Stephen F. Austin State University

Exhibition Guide and Forms

The Master of Fine Arts Exhibition

The final requirement of the Master of Fine Arts degree is the production and exhibition of a work or group of works of art. The creative, expressive, intellectual, and formal significance of this exhibition is the basis for the faculty's certification of the candidate's competence as an artist.

The MFA exhibition must be accompanied by a written statement that documents the candidate's purpose as well as the techniques employed in the works to achieve that purpose. The clarity, cogency, and insight demonstrated by this statement is a major basis for the faculty's certification of the candidate as a person of understanding worthy of receiving a terminal degree.

Because the exhibition documentation will be bound and permanently placed in the library for public scrutiny, it must be acceptable both in content and expression, and in a format suitable for a library collection.

Procedures and Policies

Preparation for the MFA exhibition begins during the semester in which the candidate is completing the last required hours of studio work. At this time, the candidate must obtain the consent of three graduate art faculty members to serve as an advisory committee which will review and guide the candidate's progress in producing the exhibition and its documentation. The sequences of steps to be taken in the preparation of the exhibition are as follows:

  1. Exhibition Advisory Committee: The Exhibition Advisory Committee is to be composed of a chair and at least three other Full, Associate, or Adjunct Members of the Graduate Faculty: two are selected by the student in consultation with the committee chair and approved by the Department Chair. The third is from outside the department and appointed by the department chair. The candidate should exercise particular care in the selection of the advisory committee chair, because this person will be working most closely with the candidate in all phases of the project.
  2. Duties of the Exhibition Committee Chair: The committee chair is responsible for guiding the student through the process of completing both the exhibition and documentation of purpose and technique. The committee chair must be thoroughly familiar with all requirements, procedures, schedules, and deadlines contained in both the Graduate Bulletin and the Exhibition Guide. The committee chair actively participates as the student's mentor in every aspect of the exhibition requirement. The committee chair is the student's primary contact with the Exhibition Committee and is responsible for the overall conduct of the committee. The committee chair is the primary reader and editor of the written documentation of purpose and technique. The committee chair is responsible for conducting a thorough, fair, and equitable exhibition defense. The committee chair is also responsible for turning in a final grade for the exhibition class
  3. Duties of Exhibition Committee Members: Exhibition Committee Members are responsible for knowing all of the requirements, procedures, schedules, and deadlines, published in the Exhibition Guide and the Graduate Bulletin. Committee members provide advice and counsel regarding the production of works included in the exhibition and the writing of documentation of the purpose and technique. Committee Members must be available for regular committee meetings and should consult individually with the student as required.
  4. Responsibilities of the Student: The student is responsible for knowing all of the requirements, procedures, and deadlines detailed in the Graduate Bulletin and in the Exhibition Guide. The student is responsible for completing the art work, the written documentation of purpose and technique, the scheduling and mounting of the exhibition and all other requirements included in the Exhibition Guide and the Graduate Bulletin.
  5. Exhibition Proposal: As soon as possible and with the advice and approval of the exhibition committee chair, the student must define the broad parameters of the exhibition. An exhibition proposal is then prepared and submitted to the advisory committee for approval (See instructions for Preparation of Exhibition Proposal). After obtaining each committee member's signature on the Exhbition Proposal Approval Form, the proposal is submitted by the student to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research for approval.
  6. Registration for the MFA Exhibition Course, Art 591: After receiving the department chair's approval of the exhibitions proposal, but not before, the student may register for the MFA Exhibition course, Art 591. A student must be enrolled in Art 591 during the semester or summer session in which the documentation examination/defense is conducted. Enrollment in Art 591 is not required for the semester or summer session in which the student graduates unless it is the same one during which the exhibition is defended. Following the initial enrollment in Art 591, a student must continue to register for Art 591 each fall and spring semester and each summer session until the exhibition is successfully defended.
  7. Preparation of the Exhibition: The candidate may register for Art 591 and begin work on the exhibition after the advisory committee is established and the exhibition proposal is approved. The candidate should meet regularly with the advisory committee chair and schedule periodic meetings with the whole advisory committee.
  8. Preparation of the Written Documentation of Purpose and Technique: The documentation of the candidate's purpose must provide the information necessary for a visually and verbally literate person to grasp the intent of the work. In short, the candidate should provide information which leads to an understanding of what the work is intended to do or mean.

    The documentation of technique must demonstrate a thorough awareness of the source, inspiration, and tradition relevant to the work, as well as the particular methods employed in the use of materials and principles that determined the form of the completed work.

    The candidate, in preparing the required documentation of purpose and technique, should take care to provide documentation which can be related directly to the art works, because inconsistency between the candidate's purpose and technique and the work may be grounds for rejection of the exhibition. Though it is common and quite acceptable for an artist's purpose to deviate in the course of the creative process, the exhibition of the work establishes the artist's purpose. Thus the work as presented and the documentation of purpose and technique will be the basis upon which the exhibition examination committee will make its recommendation to certify or not certify the candidate's ability to produce viable art works and to understand and articulate the intellectual, technical, and creative processes involved.

