Hartford Art School
MFA in Interdisciplinary Art
Regenerative field-based studies for artists of the Anthropocene.
The Nomad MFA (Interdisciplinary Master of Fine Arts) is a low-residency, cross-disciplinary program. This course of study prepares artists for a life of engaged studio and civic practice and reflects the dynamic balance of production, inquiry, and cross discipline collaborations in contemporary art, and the world at large. The objective of this MFA is the development of each student’s art practice and the creation of an expanded toolkit through our innovative curriculum. This objective is achieved through engaged mentoring and through high-impact, field-based classes in contemporary art, ecology, place and culture, indigenous knowledge systems, and the technology spectrum from craft to code.
About the Program
Our 60-credit curriculum adheres to the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) requirements, and is taught primarily on location at our residency sites. This MFA goes off the beaten path via a series of immersive field-based residencies. Nomad MFA students participate in five residencies over 26-months. For three weeks each June and two weeks each January, students visit locations across the Americas to learn within the context of local history and culture. Each residency site has a longstanding relationship with the program. Between residencies, students use distance learning platforms to continue developing their personal artistic practice under the guidance of their thesis advisors.
This program supports many types of art practices, including eco art, social engagement, art and pedagogy, community art, art and healing, and practices that explore craft and technology traditions, among others. Our community is defined by our commitment to a more regenerative future. Through Nomad MFA coursework, students prepare for an ambitious, lifelong creative practice.
Check out our supplemental website which provides field notes and a visual journal of the Nomad MFA residencies.
Rory Sparks, Class of 2018
I feel like I have replaced all my cells. I have more confidence. I have a stronger writing practice, a more vigorous reading practice, a first-time meditation practice, a more generous listening practice, stronger inquiry, a deeper philosophy behind what I make, a greater understanding of how I move through this world.
The residencies are scheduled in locations that provide contrasting geographies and cultures. The residencies allow the program to address history, community, and the natural world in a dynamic, living classroom.
The Miami residency provided an opportunity to explore the city’s vibrant diasporic spaces; investigate the power of art to foster recovery; learn about the subtropical ecosystems of South Florida; and contemplate the rising waters of Miami.
In the El Salvador residency of 2017 the Nomad MFA partnered with Laberinto Projects to produce a residency that addressed contemporary art as a vehicle for cultural memory; weaving as a path towards cultural continuity; and the archive as a powerful source of regeneration.
Every summer our residency in Hartford locates us firmly in our home city, with students taking classes on and off campus, as well as a Thesis Exhibition and Graduation Celebration.
The Oaxaca residency of 2019 was held in collaboration with Tlayudona, and gave students the opportunity to learn traditional natural dyeing techniques and work on the development of a contemporary art project.
Our Minnesota residency places an emphasis on understanding this location as a Dakota place, studying history, culture, tradition, and colonialism.
The Hudson Valley residency has a focus on art and ecology as understood through the use of local materials, projects that address multispecies relationships, and an ethos of collaboration.
The spring 2019 residency in New Mexico had students experiencing indigenous Pueblo knowledge and history; local contemporary art; and collaborating on a project around the issue of seed sovereignty.
New York City
Every summer, second-year students visit New York City for courses investigating solidarity economies and professional practices.
The Oakland residency provided students an opportunity to explore data, design thinking, and the many cultural histories of the bay area while creating protest-inspired utility quilts.
Curriculum & Structure
The Nomad MFA is designed for individuals from around the world who seek a challenging curriculum that spans disciplines. We seek students who ask tough questions, and show evidence of creative risk-taking.
Prerequisites include an undergraduate degree (BFA preferred) from an accredited institution, an ongoing creative practice, and a working understanding of contemporary art and culture. Creative practitioners come from a variety of backgrounds. The most important MFA prerequisite is an engaged, ongoing artistic practice.
- Art & Ecology: Using a hands-on workshop format, the course will employ experiential learning within the natural environment to foster new levels of awareness and engagement.
- Techno Lab 1: The Techno Lab Series presents art methods, materials and techniques through craft and technology training. Each course is aligned with the craft and industry traditions of a specific residency location.
- Methodologies in Contemporary Art: This seminar course provides advanced study of a interdisciplinary art practices. By investigating hybrid approaches to visual art, students will learn how artists employ methods from diverse disciplines. This seminar is a foundation for the MFA curriculum.
- Art & Place, Reconsidered 1: A location consists of multiple geographies, narratives, histories, and cultures. Using varied frames of reference, students will approach a specific location as a site for creative work.
