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NYSS requires all persons entering the building (Gallery visitors are exempt) to complete the daily sign-in form: CLICK HERE
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Curriculum Overview

Full-time study, whether in the MFA or Certificate program, includes one Marathon at the start of each semester, and the invitation to attend Evening & Weekend Classes during the Fall and Spring.

Below is a brief description of the general course offerings available to enrolled students in full-time programs. Sample syllabi are available by contacting the Director of Student Services or the Program Director. More information on the Marathon program is available on this website, including applications for the stand-alone, part-time program offerings.


The Marathon, offered with concentrations in drawing, painting and sculpture, is an intensive, all-day program that is held in the first two weeks of the semester. The Marathons represent the opportunity for students to experience the teaching of other faculty, and to explore areas of style and method they may not otherwise be exposed to.

Marathons are taught by regular faculty and visiting artists who are present for the entire two-week session. In a short time period, students are forced to confront and resolve the problems of drawing/painting/sculpture. This proves to be a demanding yet rewarding introduction to the challenges faced throughout the rest of the semester.


Drawing is an integral part of the education at the School. It is approached in a unique way as a means of understanding perceptual consciousness with regards to scale, spatial geometry, and the nature of mark-making. It is expected that whatever direction a student may wish to follow, they will take part in the essential experience of drawing in order to gain the visual literacy and insistence on clarity that it can promote.

Each drawing atelier reflects the contemporary and individual approach of the artist teaching, yet the essential premise is that drawing is an indispensable stimulus to seeing.


Students can choose from a number of different ateliers that will serve as their major area of concentration each semester. The direction of each class is determined by the instructor, giving students the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of stylistic concerns, which are fully explained in each individual syllabi.

Perceptual practice is emphasized and faculty may create elaborate arrangements centered either on the figure or on the still life, which students can work from for either one session or perhaps several weeks. Models are an integral part of many aspects of the program. The plastic principles developed through observational work may serve as a point of departure for explorations into the limitless possibilities of painting.

Critiques are held regularly by faculty and visiting artists, either on an individual or group basis. Students are also encouraged to critique each other’s work, in order to gain the confidence of their own artistic conviction.


The sculpture department embraces and encourages a wide variety of approaches within a coherent and structured program. The faculty understand sculpture as a language of objects and believe that our capacity to find meaning in material objects has its root in our own being as physical creatures.

Each of the ateliers has a distinct character, yet both emphasize working from perception. They both use live models as the primary subject. This starting point enables the student to engage in a process that directly encompasses perceptual, conceptual, formal and psychological issues; it obliges them to begin to confront important distinctions between form, subject and content without the burden of having to decide what to make. Clay modeling is used as it offers an open-ended and fluid process, allowing for both an intuitive and/or an intellectual disposition.

In addition to their participation in the classes, sculpture students are provided with an individual work space at the start of the program. They are expected, from the beginning, to initiate work on their own in these studios. As students progress, the program is increasingly structured around the work being done in the individual studio. There are regular critiques of such work attended by the whole department. Visiting artists lead the end of semester critiques, and also visit throughout the year. In addition to the studios in the main building, the Sculpture Department maintains a space in DUMBO, Brooklyn, for advanced students.

Critiques & Visiting Artists

Critiques are a regular part of the School’s curriculum for all programs, both full- and part-time. Critiques fall into two main categories: those done by the Atelier Head or Instructor, and those conducted by visiting faculty and artists.

Critiques can be held on a group and individual, formal and informal basis. Marathons can feature individual critiques with the relevant instructor during the course of the program, and end with a group critique. For full-time programs, group critiques are often held by the Atelier Head in conjunction with a visiting artist or other faculty member.

Students who are enrolled in the MFA program participate in a Final Thesis Critique during their last semester. This panel is usually comprised of the Dean, another member of faculty and two or more visiting artists and critics. These critiques are scheduled on an individual basis prior to the Thesis Exhibition.

Evening Lecture Series

This twice-weekly series provides an inclusive, thought-provoking platform for the NYC arts community to learn, exchange ideas, thoughts and perspectives on the visual arts, offering a live form of art education with engaging speakers and imaginative content. A core part of our innovative curriculum, the Evening Lecture Series offers NYSS students an incomparable real-world compliment to studio and classroom studies, while furthering the School’s noted tradition of live presentation and informed debate. Students enrolled in the MFA Program are expected to attend all Evening Lectures. View selections from our extensive archive here.

Independent Practice

Students are expected to commit to working in unsupervised sessions during part of the week, as personal visions are strengthened in tandem with the more structured approach of the ateliers.

As students progress through the various programs toward completion, working independently becomes a crucial aspect of their individual development as artists.

Critical Studies (MFA only)

The Critical Studies seminars are group sessions, led by a recognized working art historian and critic. Seminars are divided over the two years into specific topics, with the first year concentrating on historical contexts of criticism and contemporary practice, and the second year focusing on more independent study topics and research, culminating in the production of a thesis statement in the final semester.

Students are expected to compliment the critical studies seminars with their own objective comment, based on outside reading as well as visits to concurrent museum and gallery exhibitions.

Thesis Project (MFA only)

Over the course of the MFA program, students work on an increasingly independent basis to develop their final thesis exhibition through to its fullest expression, culminating in a body of work that represents a distillation of their time at the School.

As a supplement to the visual work, students also submit a companion thesis paper. This serves to support, explain and justify the ideas, processes and objectives of the final thesis project. The completed thesis work will be formally reviewed by a panel at their Final Thesis Critiques. Students develop ideas for their final Thesis Project during the latter part of their first year. Thesis Proposal forms are collected from students during their third semester, and throughout the last semester, students are continuing to work on their visual work as well as the supplemental written thesis.

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