Overview of Graduate Programs

For over 100 years, PNCA has served as a creative hub for artists and designers with an educational philosophy that emphasizes individualized curricula, independent inquiry and cross-disciplinary exchange. Graduate programs at PNCA within the Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies are designed to support students as they grow and define a sustainable, engaged and dynamic artistic practice that will continue to evolve years after graduation.

MFA in Applied Craft and Design

With over 200 years of combined experience, Oregon College of Art and Craft and Pacific Northwest College of Art’s joint MFA in Applied Craft and Design fosters a new, forward-thinking model of art and design education that gives students access to the resources of both colleges. The unique, two-year program merges the highest level of craft with design practice and entrepreneurial strategies. The program is designed for students eager to explore the fusion of tradition, innovation, and practice with design theory and hands-on making.

MFA in Collaborative Design

This unique program is tailored for early and mid-career creatives who wish to continue working while taking late afternoon and evening classes to up-level skills and aptitudes for a rapidly changing design environment. We take a critical and entrepreneurial approach to “wicked” problems such as resource depletion, emerging technologies, climate change and global demographic shifts. The MFA in Collaborative Design draws on the city of Portland, the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Rim as learning labs for graduate students seeking expanded design practices to meaningfully address the emerging challenges of the 21st century.

MFA in Visual Studies

Making art in the present tense inspires the program’s highly selective group of artists and designers. As part of this exceptional MFA in Visual Studies, students respond to the art world’s constant evolution with rigorous creative and critical investigation. Independent inquiry and close mentorships drive PNCA’s uncommonly flexible and challenging program, enlivened by the non-stop energy of Portland’s creative community and visiting artists from around the globe.

Low-Residency MFA in Visual Studies

Our Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts in Visual Studies is designed for the non-traditional student who has an independent creative practice.  The MFA in Visual Studies / Low Residency is a sixty-credit practice-oriented program. It is structured as an individualized, self-designed, mentor-based program.  The low residency program’s longer degree-completion times, flexible schedules, lower tuition and cost of attendance, and the distance-learning component that does not require students to permanently relocate will make it suitable for those arts professionals, such as teachers, curators, designers, who are already engaged in the professional world as well as those independent artists who are seeking a new career path.

MFA in Print Media: Multiples, Editions, and Objects

PNCA’s Master of Fine Arts in Print Media is a 60-credit, two-year program, that promotes a flexible structure to facilitate a unique studio practice that is both independent and collaborative. Print Media’s Lab is seen as an epicenter of intense making, professional collaboration and creativity crossing pathways into industry, research, commercial applications, education and the broad fields of Fine Arts & Design.  The print matrix’s capacity for unique, multiple, and widely distributed forms bridges fine art and mass media platforms. Print Media supports the idea that a print can be an image, object or take on site specific concerns. Topics such as craft, originality, communication, entrepreneurship, consumerism, social engagement, propaganda and protest are embedded in the curriculum. The program offers a diverse range of traditional and emerging printmaking pathways, integrating new techniques and media to expand our capacity as makers and collaborators in the fine art, academic and commercial realms.

MA in Critical Studies

The MA in Critical Studies claims critical theory as a creative project of analysis and exposure radically interested in accountability and the material effects of ideas. The two-year program combines the study of critical theory with the practice of creative research, so students learn not only to critique but also to intervene, reimagine, and remake. The program is designed to help students develop modes of thinking, writing, and making that cross disciplinary boundaries.


All tours are by appointment only.  

To schedule a Graduate Tour, please contact our Admissions office, admissions@pnca.edu, or call 503-821-8972.

Graduate Mentors

Graduate work at PNCA offers motivated students the opportunity to work closely with professionals from the faculty and arts community. In our mentor-based program, students are connected with a studio practitioner who provides one-on-one support and guidance for their disciplinary practice. Mentors are chosen to match the focus and concerns of the individual student. The mentor relationship provides the backbone of our programs, and participating faculty and community members bring diversity, richness and depth of experience to our graduate candidates.


The graduate facilities at PNCA provide private studio spaces as well as a shared community environment. While graduate students engage in independent studio investigation, they also meet as a group for critique seminars and on-campus activities. The critique seminar class allows students to engage in ongoing critical dialog around their own work and the work of fellow students. This class combines critique, readings, and a visiting artists program that emphasizes intellectual investigation into the language of visual studies, applied craft and design.

Visiting Artists

Visit our Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series multimedia archive →

The PNCA Graduate Visiting Artist Program is based in experiential learning, knowledge transfer and exchange. Artists, curators, scholars, and critics from around the globe are invited to PNCA to engage with the students and community, fostering an exchange of ideas and practices. Art practitioners from diverse backgrounds contribute and challenge the academic and artistic discourse within the current PNCA curriculum, extending the possibilities for innovative instruction and learning.

Visiting artists use the PNCA campus as a site of possibilities where exchange can take a wide array of forms, including lectures, conversations, panel discussions, investigations, interruptions, and disruptions. The forms of exchange may sometimes be surprising but are always inspired by present-day concerns. This is an essential part of the graduate curriculum and all Master’s candidates engage in one-on-one studio discussions and critiques with visiting artists.