The Master of Fine Arts in Digital + Media operates at the nexus of art, science, technology and critical theory. Offered at the graduate level only, the program emphasizes interdisciplinary, research-driven practices in which conceptual intention determines form and media. Through a rigorous curriculum, graduate students in D+M discover new methodologies, technologies and sites of cultural production.
The Department of Digital + Media provides a resonant environment for cutting edge artistic research and practice, focusing on the creative, expressive potentials of a variety of media. The program has an emergent focus and fosters exploratory practice which seeks to exhibit a high degree of innovative visual, sonic, and/or textual expression, conceptual clarity, and technological skill. The goal of the department is for each student to develop a technological knowledge-body that is particularly relevant to their individual practice in order to creatively express fundamental questions about human nature, epistemology, technology, economics and geography through art and design.
Coursework focuses on conceptual skill building in the fields of media theory, philosophy, artistic research and history of technology. Studio courses explore the relationship between physical and virtual space, digital fabrication, sonic practices, site specific artwork, interactive installations and public art.
Digital + Media places technology—as both a creative medium and a cultural-historical phenomenon—at the center of the graduate program. Within this context, the department encourages students to explore diverse subject matter and develop multidisciplinary research methodologies and creative strategies (analog or digital) to interrogate the social, psychological and cultural consequences of ubiquitous or emerging technologies. A strong conceptual approach to research and making helps students develop socially engaged artistic practices.
Informed by the fields of art, media theory, cultural studies and the social sciences, the flexible curriculum includes research studios, seminars and innovative electives that support a deep investigation of critical and social theory while fostering robust, independent studio practices. Faculty also encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through partnerships with other researchers at RISD and Brown University, as well as with individuals and institutions that typically operate outside the world of art and design.
In dialogue with faculty, D+M students chart a tailored course of study that defines their personal and collaborative approaches to practice. They are also heavily involved in determining which distinguished visitors to invite, and drive the annual focus of department-sponsored Research Studios. Students also enjoy access to the Brown University’s many research libraries along with resources in the larger community like the historic Providence Athenaeum and the Northeast Regional Planetary Data Center, among others.
Students in the Digital + Media graduate program are required to take one Digital + Media elective course (each course is 3-credits – examples listed below) in the Fall semester and the Spring of the first year. In the second year, majors must take a D+M elective or an open elective in Fall and Spring.
Open electives may be chosen from any department at RISD, including D+M, or from courses offered at Brown University. Options for Wintersession elective in the first year include a course from any department, including D+M, or an internship. International study through a RISD travel course is also possible. In D+M electives, students work either alone or in teams on a variety of interdisciplinary projects. Many D+M electives are cross-listed with other departments at RISD. Part of the brief of each cross-listed collaborative elective course is on leading edge projects that bridge technology and media arts practice across disciplines to explore creative/expressive approaches to contemporary art, action, research and production.
Building on an independently directed body of research, D+M students in the second year of the program develop new, leading-edge approaches to sustainable artistic practice. Working with a thesis committee, MFA candidates integrate conceptual and technical skills in order to articulate a polished, intellectually robust thesis project. D+M thesis projects take a variety of forms including experimental games, performance, video installation, interactive sculpture, speculative design and more. All graduate students publish a thesis book and participate in the annual RISD Graduate Thesis Exhibition.
Digital + Media alumni pioneer new modes of artistic inquiry, pursuing rewarding work in cutting-edge research, academics, studio practice and more. Many graduates have contributed significantly to the advancement of the field of new media—as successful artists, experimental designers, writers and critics.
In combination with coursework, students may assist in faculty research and develop skills through technical assistantships. The college also provides opportunities to explore exhibition and curatorial opportunities through RISD’s Gelman Student Exhibitions Gallery and other spaces in and around Providence. Internal funding opportunities such as the Graduate Studies Grant and the Maharam STEAM Fellowship support new or developing work and extended, professional research practice. During Wintersession second-year graduate students in D+M may apply to teach a course of their own design to gain valuable experience in the field.
RISD Careers also hosts professional networking events such as the annual Design Portfolio Review and a separate Fine Arts Portfolio Review, and offers students and alumni individual advising on grants, residencies, entrepreneurship, Fulbright applications and more.