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Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts

For nearly 60 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) program in 2021 furthers IAIA’s mission and reach, as the program’s primary function is to create artists, mentors, leaders, and teachers through an Indigenous-focused, professional education that fosters the importance of lifelong learning and outreach.

The MFASA program offers areas of emphasis in Integrated Practice, Studio Arts 2D Practice, and Studio Arts 3D Practice. Our two-year, low-residency curriculum is grounded in Indigenous cultures and reflects the history and challenges of our time. We provide world-class contemporary arts education and empower our students to give voice to the Indigenous experience through their art. By engaging in art history and deep discussions of art’s function in society, while also incorporating critiques by peers and Master Artist Mentors, the MFASA program allows students to develop their own artistic style and find their place in the art world.

For more information, please contact

The Low-Residency Model

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. This model allows for artists to fully immerse themselves in the experience of who they are, as an individual, as an artist, and as a member of their community. By allowing our students to remain home while pursuing their MFA, they receive a more in-depth experience of what it truly means to be a professional artist.

The MFASA requires the completion of 60 credit hours, which includes two intensive residency periods per year (summer and winter) on the IAIA campus in Santa Fe, NM. The on-campus residency periods are an invigorating experience in which students, Master Artist Mentors, and visiting artists gather for nine days of artist lectures, professional workshops, exhibition and peer critique of work, and an opportunity to engage with a diverse community of artists.

At the end of each 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 semester-long mentorships are complemented by a series of online Art History courses that aid in the development of the student’s Visual Culture Research project as well as their body of creative work.

How the Program Works

The IAIA Low-Residency MFA in Studio Arts program begins with a nine-day Summer (Pre-Fall Semester) Residency on the IAIA 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. 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 Summer Residency, students are paired with a Master Artist Mentor, with whom they will work one-on-one for the 16-week fall semester. The mentorship is delivered through the online educational platform Canvas, and involves regular (virtual) interaction between students and their mentors. Alongside the nine-credit mentorship, each student will be enrolled in a three-credit online art history course, taught by a different instructor. These courses are meant to be complementary to the student’s creative work and mentorship.

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 Residency. At Winter Residency 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 culminates their studio work into a thesis exhibit, submits a refined Statement of Aesthetics, and prepares and presents their Visual Culture Research.

The program is four semesters, each consisting of a three-credit residency, nine-credit mentorship, and three-credit, semester-long, online Art History course—totaling 15 credit hours a semester. 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.
For information on Tuition and the Degree Plan, see Tuition and the college catalog.

Deadline and Application

The deadline to apply for each Fall semester is February 15, 2024. As the program begins with an in-person residency in July (pre-fall semester), we are currently only accepting students into the program to begin in fall semesters. Applications received after the deadline will be reviewed for the wait list and for the following academic year.

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


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/metals, drawing, 2D foundations, 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 outside working space for the foundry, blacksmithing, and stone sculpture.

Guiding Statement

The MFASA 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. We work to meet the vision of each student in their own personal artistic journey. Through close examination of art history from an Indigenous perspective, our courses guide students through art theories, practices, and applications that support them in the creation and dissemination of their art.


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 Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts Department is committed to graduating successful artists whose contributions are recognized nationally and internationally within a global art context.


  • To encourage each artist to develop their own vision
  • To allow students to see their position in the art world
  • To enhance students’ connection to their art and their community
  • To empower students to become arts and cultural leaders who positively impact their communities and the world at large
  • To enhance artistic expression through Indigenous-based learning and research

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

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 forms of visual and conceptual expression, including performance, installation, video/film, sound, new media, site-specific and research-driven processes, and collaborative or community-oriented projects.

Studio Arts 2D Practice

An emphasis in Studio Arts 2D Practice offers a curriculum that highlights the student’s individual development in painting, drawing, photography, or printmaking, strengthening skills and broadening knowledge of historical, social, and critical issues.

Studio Arts 3D Practice

An emphasis in Studio Arts 3D Practice explores 3D and 4D thinking and creating. 3D Practice highlights the 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.

Apply to the Low-Residency MFA in Studio Arts

The graduate application for the MFA in Studio Arts is available 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 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 (see requirements)

Please submit all requirements either by email to or by mail to:

Office of Admissions
Institute of American Indian Arts
83 Avan Nu Po Road
Santa Fe, NM 87508

For more information about admissions, or if you have questions or need assistance, contact the MFASA Director at: or visit the Office of Admissions webpage.

Once we have received all of your application materials, your application will be reviewed. Materials must be received by 5 pm on March 1, 2022. Applications completed after the deadline will be considered for any remaining openings, wait-listed, or considered for the following year. Admission is competitive; we will be accepting only 10 students into the program each year—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 be in a studio arts major.

Should you be accepted into the program, you will need to pay a $200 deposit by April 1, 2022 to hold your place.

For questions about the application process, please contact admissions at

Personal Statement

Submit a statement (not to exceed 1,000 words) that describes your trajectory as an artist. It should cover the following:

  • How have you arrived at your current practice?
  • What are the social, historical, and/or cultural perspectives that have come to inform your work?
  • What do you expect to achieve through your MFA education?
  • How do you plan to use the resources provided by the program in order to develop your art practice?

In other words, your statement should address how you’ve gotten to where you are as an artist, and then discuss what you hope to accomplish during your time as an IAIA Master of Fine Arts in Studio Arts student.

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.
  • Label each image with the following information:
    • Title
    • Date
    • Medium
    • Dimensions
    • Location (if significant to the work)

Please compile these images and their labels into one PDF not to exceed 20MB.

Video, Performance, Time-based Work Specifications:

  • If you are working in video or performance, please submit links (without password protection) to up to 15 minutes of video files.
  • If you are working in audio, you may submit links to up to 10 minutes of audio files.
  • With all time-based media, please indicate:
    • Title
    • Medium
    • Duration
    • Date of completion

Reapplying for Admission

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

For up-to-date tuition information, visit the Tuition and Fees web page.

Mario A. Caro, PhD

Mario A. Caro, PhD

(Colombian Mestizo)

Studio Arts (MFA)
P (505) 428-5929

Dawn Double Blaze

Dawn Double Blaze


Program Coordinator
Studio Arts (MFA)
P (505) 424-2330