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The School’s internationally-recognized Marathon programs were developed in 1988 by Dean Graham Nickson, initially as a measure for the rest of the semester at the start of the program year.

The program has since expanded to become a core component of the School’s curriculum. Meanwhile, intense outside interest led to the extension of the Marathons to a wider audience of participants outside of the full-time student body. Renowned artists, art historians, dealers, collectors, art educators, writers, journalists and students of all levels and affiliations have since experienced the intensity of the program.

Originally designed to address the importance of drawing as the basis of understanding one’s experience in the world, the Marathons are based on an exploration of this most direct route to an enriched understanding of the language of the plastic arts. The innovation inherent in the Marathon program reawakens the way that drawing is experienced by artists and appreciators alike. The Marathons are intensive, all-day programs that run for two weeks at the beginning of each semester and during the Summer Session. Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture Marathons are offered by both regular faculty and distinguished vis­iting artists who are present for the entire two-week session. All programs operate along the same basic model of immersing the student in their chosen discipline.

The level of commitment reached by participants during the Marathon is extraordinary. Each individual must confront the problems of drawing, painting, and sculpture with vigor and intensity if they are to show that they are equal to the fierce demands of concentration and stamina necessary for the program. Not only are participants fully engaged in the physical aspects of making art, they are also intellectually challenged and stimulated by extensive group and individual critiques. The creation of strong and surprising works can be the catalyst for future work. In addition to being part of the full-time program, application to the Marathons are open to beginning and advanced artists regardless of their affiliations. Admission follows the same requirements and procedures as the full-time program. Fees for the ten-day course must be paid in full upon registration.

The Marathon course hours are 9:00am to 6:00pm, with a lunch break from 1:00pm to 2:00pm. In some Marathons, there may be critiques. The specific critique schedule will be determined once courses have commenced.

If you are currently enrolled as a full-time student at NYSS, or if you have successfully completed a Marathon or full-time program within the last five years, you are not required to submit an application in order to enroll in upcoming Marathons. Learn more here.

Virtual Marathons

Virtual Marathons are an incredible opportunity for artists from around the world to experience the high caliber NYSS Marathons from their respective homes and studios. Taught through a combination of Zoom and Padlet, these courses bring the rigorous exercises, profound insights, and deep connections of in-person Marathons to participants via virtual means. Artists of all levels are welcome to join.

Please email with any questions or to register for our upcoming Virtual Marathon Information Session on October 20th at 5pm EST.


Thursday, November 5th – Monday, November 9th, 2020
*Classes meet daily for five consecutive days, 9am – 6pm EST

All levels are welcome and Partial Scholarships are available.

Please see below for Course Descriptions, Materials Lists, and Tuition rates. Applicants are accepted on a rolling basis. Secure your place and join an upcoming NYSS Marathon by applying today.

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Painting Marathon: The Seated Figure through Time – with Clintel Steed & Guests

9am - 6pm

November 2020 Course Description This Painting Marathon will track the role of the seated figure through time, beginning with the Egyptians and including contemporary works of art. We will see how the space and the narrative of the seated figure has changed throughout the centuries and explore the ways in which the seated figure moves […]

Drawing Marathon: Finding Abstraction through Landscape – with Fran O’Neill & Guests

9am - 6pm

November 2020 Course Description This Drawing Marathon will address a critical approach to abstraction that begins with the landscape and encourages participants to push past the threshold of what they might consider to be a final piece. Participants will begin by observing the actual landscape in which they find themselves or a master work from […]

Painting/Drawing Marathon: The Labyrinth: A Journey through Time, Pigment, Image and Presence – with Graham Nickson & Guests

9am - 6pm

November 2020 Course Description A labyrinth is a mythic structure, a complex network of passageways through which it may be challenging to find one’s way, and in which seemingly disparate paths may unite. This one-week intensive Painting/Drawing Marathon will be structured as a labyrinthine journey which weaves time, pigment, and image, into the pictorial acts […]

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