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The final requirement of the Master of Fine Arts 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 your competence as an artist.

The M.F.A. exhibition must be accompanied by a written statement that documents your 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 you 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.

Policies and Procedures

Preparation for the M.F.A. exhibition begins during the semester in which you are completing the last required hours of studio work. At this time, you must obtain the consent of three graduate art faculty members to serve as an advisory committee who will review and guide your progress in producing the exhibition and its documentation. The steps to be taken in the preparation of the exhibition are:

Exhibition Advisory Committee

The Exhibition Advisory Committee is composed of a chair and at least three other regular, limited or affiliate 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. Exercise care in the selection of the advisory committee chair; you will be working closely with them in all phases of the project.

Duties of the Exhibition Committee Chair

The committee chair is responsible for guiding you through the process of completing both the exhibition and documentation of purpose and technique and must be thoroughly familiar with all requirements, procedures, schedules and deadlines in both the Graduate Bulletin and the Exhibition Guide. Actively participating as your mentor in every aspect of the exhibition requirement, the committee chair is your 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 and is responsible for conducting a thorough, fair and equitable exhibition defense and for turning in a final grade for the exhibition class.

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. They must be available for regular committee meetings and should consult individually with you as required.

Responsibilities of the Student

You are responsible for knowing all of the requirements, procedures and deadlines detailed in the Graduate Bulletin and in the Exhibition Guide. You also are responsible for completing the artwork, 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.

Exhibition Proposal

As soon as possible, and with the advice and approval of the exhibition committee chair, you must define the broad parameters of the exhibition. Submit an exhibition proposal to the advisory committee for approval. After obtaining each committee member's signature on the Exhibition Proposal Approval Form, submit the proposal to the dean of research and graduate studies for approval.

Exhibition Proposal Preparation

Your work 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.


The exhibition should be identified as follows:

(Title), an exhibition of (paintings, sculpture, etc.) by (candidate's name), (date).

Description of the Proposed Work

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 should be included.


In this section of the proposal, provide a brief indication of the source, inspiration or basis for the work proposed.

Registration for the M.F.A. Exhibition Course, Art 591

After receiving the department chair's approval of the exhibitions proposal, you may register for the M.F.A. exhibition course, Art 591. You must be enrolled in the course during the semester or summer session in which the documentation examination/defense is conducted. Enrollment in the course is not required for the semester or summer session in which you graduate unless it is the same one during which the exhibition is defended. Following the initial enrollment in Art 591, you must continue to register for the course each fall and spring semester and each summer session until the exhibition is successfully defended.

Preparation of the Exhibition

You may register for Art 591 and begin work on the exhibition after the advisory committee is established and the exhibition proposal is approved. Meet regularly with the advisory committee chair, and schedule periodic meetings with the advisory committee.

Preparation of the Written Documentation of Purpose and Technique

The documentation of purpose must provide information necessary for someone to grasp the intent of the work.

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.

In preparing the required documentation of purpose and technique, provide documentation that can be related directly to the art works. Inconsistency between your purpose and technique and the work may be grounds for rejection of the exhibition. Though it is common and acceptable for your purpose to deviate in the course of the creative process, the exhibition of the work establishes your purpose. The examination committee will make its recommendation to certify or not certify your ability to provide viable art works and to understand and articulate the intellectual, technical and creative processes involved based on the work as presented.

Questions to test the effectiveness of the M.F.A. exhibition written documentation include:

  • Does the text address the following:
    • What principles govern the form of the work?
    • What methods were employed in the use of materials?
  • Does the text provide sufficient information to lead a knowledgeable spectator to an understanding of what the work is intended to do or mean?
  • Does the paper demonstrate a thorough awareness of the source, inspiration and tradition relevant to the work?
  • 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?
  • Is the text well-written? Does the text conform to standard English usage and to the form required by this guide?

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:

  • Be complete in all aspects.
  • Be clearly readable on inexpensive paper, such as used in copy machines.
  • Be mechanically correct.
  • Include photos or slides of the work.
  • Have been approved for content by all members of the Exhibition Advisory Committee.