- Critique Exchange 1: Through group critiques and one-on-one conversations the conceptual and practical framework for independent work will be strengthened. This course is the springboard for the creative work that students will do in their home location following the residency intensive.
- Art & Place, Reconsidered 2: A location consists of multiple geographies, narratives, histories, and cultures. Using varied frames of reference, students will approach a specific location as a site for creative work.
- Distinguished Practitioner 1: Students work with a prominent mentor on a group project. In each course, a visiting practitioner or cultural group will lead the students through a collaborative or directed participation project.
- Critique Exchange 2 & 3: Through group critiques and one-on-one conversations the conceptual and practical framework for independent work will be strengthened. This course is cornerstone for the creative work that students will do in their home location during the fall and spring semesters.
- Art History Research Methods (Hybrid Course): Art History Research Methods investigates the relationship between art and culture in various geographical, cultural and historical settings. The exploration of local and global themes concerning art production and culture will emerge through case studies, presentations and written research.
- River Lab: This course addresses art, ecology and social engagement through cross-sector with work a team of practitioners whose work engages the health of a river, and the river’s surrounding communities. The course provides opportunities for students to work with a selected group of local river advocates who may include scientists, social scientists, organizers, educators, artists and Indigenous community leaders. Students will contribute to a specific local initiative as they learn about this river and the social, economic, environmental and historical dynamics of this river community.
- Techno Lab 2: The Techno Lab Series presents art methods, materials and techniques through craft and technology training. Each course is aligned with the craft and industry traditions of a specific residency location.
- Creative Economies: What systems of art exchange, distribution and sharing are possible, and how do these economic strategies intersect with creative intentions? This course brings students to New York City for hands-on learning.
- MFA Projects 1: The MFA Project class provides one-on-one conversations with visiting artists and the program project advisor and director, as the student develops their work in the second half of the program. The student’s goals and objectives will be honed as the MFA Project evolves. The course is repeated three times as students develop their final MFA Exhibition.
- Art & Place, Reconsidered 3: A location consists of multiple geographies, narratives, histories, and cultures. Using varied frames of reference, students will approach a specific location as a site for creative work.
- Distinguished Practitioner 2: Students work with a prominent mentor on a group project. In each course, a visiting practitioner or cultural group will lead the students through a collaborative or directed participation project.
- MFA Projects 2 & 3: The MFA Project class provides one-on-one conversations with visiting artists and the program project advisor and director, as the student develops their work in the second half of the program. The student’s goals and objectives will be honed as the MFA Project evolves. The course is repeated three times as students develop their final MFA Exhibition.
- Writing, Art, and Agency (Hybrid Course): This course investigates the ways that artists use writing to impact culture at large and contribute to society as public intellectuals. During this course students develop their written thesis and practice multiple approaches to writing, strengthening their capacity to write field reports, calls to action, proposals, essays, and artist’s statements.
- Thesis Exhibition: The MFA Project Exhibition course allows for feedback from Project Advisor during the final MFA Exhibition development process. This course is a capstone class of the Interdisciplinary MFA program.
Sto Len, MFA Interdisciplinary Art, Candidate '20
It was the first time I had ever been to New Mexico and I could not think of a better way to be introduced to the land, the water, the people and their stories. We were camping in the high desert and it was pretty cold at times, but the warmth of Roxanne Swentzell and her amazing family got us through it all with smiles. I dug my hands in the earth for the first time and found the dirt that called to me, making clay and then pinch pots with it that we later fired together outside at Santa Clara pueblo. I soaked up so much and am still processing it all as I carry these experiences with me, back home into my daily life and into my art practice. These residencies embed you with so much that ends up growing into your work in unpredictable ways. I await the surprises.
Faculty & Visiting Artists
The Nomad MFA brings together some of the world’s most inspiring artists and scholars. This program’s roster of faculty, affiliated collectives, and visiting artists is deep and wide. Students learn from art world luminaries, tribal elders, experienced activists, craftspeople, and experts in the fields of the sciences and humanities. Our students gain valuable professional experiences through field experiences with esteemed faculty.
Visiting artists include: Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, Hudson Valley Bee Habitat, Knox Hartford, Billie Lee, Amanda Lovelee, Mildred’s Lane, Park Watershed, Public Art Saint Paul, SeedBroadcast, Allison Smith, Mona Smith, Sandy Spieler, Ramona Kitto Stately, Water Bar & Public Studio, Marisa Williamson
Your application is a three-step process:
1. Prepare—Gather all the documents and files you will need for your application. These include:
- Your official undergraduate transcripts (BFA or equivalent) from an accredited institution.
