MFA in Visual Studies


PNCA’S MFA IN VISUAL STUDIES (VS) is a multidisciplinary, mentor- based program that encourages independent inquiry and supports critical approaches to the production of visual art. The program’s flexible structure and nature allow students to pursue a single discipline, such as painting, or a combined practice that bridges multiple disciplines and media, such as installation, painting, performance, photography, printmaking, sculpture, sequential arts, sound, and video.

As a complement to intensive one-on-one faculty mentorships, students benefit from contact with a rich network of instructors, critical thinkers, writers, and curators in the Portland area, as well as from exposure to a dynamic roster of acclaimed visiting artists and curators. In addition, seminars, lectures, exhibition opportunities, and national and international travel add to a rigorous and investigative educational experience. This is a program for experienced makers who are looking to refine and expand their creative practice.


Over ten days at the Caldera Artist Residency in beautiful rural Oregon, second-year MFA in Visual Studies students selected through open application process gather with visiting artists, scholars, curators, critics to engage in art making, research, and visual and written investigations. Previous guests have included JULIE AULT, GREGG BORDOWITZ, SAUL OSTROW, TOM ZUMMER, ALIX PEARLSTEIN, KATE GILMORE, and AMANDA HUNT.


The New York Immersion Trip is an opportunity for students to meet with working professionals, visit exhibitions, and observe a range of contemporary studio practices. Every Spring, first-year Visual Studies students travel as a group to New York City, where they meet with some of the most interesting and active visual artists in the contemporary art world through intimate, on-site visits. Past visits have included time with NAYLAND BLAKE, RONNIE BASS AND TOMMY HARTUNG, MARC SWANSON, and BETH CAMPBELL.


The CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART & CULTURE at PNCA brings influential artists and curators to PNCA to make exhibitions, lecture, critique, and participate in studio visits and workshops with students. In addition The Center is the steward of the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, with over 1,000 works of craft.

The Center has recently shown new work by CAULEEN SMITH, LETHA WILSON, BRUCE NAUMAN, and DAVID HORVITZ.

Peter Simensky

Peter Simensky

Chair, MFA in Visual Studies

PETER SIMENSKY is an accomplished interdisciplinary artist who has extensive teaching experience in programs across the country, including California College of the Arts, Stanford University, and New York University. Most recently he has served as core faculty in the Interdisciplinary MFA programs at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at Maine College of Art. Simensky’s varied process-oriented practice demonstrates interest in the art object as trigger and emblem for forms of exchange. Situated in moments of slippage and interchange, his projects evince the volatility of art objects, which are on one level cash with which to trade and invest, and on another, art—the mysterious objectification of reflection, imagination, desire, and promise.

Simensky’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum 52, NY; the Swiss Institute, NY; and Project Row Houses, Houston. He has participated in numerous group shows in the U.S. and internationally at museums, institutions, and galleries. He also served as Photo Editor at Artforum from 2001-2003.