A sculpture student works on a hanging candelabra

MFAFine Arts

Learn to refine and sustain a critical art practice that’s interdisciplinary and socially engaged.


Expand your creative practice

Our two-year program provides you with the intellectual tools, facilities, and hands-on experiences you need to critically engage with the contemporary art world. You’ll be free to immerse yourself in a single medium, or you can work across multiple disciplines. Positioned within one of the top art and design colleges in the country, we have access to acclaimed faculty in ceramics, film/video, glass, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, metals, social practice, and textiles.

A student introduces a guest speaker at the Curatorial Research Bureau

Study in the culturally diverse Bay Area

With historical roots in the Arts and Crafts, Beat poetry, and Figurative Art movements, to name a few, the San Francisco Bay Area is a hub for social activism and entrepreneurial activity. We’re close to an extraordinary number of alternative artist-run spaces as well as renowned national museums. Our series of social practice and public forms workshops takes us beyond our classrooms and studios and out into the community, where we launch site-specific projects and collaborate with partners like Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Studios + Shops

Immerse yourself in an artistic community

Margot Becker in her studio during MFA Open Studios

Our graduate studios are located in the Dogpatch neighborhood, home to groundbreaking artists spaces and cultural institutions, such as Minnesota Street Project, Workshop Residence, and the Museum of Craft and Design. Just over a mile south of our San Francisco campus, the studio features large, professional studio spaces; installation and critique spaces; a wood shop, sewing machine, and fabrication area; freight elevator; tool, camera, and projector check-out system; desktop computing stations; a large communal table for events and meetings; and a full kitchen and common area.

Photography students work together to adjust camera settings and direct a photo shoot

Tailor your course of study

You’ll engage with a range of practices, discourses, and histories. Open electives help you push the boundaries of your craft to make ambitious concepts a reality. From curatorial practice and poetry to film and industrial design, you’ll explore the disciplines that interest you the most.

MFA Fine Arts students during MFA Open Studios

Collaborate with visiting artists

Each year, we host a distinguished artist for a month-long Residency Intensive. This gives you unprecedented access to leading figures in contemporary art as you work with them to create a public art project, which can be a performance, film, exhibition, intervention, publication, or reading. You’ll also benefit from the Larry Sultan Visiting Artist Program, a lecture series that invites prominent photographers and media artists to give public presentations and critique student work.

Two students sit inside of a tent installation during the MFA grad show.

Make socially engaged art

The theory and practice of public and socially engaged art is at the heart of the MFA Fine Arts program. You’ll have a chance to take a social practice workshop that focuses on urban environments, regional communities, research-based practice, or institutional structures. Guided by our core faculty, you’ll work with an international group of visiting artists and partners. Bik Van der Pol, Torolab, Tania Bruguera, Ben Kinmont, Amy Franceschini, Ana Teresa Fernandez, Leslie Dreyer, and Christopher Cozier are examples of past collaborators.

CCA’s resources at your fingertips

  • Model-making shop
  • Photography studios and darkrooms
  • Foam room
  • Alternative materials shop
  • Printmaking and bookbinding equipment
  • Metalworking shop
  • Letterpress studio
  • Woodworking shop
  • Digital fabrication tools
  • Foundry and forge
  • Materials reuse center
  • Cement and plaster studio


Artists and social practitioners

Our faculty are practicing artists who have exhibited their work around the world. They’ve curated shows for public institutions and international biennials. Their dedication to social engagement is embedded in our curriculum and gives students opportunities to collaborate with communities, stage public art interventions, and create site-specific projects.

Kantor faculty profile photo.jpg

Jordan Kantor, Chair of MFA in Fine Arts

Chair Jordan Kantor teaches artistic practice and theory. His artwork has been shown in numerous exhibitions, nationally and internationally. In addition to his studio practice, Kantor occasionally writes essays on contemporary art subjects.


Build a cohesive portfolio

Over the course of four semesters, you’ll immerse yourself in research, artmaking, and collaboration. History and theory seminars expose you to contemporary art movements and fine arts seminars extend the conversation, bringing together acclaimed faculty and peers across multiple disciplines. Open electives, offered by all 11 graduate programs, encourage a high level of interdisciplinary exchange. You’ll culminate your studies with a written thesis and exhibition project.

To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses.

MFA Fine Arts

Year 1: Fall Semester

Graduate Studio Practice
6 units
Dialogues and Practices I
3 units
Contemporary Art History and Theory
3 units
Fine Arts Seminar
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Graduate Studio Practice
6 units
History and Theory Elective
3 units
Dialogues and Practices II
3 units
3 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Graduate Studio Practice
6 units
Thesis Seminar
3 units
Fine Arts Seminar
3 units
3 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

Graduate Studio Practice
6 units
Exhibition Seminar
3 units
Fine Arts Seminar
3 units
3 units

Total 60 units


Creative and scholarly practitioners

MFA Fine Arts graduates are well-versed in traditional craft and cutting-edge fabrication methods. They use their skills as socially engaged artists to establish their own collectives, lead educational initiatives for museums, and exhibit at some of the most innovative art spaces nationally and internationally and in the Bay Area. Notable alumni include Hank Willis Thomas (2004).

Potential career paths

  • Visual artist
  • Writer and critic
  • Curator
  • Photographer
  • Filmmaker
  • Educator
  • Community activist
  • Researcher
  • Arts administrator

News + Events

What’s happening in our community?

How to Apply

Gather your strongest work for your application

Our two-year program welcomes students of all ages and backgrounds. Most have a bachelor of fine arts degree, but their areas of interest vary widely. We get excited about artists who are open-minded and eager to work in previously unfamiliar contexts. Placement in our program is largely based on the strength of your portfolio and transcripts.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Additionally, you’ll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific master’s program. After you submit all materials, you may be selected for an online or on-campus interview with the graduate program manager or a faculty member.

MFA Fine Arts submissions

Visual portfolio

Your portfolio may include still images, videos, and time-based or interactive media. If you choose to submit a video or time-based media project, you must also include a five-minute sample reel that’s clearly labeled with the title, date, running time, and brief description of the work(s). Our selection committee will view your portfolio on a computer, so please make sure it adheres to the following requirements:

  • Must be uploaded to SlideRoom
  • Maximum of 15 still images
  • Maximum of 5 MB file size per image
  • Maximum of 60 MB file size per video or interactive media

Once your portfolio has been submitted via SlideRoom, no further changes can be made. Academic, personal, and professional work are all encouraged.

Personal essay

In a personal essay of 500 to 1,000 words, clearly state how your work fits within the context of a contemporary art practice and why you want to study at the master’s level. While personal essays can range in content, it’s generally good to focus on your areas of interest and any critical influences. Your personal essay must be in PDF format.

Contact our program manager with questions

Emily Shallman

Senior Program Manager of Academic Programs, Fine Arts Division

+1 415-551-9213

[email protected]

Join a studio culture focused on innovation

Apply now