Contact the institution, and have one official copy sent to:
Graduate Admissions Office, CC 231, University of Hartford, 200 Bloomfield Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06117 USA
Or have an official electronic transcript submitted to email@example.com using school code 3436, if your prior college institution offers electronic transcript services.
- Letter of Intent, indicating how your intentions align with this MFA program (no more than 1,000 words). This statement should address your influences, interests, brief personal history, current creative research interest, and reasons for applying to a graduate program at this time.
- Your resume or CV, include art and professional projects and other relevant experiences.
- The names and email address of two (2) professional references from the arts who can speak to your readiness for graduate study and your ongoing creative practice. Communicate with them that they will receive an email submission form to upload their recommendation.
- Your portfolio, representing your best work and indicating your major interest and directions. At least half of the images should represent work done within the last two years and all should be from within the last four years. The portfolio may consist of 20 still images, or 20 minutes of time-based content, or a combination of still and time-based work (such as 10 images and 10 minutes of time-based content).
2. Upload—You will need to create an account at hartford.edu/apply. You can continue to log in and out as you complete the forms, and your application will be saved for editing until all required items are complete.
- In the Program of Study section, use the dropdown menu to navigate to “Fine Art” and “Interdisciplinary Art” for the Nomad MFA. The degree will automatically be “Master of Fine Arts” and you will be applying to the Summer semester.
- When uploading your portfolio, please keep in mind that we support media files as large as 5GB, but please be advised that larger files will take longer to upload from your Internet connection and may stall if you are on a wireless connection or one that cannot sustain a connection for the necessary period of time. Uploaded documents may contain no more than 75 pages. We support the following file formats:
- Video: .avi, .flv, .m1v, .m2v, .m4v, .mkv, .mov, .mpeg, .mpg, .mp4, .webm, .wmv (Apple ProRes is not currently supported. If uploading a .mov, please use an alternate codec.)
- Audio: .aac, .aif, .aiff, .iff, .fla, .m4a, .mpa, .mp3, .ra, .wav, .wma
- Slide: .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .jpeg, .png, .tif, .tiff
- Document: .doc, .docx, .odg, .odp, .odt, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .rtf, .wpd
- Once all items are uploaded, navigate to the “Your Portfolio” tab to see them. Use the “Edit Details” link to add in descriptive information, including title, year, size, medium, and any description you would like to share with the review committee.
3. Submit—Carefully review your application, and pay the non- refundable application fee of $50 for the UHart application. Once submitted, you cannot edit your application.
In addition to the standard application requirements, International Applicants are also required to submit:
- Guarantor’s Statement—As part of the application, international students must provide a bank statement to ensure adequacy of funds. This statement is also used to issue an I-20 form to students. The Guarantor’s Statement is necessary for obtaining a visa. The cost for international students to study and live at the University of Hartford can be found here at hartford.edu/graduate/int.aspx.
- TOEFL—Official score to be submitted. The University of Hartford test code number is 3436. Visit TOEFL at ets.org. Minimum score: 550 paper-based or 79 Internet-based. The Pearson Test of English (PTE) minimum score is a 58. Visit the PTE at: pearsonpte.com. The IELTS is also accepted with a minimum score of 6.5 or higher.
- Transcript evaluation—transcripts must be evaluated by a NACES-member evaluation service. Please visit naces.org/members.html for a list of approved evaluation partner companies. The evaluation, at minimum, should indicate each course that the student has completed, the grade and the equivalent of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a U.S. regionally accredited institution. The $50 application fee will be waived to defray the cost of the evaluation.
Admissions are rolling until the class is full, with a January 15, 2020 deadline for Scholarship Consideration. The Scholarship Consideration review is conducted in late January/early February, 2020 and will include a Skype interview with Program Director Carol Padberg. We begin distributing the official Admission Status Packets with any merit-based Scholarship decisions in mid-February, 2020. Please be ready to make a commitment within ten (10) days of receiving your admission decision and award. This allows us to meet the needs of both accepted students and wait-listed applicants as we fill the eight (8) slots available. Accepted Cohort 5 students will be given a preliminary assignment in April 2020 which needs to be completed prior the program start date, on May 31, 2020.
