Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

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Transform your creative practice

Embed yourself in a rich dialogue about your creative practice in Massey’s transdisciplinary MFA programme for artists and designers. This is the only New Zealand MFA recognised by the US National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

What is it like?

“The MFA has completely changed my creative practice. Critical thinking is huge. The interdisciplinary aspect is really important to me - I love Wellington. I also love the collaborative ethos at Massey. We all work fabulously together”
(MFA student, 2014, from a fashion design and business background)

The Massey MFA has a strong collective philosophy. By bringing together a small cohort of postgraduate students from design and fine arts, the MFA fosters intense transdisciplinary conversations and exploration. It is well suited to artists working from a hybrid or expanded practice and designers who want to develop adventurous work that challenges convention. The Low Residency mode offers the same intensive transdisplinary engagement while fitting in with work or family commitments, and is flexible enough to be completed while teaching.

For designers as well as artists

The Massey MFA is a transdisciplinary qualification. As they go through their degree, students choose whether they want to graduate with an MFA “in Design”, an MFA “in Fine Arts”, or an MFA without endorsement where they believe their work cannot be framed in terms of either discipline. To date, we have had students whose undergraduate training is in fashion design, photography, textile design, industrial design, graphic design, and fine arts.

International recognition

The Massey MFA has been awarded ‘substantial equivalency’ status by the US National Association of Schools of Art and Design, putting it on a par with similar degrees from many leading US universities. We are Ranked Second in the Asia Pacific region for design concept, by global design ranking agency Red Dot. We were shortlisted for the 2015 international Reimagine Education Awards for curriculum innovation. If you are an international student, please contact Massey’s International Office for essential advice on visas and other requirements.

If you are an international student, please check out how to apply.

Unique in New Zealand

Although the norm in the United States, an advanced two year MFA is rare in Australasia. The Massey MFA is an intensive commitment, which we believe is required to develop a fully realised body of creative work. The first year (full-time) offers students the freedom to ‘travel’ creatively-speaking. Students dig deep, interrogating the fundamentals of their practice. There is no pressure at this point to produce fully resolved work; students are expected to push their work in new directions and explore the possibilities in their ‘failures’ as well as their ‘successes’. By the second year (full-time), most students are demonstrating a much deeper, critically informed sense of who they are as creative practitioners and carry that into their final thesis project.

The programme is based around seminars and masterclasses led by visiting lecturers and academic staff at the College of Creative Arts, along with regular group critiques and one-on-one meetings with mentors and supervisors.

The MFA also includes:

  • Creative retreats with international thinkers-in-residence
  • Critical Forum: responding to provocations from New Zealand and overseas artists, designers and thinkers
  • international study tours, extensive exhibition/presentation opportunities
  • Postgrad studio space and other state-of-the-art facilities
  • Warm, friendly cohort environment

Some of the things we value: lively debate, criticality, technical virtuosity; social engagement, challenge, metamorphosis, and great food.

Low Residency MFA

Massey offers two ways to do the MFA:

  • Full-time: on campus in Wellington, including postgraduate studio space on site. Takes two years to complete.
  • Low Residency: come to Wellington for four intensive one-week blocks per year, with mentoring and supervision in your creative practice by distance. The blocks coincide with school holidays. Takes three to four years to complete.

The Low Residency MFA was developed in consultation with secondary school teachers who are looking for advanced professional development as artists, designers and creative practitioners. Although it is timed to fit around the school year, the Low Residency mode is open to any suitable applicants in art and design, not just teachers. To complete the Low Residency MFA in three years, candidates do two part-time years (up to 20 hours per week) and one full-time year (40 hours per week, approx).

A good fit if you:

  • Crave depth, stretch, disruption and transformation in your creative work
  • Thrive in a transdisciplinary environment, relishing the cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches
  • Want to contribute to contemporary issues and debates
  • Value both the conceptual and the material in your creative practice
  • Want to participate in a creative community where we support and challenge each other to explore and experiment
  • Love the vibrant creativity and human scale of Wellington city
Shannon Te Ao (Ngati Tuwharetoa)
Artist, writer, curator

Shannon Te Ao completed his MFA in 2015. His artistic output saw him investigating and responding to material drawn from Maori paradigms, testing the implications of alternative creative, social and linguistic models in relation to contemporary video art and other performative practices. Shannon’s work was shown extensively during his MFA, including at the Biennale of Sydney in 2014. Work he created for the biennale, Two shoots that stretch far out, won the Walters Prize in Contemporary Art, 2016.

“If someone were to say that there are still parts of their practice that they want to critically analyse or unpack, and they want to open up a dialogue with people operating at a higher level, I would suggest they take a look, see if Massey is a good fit for them.

“I was talking to other schools, too, but getting to know the faculty here, they all have aspects of their creative practice that intersect with mine. They’ve got an interesting bag of tricks visible in current trends around the world at the moment.”

Careers

MFA graduates go on to diverse careers in the private and public sectors, including design, technology, business, fine art, writing and education. A rigorous two-year MFA in design or fine arts is widely respected not only in North America but in countries in Asia, South and Central America and parts of Europe that look to the US model.

Inspiring supervisors

The College of Creative Arts has the largest number of internationally ranked researchers in visual art and design of any New Zealand university. All academic staff teaching into postgraduate programmes have significant research profiles. Their areas of expertise include (but are not limited to) memory and memorialisation, photography, zero waste fashion, visual communication, interactive design, curation, interactive music, art criticism, mobile filmmaking, digital and electronic media, Maori visual arts, contemporary sculpture, site-responsive art, experience design and performance. For more information, visit the

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