Low Residency MFA in Studio Arts

MFASA Summer Residency

Beyond an Indigenous Avant-Garde is the theme for the inaugural MFA in Studio Arts (MFASA) Summer Residency to be held virtually between July 18–23. Our robust programming will also include public lectures by Brett Graham (Ngāti Korokī Kahukura), Ryan! Feddersen (Colville), and Nolan Dennis. Live stream presentations will be available on IAIA’s Facebook page.

For over 50 years, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) has played a key role in the direction and shape of Native expression. With an internationally-acclaimed college, museum, and tribal support resource through our Land-Grant Programs, IAIA is dedicated to the study and advancement of Native arts and cultures—and is committed to student achievement and the preservation and progress of Native communities.  

The launch of the Low Residency MFA in Studio Arts (MFASA) in 2021 furthers IAIA’s mission and reach, in that the program’s primary function is to create artists, mentors, leaders, and teachers through an Indigenous-focused professional-level education that fosters the importance of life-long learning and outreach.

The MFASA two-year, low residency curriculum is grounded in Indigenous cultures and reflects the history and challenges of our time. The program provides world-class contemporary arts education and empowers its students to give voice to the Indigenous experience through their art. IAIA’s MFASA department is committed to graduating successful artists whose contributions are recognized nationally and internationally within a global art context.

For more information, please contact [email protected].

Learning Outcomes

Students in the MFA in Studio Arts will be able to:

  • Demonstrate enhanced critical understanding of their work within a multidisciplinary Indigenous context
  • Practice self-directed learning and self-defined research projects
  • Apply professional studio arts practice towards a fine arts career

MFASA Open House Event

Learn more about the Low Residency MFA in Studio Arts (MFASA) by watching the live stream event from Friday, February 19, 2021.

The Low Residency Model

The Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts (MFASA) is the second of IAIA’s low residency graduate degree programs, following the MFA in Creative Writing (MFACW), which was launched in 2013. The low residency model provides a professional degree in Studio Arts while allowing students to live at home and continue participating in work, family, and community.

Students can graduate with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Studio Arts with the following areas of emphasis: Integrated Practice, Studio Arts 2D Practice, and Studio Arts 3D Practice.

The MFASA requires the completion of 60 credit hours and is designed as a two-year low residency program with two intensive on-campus residency periods per year (summer and winter) on the IAIA campus in Santa Fe, NM.

At the end of each nine-day, on-campus residency, students are paired with a Master Artist Mentor with whom they will work one-on-one, virtually, during the following 16-week semester.

IAIA’s MFASA Master Artist Mentors are prominent Native and non-Native artists who have a high level of professional achievement and artistic excellence in their fields. Students have the opportunity to work with several Master Artist Mentors in the development of their creative work over two years, while also pursuing a Visual Culture Research project specific to their areas of inquiry and interest.

The mentorships are complemented by a series of online Art History courses as well as intensive residencies offering artist lectures, professional workshops, exhibition and peer critique of work, and an opportunity to engage with a diverse community of artists.

Deadline and Application

The deadline to apply for the Fall 2021 semester (beginning in July) is April 15. Each academic year begins with the July Residency. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed for the waitlist and for the following semester.

For information on Tuition and the Degree Plan, see Tuition and the college catalog.

MFASA Residencies

July 17–25, 2021Residency
January 8–16, 2022Residency
July 17–24, 2022Residency
January 7–15, 2023Residency
May 15–20, 2023Graduation Residency

Apply to the Low Residency MFA in Studio Arts

The graduate application for the MFA in Studio Arts is available at online. Please note that although the Low Residency MFA Program begins with an on-campus residency in July, the July residency is considered part of the Fall semester. Please choose “Fall” not “Summer” on the application. If you find you need to submit additional materials, please email those documents to [email protected] or mail them to the Admissions Office at the address below. Your application will not be considered for admission until it is complete.

To process your application, we will need:

  1. Completed Online Admissions Application
  2. A $25 non-refundable application fee
  3. Two letters of recommendation
  4. Official college transcripts confirming your bachelor’s degree
  5. Personal Statement (see requirements)
  6. Portfolio of Work (requirements)

Once we have received all of your application materials, your application will be reviewed. Materials must be received by 5 pm on April 15, 2021. Applications completed after the deadline will be considered for any remaining openings, wait-listed, or considered for the following year. Admission will be competitive—we will be accepting only ten students into the program, after several years, enrollment will be capped at 20 new students each year.

There is no separate application for scholarships—students who apply before the deadline will be considered for all IAIA scholarships.

A bachelor’s degree is required, but it need not have been with a Studio Arts major.

