching Assistantship (TA), which awards a larger, living stipend.

Student’s enrolled in the MA Art Education program may receive a TA during their first year of study.


The proximity of JMU to major East Coast cities fosters a regular on-campus schedule of visiting artists, scholars and designers. Invited art professionals represent a diverse range of viewpoints and practices that enrich the regular calendar of coursework and provide graduate students with personal insight and feedback through private and group critiques.  A select list of recent visitors is provided below.

Encore Exhibition Series
The Encore Series is an annual program sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts that enriches the cultural and intellectual life of the greater university community. Major figures in contemporary art that have participated in the Encore Series have included: Robert Arneson, Seymour Chwast, Chuck Close, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Lesley Dill, Milton Glaser, Red Grooms, Phil Meggs, Elizabeth Murray, Philip Pearlstein, Faith Ringgold, Leslie Saar, Raymond Saunders, Peter Saul, Miriam Schapiro, Sandy Skoglund, Alan Shields, Jerry Uelsmann, and William T. Wiley, among others.

Dorothy Liskey Wampler Distinguished Professorship Of Art Series
The endowed Dorothy Liskey Wampler Distinguished Art Professorship brings to campus a program of distinguished visiting artists, scholars, and critics. Past Wampler Professors have traveled to JMU from around the world, and have included: Perry Bard, Dr. Terry Barrett, Carol Barton, Xu Bing, Dr. Suzanne Blier, Pamela Blotner, Dr. B. Stephen Carpenter II, Barbara Cooper, Arthur Danto, Dr. Leah Dickerman, Bob Ebendorf, John Foster, Suzi Gablik, Dr. W. Dwaine Greer, Dr. Fredrika Jacobs, Ivan Karp, Donald Kuspit, Rainer Goetz, Stefan Graupner, Eve Laramee, Anthony Lee, Susan Leopold, Lucy Lippard, Dr. Amy Lyford, Peter Plagens, Earl A. Powell III, J. Morgan Puett, Rosamond Purcell, Lawrence Rinder, Dr. Renee Sandell, Dr. Kirk Savage, Salvatore Scalora, Sam Shelton, Roy Sieber, Paul Vanouse, Bill Viola, Richard Wilson, James Wines, Amy Yoes, among others.


Each student in the MFA and MA Studio program is provided a private studio in the Grace Street Building. The Grace Street Building is located approximately five minutes walking time apart from Duke Hall, the administrative home for the School of Art, Design and Art History. Each private studio in the Grace Street Building is equipped with a computer and access to the Internet. Graduate students in the MA Art Education program are accommodated in Duke Hall in the Art Education Center.  All studio graduates have full access to the studios and equipment located in Duke Hall and the Memorial Hall Art Complex. 


Multiple galleries are located on campus. The Duke Fine Art Gallery (located in Duke Hall) hosts national and international exhibitions of contemporary art. The Duke Fine Arts Gallery also serves as the venue for all MFA Thesis Exhibitions.

The Madison Art Collection contains over 35,000 cultural objects from the Neolithic through the 20th Century. Exhibitions from the permanent collection are displayed in the Lisanby Museum.

The Prism Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting works that emphasize aspects of diversity, including areas of culture, religion, gender and sexuality.

The Prism International Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting works that explore global culture.

The Institute for Visual Studies (IVS) at James Madison University is a center for scholarly, scientific and creative inquiry into the nature and workings of images. An incubator of new ideas, the institute fosters discovery, and the generation of artworks, scholarly products, and applications by multidisciplinary teams of students and faculty. 

artWorks GALLERY is located at 131 Grace Street, adjacent to the Graduate Studios. artWorks Gallery is a loft space and is JMU’s student-run gallery, exhibiting work by undergraduate and graduate students. The gallery features moveable walls; hardwood floors; large windows; and a high, open ceiling. Exhibits change, on average, every two weeks.

New Image Gallery is also located at 131 Grace Street, inside of artWorks Gallery. New Image Gallery features contemporary photography and small works on paper and installations by regional, national, and international artists.


Graduate Studies Handbook (2014/2015)

Graduate Studies Handbook (2015/2016)



M.F.A. and M.A. in Studio Art:
Cole Welter,
Professor of Art and Graduate Program Director
Ph.D. Texas Tech university; M.F.A University of Texas at Austin; B.F.A. with Honors, University of Texas at Austin 540.568.6322

M.A. in Art Education
Karin Tollefson-Hall, Assistant Professor of Art Education and Art Education Graduate Program Director
Ph.D. Art Education, The University of Iowa; M.A. Art Education, The University of Iowa; B.A. Education, University of Northern Iowa 540.568.4304



Dr. Aderonke Adesanya

Dr. Sarah Brooks

Sukjin Choi

Corinne Diop

Dr. David Ehrenpreis

Gary Freeburg

Dr. Linda Halpern

Richard Hilliard

Dr. Laura Katzman

Rob Mertens

Dr. John Ott

Mark Rooker

Dr. Kathy Schwartz

Dr. Maureen Shanahan

Rebecca Silberman

Dr. Kathryn Stevens

Greg Stewart

Allyson Mellberg Taylor

Dr. Karin Tollefson-Hall

Dr. Roger Tomhave

Lisa Tubach

Dr. Cole Welter

Dr. William Wightman

Stephanie Williams

Susan Zurbrigg