Program Overview

The programs' core is built on the values of time-honored skills, informed by contemporary theory and designed to help realize the ideas possible through representational modes of painting and drawing.

We recognize that there are particular issues related to this focus that require specialized study at the graduate level.

Our faculty includes such acclaimed artists as Kent Williams, John Nava, Peter Zokosky and F. Scott Hess and attracts world-renowned visiting artists including: Jerome Witkin, Alex Kanevsky, Margaret Bowland, Bo Bartlett, and Justin Mortimer.

Our programs have been created to provide a supportive environment for artists who wish

to address contemporary subject matter while acknowledging historical painting traditions.

LCAD MFA graduates are equipped to go on to careers as gallery artists and teachers in higher education.

Work by our students has been published in Juxtapoz, Blue Canvas, Southwest Art, Drawing, Pastel Journal, and Art Collector magazines.

Our students have recently held group exhibitions across Southern California at venues that include Laguna Art Museum, Koplin del Rio gallery in Culver City, and Arena 1 gallery in Santa Monica. Our current students and alumni have had solo and group exhibitions around the country with the prominent galleries that represent them.


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Laguna College of Art and Design's MFA is a two-year program of focused research into the formal and conceptual potentials of figurative art.

The core goal of the program is to build on traditional skills acquired in undergraduate study to realize the ideas possible in the discipline of representational art. This goal is to be achieved through the creation of a coherent body of work, a written thesis and a thesis exhibition. Additionally, our students will gain insights into the presentation and marketing of their work and be educated in the logistics of teaching art at the college level.

Our MFA recognizes that there are particular technical, ideational and formal issues related to representation that require specialized study at the graduate level, and we strive to meet these demands with a faculty and curriculum tailored to these needs. Our program has been created to provide a supportive environment for artists who wish to address contemporary subject matter while acknowledging historical painting traditions.

Painting Studio and Drawing Studio

The primary vehicle for research in the MFA is Painting Studio or Drawing Studio, a nine-credit course taken each semester that consists of individual research in the studio with regular critical feedback through twice-monthly critiques with a faculty Mentor. Progress is documented in notes kept by the student. A midterm and final grade is assigned by the Mentor with the advice of a faculty advisor. The first semester of Studio is conceived as a period of exploration: Ideas are investigated through reading, writing and painted or drawn studies; reference materials for developing more sustained works is also gathered during this phase. During the next three semesters of the course, ideas are investigated in depth, resulting in a body of work that coheres around a theme and culminates in a thesis exhibition in the last semester.

Elective Coursework

During their course of study, MFA candidates take studio elective and art history classes to supplement and inform their research. In addition to these courses, the MFA candidate is expected to write a thesis statement on the themes and historical precedents in the body of work. This document of roughly 4000 words is shaped through study in three, one-credit Thesis Preparation classes beginning in the second semester. The thesis will draw on concepts from art history and theory classes to illuminate themes in the body of work. In addition to Mentor critiques, the MFA candidate will have an advancement review at the midpoint of their study (after acquiring roughly 30 credits) and a final review prior to graduation to approve the thesis exhibition. These reviews are attended by the Chair of the MFA program, the faculty Mentor, the faculty advisor and selected other faculty. The advancement review is meant to ensure that the student is on track to have a thesis exhibition in the last semester and will identify problem areas for the student to address. The final review is a summative assessment of the achievements of each student.

One Nation Under Surveillance, by LCAD MFA Drawing and Painting faculty, John Nava

Professional Development

In addition to studio research, an important goal of the MFA program is to develop an engagement with the world of contemporary art with an emphasis on representation. The Mentor faculty structure is designed to expose the students to a variety of working artists in the Los Angeles area, and our Art History classes include visits to the many museum and gallery exhibitions available in a major cultural center. The college regularly invites visiting artists from around the country to speak about their work and to give critiques to MFA candidates in their studios. Additionally, a substantial number of exhibition opportunities are offered to our student cohort in the form of group shows at galleries and alternative spaces in the greater Los Angeles area. Through participation in these exhibitions, our MFAs are encouraged to develop professional habits in displaying and marketing their art. The program also recognizes that the MFA degree confers an eligibility to teach at the college level. Our Masters program provides a number of teaching assistantships to create a pedagogical experience for our students. In addition, a course in pedagogy and professional practice is required in the second year of study.

The MFA Body of Work

The goal of the MFA is to develop a mature, coherent body of work that is substantial in craft and concept. However, the role of exploration is essential to this development, particularly in the early stages of study. It would defeat the purpose of a research program to simply fill out a predetermined thesis with a series of homogenous works that fail to show a strong critical engagement with the potentials and problems inherent in the chosen theme. It is our belief that a unified body of work will naturally result from an in-depth engagement with the personal and conceptual concerns of the artist. The MFA program therefore supports experimentation with the various permutations of a particular idea through different media, formats and genres. It is also quite possible that a student may enter the program with a specific intention only to find a different, more suitable concept on which to focus. The act of working on a theme through diligent studio production may reveal deficits in the idea or suggest a different path towards its realization. The MFA program recognizes this exploratory process as essential to artistic maturity and encourages an openness to change. Similarly, the thesis statement should be conceived as a dynamic document that evolves with the student's studio research rather than as a template upon which a body of work is created. As the work changes, different concepts and precedents can be added to or removed from the statement to reflect evolving concerns. It is our belief that this sustained critical engagement will ultimately result in a more substantial body of work and thesis.

Laguna College's MFA program acknowledges that specialized skills are necessary to the effective production of representational art. Our entrance requirements presuppose a high level of technical ability, and issues of technique and craft are ongoing concerns throughout the course of study. Those entering the MFA should expect to improve and expand their skills, but these technical enhancements should be considered as secondary to the development of the ideas that will realize the unique potential of representation to express narratives of contemporary life and culture. A substantial engagement with relevant concepts through reading, journal-keeping and critical research of contemporary and historical artists is essential to the course of study in the MFA. The final thesis statement and exhibition should reflect a thorough and robust immersion in the student's chosen theme and be reflective of an emerging artistic identity.