Studio Diploma

Studio Diploma Alumni Spotlight
Alumna Lynda Michaud Cutrell is changing perceptions about mental health through art. Read the story here.

The Studio Diploma program is designed for students who want a concentrated, specialized art education in preparation for an independent, professional art practice.

This certificate program offers an exceptional opportunity to combine an exploratory approach to art with a rigorous education in traditional and contemporary art-making skills. 

Since its inception, the Studio Diploma has been one of SMFA’s core programs and remains central to our philosophy of interdisciplinary art education. This studio-based certificate program is one of five college-level programs at SMFA and has produced many important and well-known contemporary artists.

As a student, you will be part of a cohort of peers and will benefit from professional artist mentors and a rigorous studio art curriculum including a seminar and regular Review Boards. Through this experience, you will develop and deepen your art practice. In addition, you will begin to develop practical business skills such as navigating the professional art world and managing the business of art.

The Studio Diploma is an entirely studio-based certificate program—you will not take academic (liberal arts & sciences) courses. Instead, you will choose your coursework from the BFA curriculum of studio courses chosen on the basis of your individual artistic goals, background, and objectives.

The Studio Diploma Program is designed for the self-driven student looking for intensive studio instruction and practice within a flexible structure. You can choose to pursue the certificate full-time or part-time; full-time students complete the program in 2.5 years, whereas part-time have up to 5 years to complete the program. 

Our Philosophy

At the core of the SMFA’s pedagogy is the idea that the development of an artistic practice is an organic and fluid process, one that requires self‐direction and flourishes with intense mentorship.

Studio Diploma students select courses across various studio areas of study in consultation with the program director and faculty, with the objective of establishing essential competencies across mediums. You have the freedom to select courses based on your individual preference, as well as expand your expertise by experimenting and choosing classes in new studio areas.

Student work is evaluated through direct discussions with faculty mentors in class portfolio reviews and at Review Boards at the end of each semester, rather than receiving traditional letter grades.

Key Program Components

Diploma Program Seminar. The seminar serves as the center of the certificate program and is required in the first four consecutive semesters of study. The course provides intensive individual guidance, mentoring, and both individual and group critique. The Seminar’s goals are to support students to:

  • Advance their art-making.
  • Learn practical presentation and research techniques.
  • Build planning and self-assessment skills.
  • Develop an integrated studio practice that links work across various mediums.
  • Form a strong, collaborative cohort of program peers who will work together to help one another progress toward their individual goals. 

Courses. Diploma students choose from the entire undergraduate, BFA studio curriculum for their coursework. Courses range from figure drawing to performance art to virtual reality.  

Rather than take individual classes in the continuing education structure, Studio Diploma students enroll in the same courses as BFA students. This approach not only widens the range of courses available to Studio Diploma students, but also sets their curriculum within a developmental program structure.  

Review Boards. Studio Diploma students participate in a Review Board at the end of each semester. This opportunity to assess an entire semester’s body of work encourages a critical dialogue highlighting the artist’s work as a whole, and the relationships between their various mediums and artworks. The Review Board helps students develop their ability to discuss their artistic ideas and direction.

Individualized Mentorship. Our Diploma students benefit from individualized mentorship, not only from their academic advisor, but from faculty and Studio Managers who support their artistic practice and exploration.

Studio Space in Mission Hill. Studio Diploma students are given an individual studio work space in SMFA’s Mission Hill Building at 160 Saint Alphonsus Street. This provides a place to further develop their artwork and practice outside of classes and seminars. Our Mission Hill studios bring together students from across SMFA who build connections, develop relationships, and inspire each other.

Independent Projects. When students reach an advanced point in the program, each undertakes a semester-long independent project, conceived, planned, and arranged individually in consultation with faculty. This body of work forms the basis for a public exhibition at SMFA where students exhibit their work along with a written presentation of their creative process, their progress, and their experience mounting the exhibition.


The 2018-2019 program costs for full-time study are as follows:

Tuition - $39,402 (annual)
Comprehensive fees - $725 
Health Insurance - $2,750 (unless waived)

Students are required to have health insurance and will be charged the health insurance fee or must provide proof of outside insurance. Housing is not provided.

There is no institutional, state, or federal aid available for this program.

Part-time study must be approved by the program director and SMFA Dean of Advising. Tuition is billed on a per-credit basis.

How to Apply

Applications are now being accepted for Studio Diploma students entering in spring 2019.

Applications for the Studio Diploma certificate program are reviewed on a rolling basis. Once admitted, students can start in either the fall or spring semester.

Students interested in the program must complete our online application via Slideroom. This application includes a statement of purpose, an academic or professional CV, one to two letters of recommendation, and a portfolio consisting of at least 10 images. There is a $35 application fee to apply. Payment is completed online when you submit your application. Note: applicants must have obtained a minimum of high school diploma or GED.

Once your completed application is received, our office will be in contact you within 2-3 weeks to set up time for an interview with the program director. This interview can be held in person or via phone.

Students are notified of admission decisions within one week of their interview.

Visa requirements for international students

International students who have been admitted to the program must submit their visa document applications by June 30 for a fall start date and by November 30 for spring class start date. F-1 visas can only be issued to students who are enrolled in a full-time program.

For international students currently on an F-1 visa, their SEVIS record can be transferred to Tufts prior to the beginning of the program. To learn about the process for requesting a visa document, visit the Tufts International Center website.


Please consult our frequently asked questions for more information on the Studio Diploma program.

For questions regarding the program’s curriculum, please contact Nan Freeman, Program Director.