FAFSA applications are open now. We encourage applicants to apply for Federal Financial Aid by mid-January, 2020, so that they will be ready to make a decision within 10 days of acceptance.
Please visit our tuition page for current rates. Our tuition is a set amount per full academic year of the program, and billed in three (3) equal installments each year (Summer, Fall, Spring). Any Scholarship awards are also divided into three (3) equal installments to your bill.
*Tuition only. Does not include transportation, lodging, books, supplies, and fees.
Some partial tuition merit scholarships are available for candidates, up to 40% of tuition costs. The Interdisciplinary MFA Director and admissions committee will determine the scholarships.
Financial aid available through the U.S. Department of Education for domestic students. To learn more, please contact the Office of Student Financial Assistance at 800.947.4303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured Alumni & Current Students
Our alumni are accomplished professionals in field of interdisciplinary art. They make up a close-knit community of lifelong friends and resourceful peers, from all over the world, who are always encouraged to reach out, compare thoughts with, ask advice of, and share triumphs with.
Frequently Asked Questions
This MFA is built around the field-based residencies, which take place in summer and winter. In June there is a three-week residency, and January there is a two week residency. Between residencies, students use the online educational platform Blackboard as well as Skype to work with their thesis advisors and stay in touch with each other from their home locations. The entire degree is 26 months long and spans two academic years and three summer sessions. The curriculum is designed so that students may continue with their life commitments at home while earning a rigorous MFA.
This degree prepares artists for a more ambitious and effective practice and enhances one’s ability to gain funding, career opportunities, and employment in a variety of public and private sectors. In addition to fortifying one’s own art practice, this degree builds understanding and skills that apply to museum work, public art administration, education, entrepreneurial ventures, social art and design practice, community development, sustainability work, and therapeutic arts.
More specifically, the Interdisciplinary MFA prepares artists to collaborate with individuals and organizations and teaches systems thinking, a powerful problem solving skill. The residencies and rigorous coursework build an understanding of culture, place, and history. The training in ecology builds a working understanding of sustainability. Business and entrepreneurial skills are developed through the professional practices curriculum and public art component.
The guiding philosophy is one of connection. The world needs artists now more than ever. To be effective, artists must understand how to use poetic means, materiality and social impact to bring the most complex issues back into public discourse. The MFA curriculum is built to connect artists not only to audiences, but also to a broad base of skills and knowledge. The program’s ethos is one of sustainable culture, which means that these connections are fostered to serve the greater good and help restore balance for a regenerative future.
This program is influenced by permaculture, which is a design system based on how nature works. Many ecological principles have shaped the program, such as the importance of edge spaces, feedback loops, the need for heterogeneity, and the establishment of essential interconnections between the parts that make up the program. The result is an MFA program with a particularly dynamic culture and clear sense of purpose.
Being an artist does not require a degree. And yet, an MFA can be of immense value for artists who wish to develop their practice and take their work to the next level. This MFA provides:
- An international, progressive peer and mentor community that will continue to be beneficial into the future;
- A curriculum that you cannot find in other MFA programs including craft to code tech workshops, courses that include culture and history, community building best practices, as well as systems thinking and sustainability;
- An experimental approach that is open-outcome, which means that it is not limited to a certain type of artistic practice
- Educational travel that goes beyond the well worn path between North America and Europe.
Each MFA student has his or her own reasons for obtaining an MFA. This MFA has been designed for artists who are impatient with the status quo, and are ready to prepare themselves for a more ambitious and effective art practice.
By building an MFA curriculum around the field-based network of residencies, we have created a system of learning that includes ecology, indigenous knowledge, an exploration of colonialism and post-colonialism, material studies, social engagement, and the study of place. In this program each site is itself a teacher. All of this is done in a way that allows the program to respond to the changing realities of the world we live in.
No. Students can live anywhere around the globe. Requirements include the ability to travel to the residency sites and access to a reliable Internet connection.
The rabbit might stand for all the beings that are usually left out of human considerations. Or perhaps it is the trickster, who cannot stand academic rules and regulations? Maybe it is the abundance of nature and nature’s ability to take over domesticated spaces. The nomad might stand for erasing boundaries of nation states and living in balance with nature. Perhaps it represents an artist’s thirst for the world and new experiences?
Both the rabbit and the nomad are a way of saying “yes, we are hosted by a university and accredited by the authorities, but there is something different going on here in Hartford.” They are all wrong and just perfect for a program that is about taking risks and letting go of orthodoxies.