“I’m around individuals who are making work that is making a difference. I see how hard they’re pushing and how well they’re doing and what an impact they’re making. It’s inspiring to see.”

Katie Lee Mansfield, MFA

Thesis and Exhibition


The MFA graduate program culminates with an MFA thesis exhibition from each student. This is an opportunity to apply theory and method in a project, formulating a question and developing a potential answer. You’ll explore the broader implications of your practice through aesthetic, social, political, economic, and scientific considerations. At SMFA, a thesis is never a definite conclusion, but a moment within the student’s artistic development that demonstrates his/her ability to continue work outside the confines of the institution. 

In addition to the exhibition itself, the thesis contains a written component and a final defense with a three-member thesis committee, which includes faculty and a visiting juror.  The student’s 1000-word thesis statement serves as a clear and coherent textual narrative of their process, research, and intention within their artistic practice. The thesis statement is intended to be developed and revised throughout the course of the thesis year. 

The Thesis Committee is comprised of two graduate faculty advisors (the student’s primary graduate studio advisor and a second graduate studio advisor) and is established in the fall semester of the student’s second year. Of critical importance is the third member of the committee, who must be an arts or field-specific professional from outside the SMFA at Tufts.  

The final thesis review with the student’s committee takes place in during the final Thesis Exhibition. Graduate Advisors serving on the student’s Thesis Committee have the responsibility of extending or withholding credit for the exhibition. They award a grade of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory, and each committee member provides a written evaluation. 


The MFA Program also concludes in a self-curated final exhibition, including a statement of the artist’s intention and goals. The final exhibition propels graduates into the contemporary art community and launches their professional career as artists. Credit for the exhibition is awarded by the SMFA at Tufts Thesis Committee, which is comprised of the student’s academic advisor, a member of the graduate studio faculty, and an external advisor. Please note that participation in the final MFA exhibition can only take place once an MFA candidate has met all graduation requirements.