Note from the Director of Graduate Studies in Creative Visual Arts

Leeza Meksin

Hello, and thank you for your interest in our M.F.A. in Creative Visual Arts!

Housed in Cornell University's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning (Cornell AAP), our M.F.A. program is about connection between students and faculty who come together in a rigorous, supportive, and inclusive environment where all ideas are met with respect and all forms of critical and creative practices are encouraged. Cornell's unique interdisciplinary model for graduate study, combined with medium-specific skill development, lays a foundation for collaborative, experimental, and radical rethinking of what art making can be.

As Director of Graduate Studies in Creative Visual Arts, I am honored to lead an exciting and generously supported program that does not leave artists burdened with debt upon graduation. Though this is not the defining factor of our program, as an artist today, it is important to me to be part of an institution committed to supporting art students in this essential way. Reflecting on the impermanent and vulnerable aspects of our embodied experience is fundamental to reframing art education and contemporary art practice.

M.F.A. students at Cornell begin our two-year program with a rigorous investigation of their studio practice with ongoing visits from our full-time faculty and visiting artists. Faculty engage in critical conversations with each graduate student to help guide and cultivate the creative process. Private studios with 24/7 access are provided for each artist entering the program. By the end of the first year, students form a supportive graduate committee of trusted faculty mentors who foster growth with intellectual curiosity and comradery.

Every semester, graduate students dedicate about half of their time to independent studio practice and participate in a graduate seminar. The seminar, a cornerstone of the program taught by a visiting artist, is a space for deep critical engagement, for asking questions, and for challenging assumptions. M.F.A. students also take a professional practice course that focuses on writing artist statements, proposals, and grant applications while galvanizing the cohort through regular group meetings, potlucks, and field trips.

Many students come to Cornell with an interest in developing a critical and creative practice they can both sustain and share with others through teaching. In addition to nearly full tuition remission, each graduate student is guaranteed a teaching assistantship every semester, for a total of four different classes over the course of the program. Thus, graduates of our M.F.A. program leave with extensive teaching experience and the strong bonds they build with faculty and undergraduate students.

Study in Ithaca, New York, provides quiet, contemplative space in world-class facilities including fabrication shops, labs, darkrooms, and exhibition spaces for both group and solo shows. Because of the importance of learning directly from art world experience, graduate students are also provided a fully funded opportunity to visit artists and creatives in the cultural center of Mexico City every spring. And finally, each student's time at Cornell concludes with a student-run group exhibition in New York City — an unmatched opportunity to expand viewership, make connections, and learn about the generosity and vulnerability that goes into preparing a public exhibition.

Collaboration and interconnectedness are especially important in the arts, and so I invite each cohort to get together with me on a regular basis to brainstorm the many ways we can help each other grow while realizing ambitious and challenging new work.

Thank you again for your interest, and please do not hesitate to get in touch with questions and to schedule a visit to our beautiful campus.


Leeza Meksin
Assistant Professor
Director of Graduate Studies in Creative Visual Arts
Department of Art

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