Today@Sam Article

SHSU Expands Engagement With New MFA In Art And Social Practice

Feb. 4, 2021
SHSU Media Contact: Wes Hamilton

MFA_PosterStory by: Jackie Swan

The Department of Art at Sam Houston State University is expanding their emphasis on community engagement with the new Master of Fine Arts in Art & Social Practice degree. This three-year, 60-credit-hour program provides students with opportunities to develop interdisciplinary projects that collaborate with local organizations and serve a meaningful purpose to the surrounding communities who help create them.

The MFA in Art & Social Practice is open to applicants who hold an undergraduate degree in any art discipline including Photography, Digital Media, Animation, Graphic Design, and 2D, 3D, and time-based Studio Art. Applications are open now through March 1, 2021 for the upcoming fall semester.

Why is an MFA in Art & Social Practice valuable?

Societal change is heavily driven by people who engage in activism. By developing artistic practices and creating works that require audience participation, students can generate awareness of social issues, unite communities, and be catalysts for change.

“Social Practice is a relatively new and growing field in which art is a means of civic empowerment, community organization and development, activism, and education,” said Michael Henderson, professor and chair of the Department of Art. “Students will learn artistic methods to help communities discover their histories and cultural identities while providing voices for stories that need to be heard, especially in underserved areas.”

What does the curriculum of this MFA entail?


Graduate students are provided with individual off-campus studio space in the newly renovated Natural Science and Art Research Center and have access to all facilities in the Dana G. Hoyt Fine Arts Building on campus, including public galleries, design studios, animation studios and computer labs, photography darkrooms, studio and digital photography labs, sculpture, ceramic, painting, and drawing studios.

Graduate assistantships are available in the university galleries, visual resource center, and undergraduate studios.  Second and third-year MFA students will have the opportunity to teach in the department’s foundation program Workshop in Art Studio and History (WASH).  These assistantships will provide MFA students with the opportunity to work alongside faculty and gain experience in gallery practices and operations. 

Students will work directly with local art centers, museums, galleries, advocates, non-profits, and visiting artists on community-based projects. Their work is displayed publicly at the end of their first year and at the conclusion of the program, including a collaborative publication and thesis exhibition featuring work from third-year students.

What can you do with an Art & Social Practice degree?


This program crafts students into creative problem solvers and leaders of collaborative projects on a variety of disciplines such as business, non-profit, entrepreneurial, and community endeavors. Graduates will hold the knowledge and skillsets to seek public art commissions, residency-based projects, private or institutional commissions, museum and gallery positions, and educational work. They will also be desirable for city planning, commercial designing, and teaching.

“This MFA program is unique to the state of Texas and appeals to students who want to use art as a means to create projects that enhance awareness of societal, cultural, ecological or political issues that are of immediate public concern,” Henderson said. “Our graduates will be entrepreneurs who create new programs that engage communities through non-profit as well as commercial organizations. Having a group of local and visiting artists working in Huntsville will enrich the city as they develop projects and exhibit works that focus on important issues and tell stories that are relevant to and come from the local community.”

To learn more about admission and application requirements, visit the MFA in Art & Social Practice homepage or contact Professor Rebecca Finley (


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