    Questions to test the effectiveness of the MFA exhibition written documentation include:
    1. Does the text address the following:
      1. What principles govern the form of the work?
      2. What methods were employed in the use of materials?
    2. Does the text provide sufficient information to lead a knowledgeable spectator to an understanding of what the work is intended to do or mean?
    3. Does the paper demonstrate a thorough awareness of the source, inspiration, and tradition relevant to the work?
    4. Can the substance of the text be directly correlated to the art work? Is what is written consistent with what can be observed in the work?
    5. Is the text well written? Does the text conform to standard English usage and to the form required by this guide?
  9. Exhibition Defense - Draft Manuscript: A final draft or final manuscript of the exhibit document will serve as a basis for the exhibition examination/defense. A final draft must meet the following requirements:
    1. Be complete in all aspects.
    2. Be clearly readable in letter-quality print or better, but on inexpensive paper, such as used in word processors and copy machines.
    3. Be mechanically correct. (See items 3 through 8 under Preparation of the Written Document of Purpose and Technique).
    4. Include photographs or slides of the work.
    5. Have been approved for content by all members of the Exhibition Advisory Committee.
  10. Exhibition Defense - Application: Application for the exhibition examination is filed in the Graduate Office at least one week prior to graduation. Application cannot be made until the draft has been received by the Graduate Office. Copies of the final draft must be in the hands of the examining committee at least one week prior to the defense. Final draft copies, which are provided for external committee members, must include a photographic record of the work. The actual art work may not be publicly exhibited until after the work is successfully defended.
  11. Exhibition Report: Following the defense, the chair of the Exhibition Advisory Committee submits a report of the examination to the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research (See Report of Exhibition Form).
  12. Public Exhibition: Arrangement for the exhibition of the approved work must be made with the committee and the secretary of the Department of Art.
  13. Submit Exhibition Documentation to Graduate Office: Following the exhibition defense, the final manuscript, incorporating changes and corrections required by the examining committee and bearing the signatures of all three members of the advisory committee is submitted to the Graduate Office for approval. The final manuscripts (original plus four copies) must all be signed by each member of the Exhibition Advisory Committee. The final manuscript must meet all specification of this guide before multiple copies are made.
  14. Binding, Shipping, and Microfilming Fees: After the final manuscript has been signed by the Exhibition Advisory Committee and approved by the Graduate Office, one copy must be taken to the Technical Services Office of the Steen Library for payment of fees for binding, shipping, and microfilming. The graduate student obtains a receipt for payment of fees.
  15. Submission of Final Copies of Written Document of Purpose and Technique: The graduate student takes the original manuscript and all copies, along with the fee receipt, to the Graduate Office to obtain the signature of the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research. The Graduate Office then sends all copies to the Library for binding. After binding, two copies will be retained by the Library, one copy will be sent to the chair of the Exhibition Advisory Committee, one copy will be sent to the Department of Art, and the original bound manuscript is sent to the graduate student.
  16. Grade for Art 591: When the exhibition defense form has been signed by the Exhibition Advisory Committee and the Department Chair, it is the responsibility of the Committee to report grades for Art 591 to the Registrar.

Exhibition Proposal Preparation

The candidate should be aware that the work itself must be judged by the faculty to be original, as well as technically expressive and formally significant. The exhibition proposal should address the following topics, in the exact order as shown below. Thesis guidelines should be used for margins, etc.

  1. Title
    The exhibition should be identified as follows:
    __________ (title) __________, an exhibition of ___(paintings, sculpture, etc.)____ by __(candidate's name)__, _ (date) _.
  2. Description of the Proposed Work
    The candidate should provide a brief description of the work to be undertaken. The media, content, and formal characteristics of the proposed work should be projected as completely and succinctly as possible. If innovative or unusual techniques are to be employed, a brief description of these should be included.
  3. Background
    In this section of the proposal, the candidate should provide a brief indication of the source, inspiration, or basis for the work proposed.

Preparing the Written Document of Pupose and Technique

The final manuscript is the document that is signed by the Exhibition Advisory Committee and the Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research and subsequently bound and placed in the library. Therefore, the manuscript must be of the highest possible quality with respect to content and presentation. The student bears the primary responsibility for quality, but must realize that each member of the advisory committee also bears responsibility and is not obligated to sign the manuscript until satisfied insofar as quality is concerned. Before making copies of the manuscript, the student should thoroughly proofread all pages to make sure all the mechanical specifications have been met. Failure to meet one or more specifications could result in the manuscript being returned for correction, thereby causing the expenditure of additional time and money that could otherwise be avoided.

Mechanical Specifications

The Exhibition Guide contains a template for spacing, margins, headings, and page number locations. We suggest that you make a transparency to verify your format prior to submitting your manuscript to the Graduate School.

Paper - Twenty pound (20#) bond paper and 8 ½ by 11 inches in size is required for all bound pages in all copies as well as the original. For materials too large for binding which are contained in a pocket, e.g., charts and maps, a suitable high quality paper must also be used.