Should you be accepted into the program, you will need to pay a $200 deposit by May 15 to hold your place. For questions about the application process, please contact admissions at [email protected]

Personal Statement

Submit a statement (approximately 1000 words) describing the formal, conceptual, and practical characteristics of your current artistic practice. Be as specific as possible about your interest and approaches and please address the following:

  • Discuss the social, historical, and/or cultural perspective in which your work lives.
  • Does reading or research influence your practice?
  • Describe your strengths and limitations as an artist, including in your studio work, academic research, and writing.
  • Discuss what you hope to accomplish in the program and how this realization serves your goals as an artist.
  • Do you foresee anything that might prevent you from devoting 25 hours per week to your graduate work?

Portfolio of Creative Work

Submit a portfolio that demonstrates a sustained, focused body of work over an extended period of time or, if the work is varied, an indication that it has moved beyond or changed from where it was at the start. The portfolio should also show clear ideas behind the production of the work, beyond the desire to make pleasing aesthetic creations, and a sense that the work has a personal quality in addition to technical skill.

Visual Portfolio Specifications:

  • Submit 20 images representing work that was completed within the last three years.
  • Include with the image presentation the title, medium, dimensions, and date of each image in the title and description.

Video, Performance, Time-based Work Specifications:

  • If you are working in video or performance, please submit up to 15 minutes of video files. You may also embed Vimeo links into your portfolio for viewing.
  • If you are working in audio, you may submit up to 10 minutes of audio files. You may also embed Soundcloud links into your portfolio.
  • With all time-based mediums, please indicate in the title and description the following: title, medium, duration, and date (when the piece was completed). For longer pieces, please indicate the timeframe you would like the review committee to focus on.

Apply for Readmission

If you are reapplying to the MFA in Studio Arts Program after not being admitted for the previous year, submit the following:

  1. Completed Online Admissions Application
  2. A $25 non-refundable application fee
  3. New or revised Personal Statement (see requirements)
  4. New Portfolio of Work (see requirements)

Updated references are optional. Only new transcripts need be submitted.

Housing Application

On-campus housing is only available during the summer residencies and only for the duration of the residency. Students who are accepted into the program will be emailed housing application instructions prior to the July residency.

MFA in Studio Arts Tuition

Domestic (United States) Students ($500 per credit)$7,500$7,500
Canadian First Nations Students ($500 per credit)$7,500$7,500
Other International Students ($500 per credit)$7,500$7,500
Residency Only (3 credits)$1,500$1,500
Single Dorm Room$213*
Meal Plan$225$225
Required FeesFallSpring
Technology Fee (Full-Time)$300$300
Technology Fee (Residency Only)$45$45
Exhibition Services Fee$500$500
Miscellaneous Fees and Deposits
Admissions Application Fee$25
Tuition Deposit$200
Duplicate Diploma Fee$40
Graduation Fee$100
Graduation Exhibition Services Fee$500
Registrar’s Office$30
Returned Check Fee$35
Student ID Replacement Card$20
Classroom and Library Deposit (refundable and applies to all students taking a course on campus)$75
Housing Deposit (refundable)$100
Room Key Deposit (refundable)$20
  • Spring Residency and Graduation Residency: During these residences, students are responsible for their own accommodations. Dorm rooms on campus are only available during the summer. IAIA student rate ($69/night) is available at Inn at Santa Fe, five miles from campus (888) 871-7138.
  • Meal Plan: Presentation of student ID card is mandatory at each meal or cash payment is required.
  • The student should also consider indirect costs (not billed by IAIA) such as books and supplies, personal and travel expenses, and shipment/transportation of art.
  • Please note: the MFASA at IAIA does not participate in the Federal Student Loan Program.

For questions about tuition and fees, please contact the Student Accounts Office at (505) 424-5732.

Guiding Statement

The Graduate Studio Arts department is guided by the core values of respect, integrity, creativity, and excellence, and holds these values as essential to professional growth and to building strong leaders who will make a difference.

Our two-year, low residency curriculum is grounded in Indigenous cultures and reflects the history and challenges of our time. The program provides world-class contemporary arts education and empowers its students to give voice to the Indigenous experience through their art. IAIA’s Graduate Studio Arts department is committed to graduating successful artists whose contributions are recognized nationally and internationally within a global art context.

Areas of Emphasis

Students can pursue a professional degree in Studio Arts with one of the following areas of emphasis.

Integrated Practice

An emphasis in Integrated Practice offers an interdisciplinary approach to creative inquiry and studio practice that provides space for investigating emerging and unconventional forms of visual and conceptual expression, including performance, installation, video/film, sound, computer, site-specific and research driven processes, and collaborative or community-oriented projects.

