The experience and exploration of embodied place is a central element of this distinctive program, encouraging students’ multi-dimensional relationship with their environment both here in the Tahoe Basin and within their own communities. Through an interdisciplinary approach to art-making, the program encourages participants to consider how we engage the material and social worlds of our respective environments, from personal, to political, to planetary.
This low residency program takes advantage of emerging technologies in education to combine two intensive ten-day residency periods each year in beautiful Lake Tahoe, full-time work in the student’s local studio, and a dynamic group of faculty, renowned visiting artists, professional mentors and peers. Residencies bring students, faculty and visiting artists together in a collaborative community to engage, critique and explore unfamiliar ideas and cross-disciplinary questions. Personalized mentorship and extensive studio time will help students develop the expressive and professional skills to realize their personal visions.

SNC’s interdisciplinary approach addresses the challenges and responsibilities faced by contemporary artists in an evolving global environment by focusing on the skill development, experimentation and collaborative dialogue that fosters creative solutions and the practice of art.


What happens between residencies?

Between residencies, students return to their home studios to focus on their own studio practice. As a supplement to this, they participate in one-on-one mentorships with an assigned faculty mentor who will help to guide them through this process. Additionally, they will participate in an online seminar with the rest of their peers. This seminar, which varies in topic each semester, will serve to keep them linked to their classmates until they meet again in person.

Is your program accredited?

Yes. Our program is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).

How do students spend their time during the residencies?

During each residency, students take a minimum of 9 credits of coursework. The courses range from those dealing specifically with studio practice, to those addressing critical theory, to those concerned with challenging notions of site, context, and installation. As students move through the program, they will work through steps towards their own midway and final exhibitions, aspects of which will take place on and off campus – both during the residencies themselves and outside of them. Students and faculty spend portions of residency time on campus at Lake Tahoe, as well as several days off campus at related sites such as Sagehen Creek Research Station and St. Mary’s Art Center. We ask students to be working on readings and small assignments as soon as a month prior to the residency start date, so that they can come prepared to work long days and get the most out of our time together. Outside of coursework, students have access to open studio time, conversation and critique time, and some time to explore the area. Days are long and productive, and both students and faculty tend to feel that this intense and immersive experience yields amazing and unpredictable results.

How is this program different from other low-residency MFA programs?

The MFA-IA program is specifically geared towards people with active lives outside of school. While we are a full time program, we consciously designed the 10-day residencies with the notion that not everyone can take off for an entire summer, or for multiple weeks at a time. We know that there are dedicated, talented and driven artists and thinkers who have children, or who have jobs, or who have other responsibilities that make it difficult for them to commit to a conventional MFA program. We continue to listen and hone our program to be sensitive to the needs of the contemporary artist today.

We distinguish ourselves through our emphasis on “place” as a central operating subject of inquiry. We fold in the concept of “low-residency,” not just as a convenient model, but rather as a principle of moving through today’s world. What can groups of like-minded but locationally distant artists create together? How can we activate the hunger to explore a mode of understanding via location in order fuel multi-tiered inquiries? What Lake Tahoe can host as a specific location, beyond it’s tremendous beauty, is a place-holder for creating a structure for thinking about landscape – both natural and man-made. It does this by showing us what is present as well as what is missing. We hope to embolden students desire for more critical dialogue around our relationship to our surroundings, as well as to the role of the artist in addressing these complexities.

What is the general arc of a student moving through this program?

The program consists of 5, 10-day residencies (summer/winter/summer/winter/summer) with corresponding coursework between each residency, during conventional fall + spring semesters. Generally, students take 9 credits per residency and 4.5 credits each semester. During students 3rd residency, they will mount a series of work for a “midway exhibition” and finally, during the last semester + culminating residency, students will design, produce and install a final exhibition in their home community, and prepare an archive of that exhibition to install for their 5th residency, which will serve as their thesis.

What is the average age of a student in this program?

The average age of our current students is mid-30’s.

Where do students do their thesis exhibitions?

Students create, produce and install their official thesis exhibition in their home community, with the guidance of their mentors and thesis advisors. During the final (5th) residency on campus, students will design an archive version of that exhibition to display in our galleries. Thesis committees will meet during that final residency to critique projects and complete thesis conversations.

What equipment is available for students to use during their time on campus?

SNC’s Holman Arts and Media Center is entirely available to MFA students during their residencies. We have a full print shop, photo lab, both digital and analogue, sculpture/metal shop, ceramics studio as well as access to 3d modeling software and production.

Do I need to have studied art officially before pursuing an MFA at SNC?

No you do not. In fact, our emphasis on “interdisciplinary” is as such based on our interest in cultivating conversations with people from a multiplicity of backgrounds and experience. While some of our students have come from traditional fine art backgrounds, many are coming to us with degrees in the sciences, in politics and activism, in education or in multi-media design. We hope to collect students from even more diverse places so that we can continue to create a space for these exciting collaborative experiences.

Sierra Nevada College
Interdisciplinary Arts
Low Residency MFA


1008 Tahoe Blvd
Incline Village, NV 89451


Julia Schwadron
Assistant Program Director
P: (775) 831-1314 ext. 7492