Type - Fonts of 12 or 10 characters per inch are acceptable for text and for figure/table captions. The preferred font is Arial 12-point or larger. No letter is smaller than 2 millimeters. Where necessary, smaller type may be used in figures and tables. However, all letters and numbers must be large enough to be reproduced clearly on microfilm or the library will not accept the thesis for binding and microfilming.

You should check with the Technical Services Office in the library before using smaller than normal type or print. Other fonts on standard word processors may also be acceptable. If there is any question as to whether or not a particular type is acceptable, the student should bring a sample of the type to the Graduate Office for examination and approval. If a student elects to use justification on the right margin, proportional printing must be used.

Pagination - For preliminary pages, e.g, Table of Contents, List of Figures & Tables and Abstract, lower case Roman numerals must be placed in the center, 1 inch from the bottom edge of the page. For pages containing primary headings, e.g., Chapter, Bibliography, and Appendix, Arabic numerals must be places in the center, one inch from the bottom edge of the page. For all other pages, except the title and signature pages, Arabic numeral must be places in the upper right corner, 1 inch from the top and 1 inch from the right edges of the page (see Sample Form C). As an option, the student may chose to use Arabic numerals placed in the center at the bottom of the page 1 inch from the bottom edge of the page.

Spacing - Text must be double spaced. Footnotes, captions, and figures should be single spaced. Appendix materials also may be single spaced. In the Bibliography/References section, citations are single spaced with double space between citations.

Margins - All pages of the documentation must have the following margins: 1 inch on the right and bottom, 1 ½ inches on the left and top. For pages bearing a primary heading, the top margin is 2 inches (see Sample Form C). The first line of each paragraph and footnote should be indented 5 spaces from the left margin. Equations, formulas, and other such notation should be centered.

Headings - Major divisions of the documentation, e.g., Introduction, Chapter, Bibliography, and Appendix, require primary headings and must being on a new page. Primary headings are centered 2 inches from the top edge of the page and typed in all capital letters. The first line of text below the heading should be triple spaced beneath it. Secondary headings are centered, with the first letter of each word capitalized, and do not require a new page. Triple space should be above and below secondary headings. Tertiary headings are capitalized, underlined, and begin at the left margin. Double spaces should be above and below tertiary headings (see Sample Form C).

Figures and Tables - Line drawings and diagrams, maps, charts, halftones, photographs, etc., are considered as figures and should be of professional quality. Photographs and figures may be either color or black and white. Original photographs or high resolution reproductions are acceptable; photocopies are not. If photographs are pasted to the page, a high quality, long-lasting cement must be used. Figures and tables require captions, which should be single spaced. If there is insufficient space within the required margins for both the figure/table an caption, the caption may be placed on a facing page, the back of which is blank except for the page number properly located in the upper right corner. Captions must be in the same type as the text and listed as written in the List of Figure and List of Table sections of the documentation. No text or number on a table or figure should be (after reduction) smaller than the equivalent character set whose shortest letters are 2 millimeters high.

Reference Citation - Style and manner of reference citation and bibliographic format are determined by academic discipline. The style manual or journal used must be acceptable to the discipline and stated on the bottom of the Vita page preceding the identification of the typist (see Sample Form D).

Note: Should a question or problem arise concerning the mechanical content or presentation format of the exhibition documentation that is not addressed in this Guide, the student should consult the Graduate Office before proceeding.

Parts of the Exhibition

The thesis should be arranged as follows:

  1. Flyleaf - a blank page for protection in binding
  2. Title Page - conventional page showing essential bibliographical information (see sample form A)
  3. Signature page - serves as a formal record of approval (see sample form B)
  4. Abstract - An abstract is required by the Graduate School. It should be comprised, in 150 words or less, of a brief, concise description of the problem, methods of approach, salient results obtained, and conclusions and their significance. The abstract will be published in Thesis Abstracts and therefore will largely determine who utilizes the thesis in the future.
  5. Preface (Optional)
  6. Acknowledgements (Optional)
  7. Table of Contents - a paginated guide or outline listing primary, secondary, and tertiary headings
  8. List of Figures - a paginated listing of all figure captions as they appear with the figures they accompany. Used only when thesis contains figures.
  9. List of Tables - format same as item 8. Used only when thesis contains tables
  10. Text - the main body of the thesis (see form C and form D)
  11. Bibliography - depending on the style used, also may be labeled References, References Cited, or Literature Cited. Format must be consistent with style followed throughout the thesis
  12. Appendix (Optional)
  13. Vita - a brief autobiographical sketch emphasizing the student's educational and professional experience. Thesis typist and style manual are identified at the bottom of the page (see sample form E)

Important reminders:

Note: Should a question or problem arise concerning the mechanical content or presentation format of the thesis that is not addressed in this guide, the student should consult the Graduate Office before proceeding.

Sample Documents and Forms

Report of Exhibition Examination

File size: 11.34 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Application for Exhibition Examination

File size: 11.10 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Exhibition Proposal Approval Form

File size: 13.98 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sample Vita (Form D)

File size: 10.93 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Template for pagination, margins, and headings (Form C)

File size: 26.22 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sample Signature Page (Form B)

File size: 21.85 KB

Updated: Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sample Title Page (Form A)

File size: 8.98 KB

Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012