Studio Art 2D Practice

An emphasis in 2D Studio Art Practice offers a curriculum that highlights students’ individual development in Painting, Drawing, Photography, or Printmaking, strengthening skills and broadening knowledge of historical, social, and critical issues.

Studio Art 3D Practice

An emphasis in 3D Studio Art Practice explores 3D and 4D thinking and making, highlighting student’s individual development in foundry, metals, wood, plastics, ceramics, mold-making, and jewelry, strengthening skills and broadening knowledge of historical, social, and critical issues.

How Does the Program Work?

The IAIA Low Residency MFA in Studio Arts begins with a nine-day Summer (Pre-Fall Semester) Residency on the campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During the summer residency, all new and returning students and mentors gather for an immersive week of workshops, critiques, artist lectures, and panel discussions. The residency experience is characterized by strong peer exchange and dialogue, and the lectures and workshops are designed to assist students in the development of their visual language, research, writing and critique skills, studio practice and skills development, and knowledge of historical, social, and critical issues.

At the conclusion of the Summer Residency, students are paired with a Master Artist Mentor, whom they will work one-on-one with for the 16-week fall mentorship semester. The residency comprises a 3-credit course, co-requisite with the 9-credit semester-long mentorship course. The mentorship is delivered through an online educational platform, Canvas, and involves regular (virtual) interaction between students and their Mentors.

Students, Mentors, and Visiting Artists gather again on the IAIA campus for a nine-day Winter (Pre-Spring Semester) Residency each January, which follows the same format as the summer’s, and where students present and critique new and developing work and further their Visual Culture Research project.

One of the main components of a student’s course of study in the MFASA program is a semester-long studio project in which the student develops and/or challenges specific aspects of their art practice under the guidance of a Master Artist Mentor. Each Mentor is asked to engage the student in a rigorous and critical dialogue concerning the conceptual and material issues they confront in their work. Additionally, the student will have chosen a focus area for the Visual Culture research and will be required to respond, through three Visual Culture Response Papers to books, research, or exhibitions relevant to their focus area.

The dialogue between the Mentor and student generally focuses on the ideas that inform the student’s work, intention vs. execution, formal aesthetic qualities, the relationship of the work to other artists and/or other traditions of art making, and their work’s overall relation to their artistic goals and to current social and cultured contexts in which their work exists. This dialogue should support each student’s individual Studio Study Plan, which students generate prior to the beginning of each semester based on their particular art practice and its associated inquiries and demands.

The first and second semesters are devoted to generating creative work as well as to developing a critical reading and writing practice centered around the student’s Visual Culture research. The third semester continues the creative and critical work, and also requires the student to develop a Statement of Aesthetics. During the fourth and final semester, the student assembles their Studio work into a culminating Thesis exhibit, submits a refined Statement of Aesthetics, and prepares and presents their Visual Culture Research.

Alongside the one-on-one mentorship between the student and Mentor, each student will be enrolled in an Art History online course, taught by a different instructor. These courses are meant to be complementary to the student’s creative work and mentorship.

The program is four semesters of the 3-credit residency, 9-credit mentorship, and 3-credit semester-long online Art History course. A fifth residency, the Graduation Residency, is required of all graduating students.

Graduation Residency is the culmination of the MFA journey. One week before commencement, MFA candidates spend a week on the IAIA campus. During this fifth on-campus residency, the graduating MFA students present their Thesis Exhibition, defend their thesis in front of their Thesis Committee, present their Visual Culture Research project, and participate in critiques of their cohort and workshops for professional development.

The student is required to participate, lead, and present, demonstrating completion of all curricular requirements and attainment of the program’s Learning Outcomes. The residency is an opportunity for the graduating cohort to share their works and critiques, gain practical and professional post-graduate skills, and celebrate their achievements.


During the on-campus residencies, the MFA in Studio Arts is headquartered in the Academic Building and Allan Houser Haozous Sculpture and Foundry building with classes occurring throughout campus. The Academic Building houses eight studio classrooms: photography, printmaking, ceramics, jewelry and metals, drawing, 2D foundations studio, painting, and a digital fabrication lab. The Allan Houser Haozous Sculpture and Foundry building houses studio classrooms for stone, wood, glass, metals, and fabrication, a general-purpose classroom, a slurry room, and outdoor working space for the foundry, blacksmithing, and stone sculpture.

Mario A. Caro, PhD

Mario A. Caro, PhD

(Colombian Mestizo)

Studio Arts (MFA)
P (505) 428-5929
E [email protected]