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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 9am to 6pm, 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. Virtual Marathons are offered as two-week sessions (10 days) in September, January, and during the summer months. Virtual Marathons are offered as one-week (5 consecutive days, Thursday through Monday) Intersession Marathons in November and March of each year.

Please email with any questions.


*More Marathons will be added to the roster.

Session I: Monday, June 6 – Friday, June 17, 2022

  • Virtual Drawing Marathon – with Graham Nickson & Guests
  • In-Person Hudson River Painting Marathon – with Clintel Steed
  • Virtual Color Marathon – with Kaitlin McDonough
  • In-Person Sculpture Marathon – with Brandt Junceau 

Session II: Monday, June 20 – Friday, July 1, 2022

  • Virtual Painting Marathon – with Graham Nickson & Guests
  • In-Person Bas Relief Sculpture Marathon – with Jilaine Jones
  • In-Person Drawing Marathon – with Linda Darling

Session III: Wednesday, July 6 – Tuesday, July 19, 2022

  • Virtual Why Paint the Figure Painting Marathon – with Elisa Jensen

All levels welcome.

Apply On Slideroom

Please scroll down to view full course descriptions and syllabi.


Virtual Drawing Marathon: The Shock of Icarus – Avian Space & Elephantine Weight with Graham Nickson & Guests

9am - 6pm

Course Description Ovid’s Metamorphosis would have us believing that Icarus fell to Earth by flying to close to the sun. However, trying to fly is a metaphor for his ambition, his way to escape his own restrictions. He looked at birds, which are free and inquisitive. Like in a drawing, birds explore space by making […]

In-Person Sculpture Marathon: Bas-Relief – Touching Space with Jilaine Jones

9am - 6pm

Course Full – please email Registrar Amber Duntley to join the waitlist. Course Description Bas-relief is a territory which joins sculpture, drawing, and painting; material ideas formed across the plane of a wall between the three- and two-dimensional. This Marathon will explore bas-relief through conveying the spatial construct of a perceptual source and by focusing on […]

Virtual Drawing Marathon: Establishing the Horizon Line with Clintel Steed

9am - 6pm

Establishing the Horizon Line In this Marathon, we will study the power of the horizon line. We will work from the still life and the model, using Cezanne as our guide to explore the geometric idea of the square, the circle and the cone. We will focus on line, shape and form. We will work […]

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