Exhibition Defense - Application

Application for the exhibition examination is filed in the Graduate Office at least four weeks 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.

Exhibition Report

Following the defense, the chair of the Exhibition Advisory Committee submits a report of the examination to the dean of research and graduate studies (see Report of Exhibition Form).

Public Exhibition

Arrangement for the exhibition of the approved work must be made with the committee and the secretary of the School of Art.

Submit Exhibition Documentation to Graduate Office

Following the exhibition defense, and after incorporating the examining committee’s changes and corrections and bearing their signatures, submit the final manuscript electronically to the graduate office for approval. The final manuscripts (the original plus four copies) must all be signed by each member of the Exhibition Advisory Committee. It must meet all specification of this guide before multiple copies are made.

Submission of Final Copies of Written Document of Purpose and Technique

Take the original manuscript and all copies to the Steen Library. After binding, one copy 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 School of Art; and the original bound manuscript is sent to you.

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.

Preparing the Written Document of Purpose and Technique

The final manuscript is the completed document approved by the Exhibition Advisory Committee and the dean of research and graduate studies and subsequently bound and placed in the library. It must be of the highest possible quality with respect to content and presentation.

The student bears the primary responsibility for quality, but each member of the Exhibition Advisory Committee also bears responsibility and is not obligated to approve the work until satisfied with the overall quality of the thesis. Before uploading the manuscript, thoroughly proofread all pages to make sure mechanical specifications have been met. Failure to meet one or more specifications could result in the manuscript being returned for correction.

Mechanical Specifications

The sample forms contain a template for spacing, margins, headings and page number locations.


Arial 12-point font or larger is preferred. Where necessary, smaller type may be used in figures and tables; however, all letters and numbers must be large enough to be reproduced clearly, or the library will not accept the thesis for binding.


For preliminary pages (table of contents, list of figures and tables, and abstract), lowercase Roman numerals must be placed in the center, 1 inch from the bottom edge of the page. For pages containing primary headings (chapter, bibliography and appendix), Arabic numerals must be placed in the center, 1 inch from the bottom edge of the page. For all other pages, except the title and signature pages, Arabic numeral must be placed in the upper right corner, 1 inch from the top and 1 inch from the right edge of the page (see sample form c). You may choose to use Arabic numerals placed in the center, 1 inch from the bottom edge of the page.


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.


All pages of the documentation must have the following margins: 1 inch on the right and bottom, 1 1/2 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 five spaces from the left margin. Equations, formulas and other such notation should be centered.


Major divisions of the documentation (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 above and below secondary headings. Tertiary headings are capitalized, underlined, and begin at the left margin, with double spaces should be above and below (see sample form c).

Tables and Figures

Tables and figures must appear in the text as near as possible to the discussion relating to them. Under no circumstance will a table or figure precede the first discussion of its content (exception: tables in appendices). Tables and figures should not be inserted in the middle of a sentence. Tables and figures should be numbered consecutively.  Tables and figures must have a caption the tells concisely what it contains. The caption must be placed above a table and below a figure.  Tables and figures fit within margins (page orientation may be changed to landscape with the top at the binding [left] side). Tables are cleanly formatted, with the least number of horizontal and vertical lines to separate main elements. If a table spans multiple pages, the word (continued) appears on the last line of the table before the break – this goes for each page where a break occurs. If a table spans multiple pages, the table’s headings repeat at the top of each new page.

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).

Should a question or problem arise concerning the mechanical content or presentation format of the exhibition documentation, contact 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 - a formal record of approval (see sample form b)
  4. Abstract – a concise description, in 150 words or less, of the problem, methods of approach, salient results obtained, and conclusions and their significance. The abstract will be published in “Thesis Abstracts” and 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
  11. Bibliography - depending on the style used, 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 your educational and professional experience. Thesis typist and style manual are identified at the bottom of the page (see sample form d).

Important reminders:

  • Make use of the templates and sample thesis documents.
  • Have all signature pages individually signed, if you so desire.
  • Return final copies to the Steen Library in envelopes with a copy of the cover page taped to the front of the envelopes.
  • Pay thesis binding fees at the library for any additional copies requested.


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