Masters Degree in Visual Arts

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A Masters in Visual Art is typically studied over one year full time or two years if studying part time. Because the thrust of a visual arts postgraduate degree is the conception and development of an individual visual arts project, the majority of degrees combine self-motivated research and practical work with workshops and individual tutorials from lecturers experienced in different fields of the visual arts. Some institutions also offer online learning options, typically with a one or two week residential option to allow students to meet their tutors in person and network with their contemporaries. Lots of Masters in Visual Arts programs conclude with a group exhibition. Successful applicants usually need a bachelors degree in a related field to be accepted onto a visual arts masters course, but entry requirements vary between institutions, and an individual’s personal history and portfolio will be taken into account.

Visual arts

Structure of a Visual Arts Masters Degree

The most significant part of a Masters in Visual Arts will normally be a final project to be completed and presented at the end of the course. Students will work throughout the one or two years of their course conceiving, refining and constructing their project they will receive tailored tutorials to help their project and will be expected to produce progress reports throughout the course.

In tandem to this practical assignment, students can also expect to attend workshops on different aspects of the arts industry, such as exhibition design, portfolio management and grant applications. Institutions will sometimes organise for professional practitioners in the visual arts to give one-off lectures, and provide networking opportunities with arts organisations. Local curators and arts professionals will often attend the final gallery show.

Areas of Study in Visual Arts

Students can specialise in one of several areas of the visual arts, depending on their personal artistic practice and interests. Many institutions promote a vibrant interdisciplinary approach to the visual arts, so candidates are able to combine two or more interests in their studies.

Fine Art: Fine art covers those art practices that have historically been seen to define art for art’s sake (as opposed to applied art, where functionality is important). So this area of study can include painting, sculpture and conceptual art.

Animation: Individuals interested in animation may work with computer graphics or more traditional printmaking and material-based practices, such as Claymation or stop-motion animation. Students will usually be expected to produce an original short piece of animation by the end of the course.

Photography: Still photography is another possible avenue within a visual arts masters. Students may produce a conceptually coherent series of images or develop new ways of approaching photography (often using digital image manipulation technology). Photographers can be either studio based or work in the field – and funding opportunities may exist to help cover travel costs where appropriate.

Film: The length of a masters program means that students specialising in film will normally work to produce a short film. This will give them experience not only in concept and narrative development, but also the technical aspects of film production.

Digital Media: Creating artworks using digital technology is increasingly becoming a viable path within a postgraduate visual arts degree. The seeming ubiquity an exponential expansion of digital imagery in the modern world makes this a cutting edge area of study.

Games Design: Video game design is another area that a candidate can specialise in. Working with digital technology, students may seek to generate new concepts for game visuals or seek to work in an interdisciplinary way, bringing elements of game design in conjunction with other areas of visual arts, such as animation.

Masters in Arts Student Case Studies

There are many reasons for studying a visual arts masters degree – and many great experiences to be had – as these quotes from recent students show.

 

Sarnath Banerjee studied photography for his masters and explains that, “Having a degree orientates your thinking in a certain way and gives you a kind of quiet self-confidence and access to a vast network of people.”

Eammon O’Neil specialised in animation and was drawn to do a masters by “The sense that I would be encouraged to explore my own interests . . . My goal was to create an engaging and honest film, to push myself further than I had before in all aspects of the production.”

 

Career Opportunities for Graduates of a Masters in Visual Arts

For many individuals a Masters in Visual Arts is a step towards becoming a full-time artist. The degree will certainly have enhanced the student’s portfolio and given them some theoretical framework to help explain and situate their work in the wider field of the arts. But there are other options for graduates to pursue. Industries where visual imagery is important – such as publishing, advertising and illustration – all hire graduates from visual arts programs. 

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