Apply to the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

Apply to IDSVA. Applicants must hold an MFA, or a master’s level degree in a related field.


Priority Deadline for May 2020 enrollment: December 2, 2019


Degree Requirements: Applicants must hold an MFA, M.Arch., or a master’s level degree in a related field. Criteria for evaluation will include undergraduate and graduate transcripts from accredited institutions of higher learning. The minimum grade point average in both cases is 3.0. A working knowledge of art history, critical theory, and philosophy should be demonstrated in the graduate transcripts. 

Statement of Intent: Applicants should submit an essay of purpose that describes their interest in pursuing doctoral studies in the visual arts, indicates related elements of their personal/artistic journey, and offers a preliminary sense of what themes and questions they hope to explore through a course of study in philosophy, aesthetics, and art theory. 

Writing Sample: Applicants should provide a writing sample of academic quality and style, such as a paper written for coursework, publication, or a portion of an MFA thesis.  The sample should be between 10-20 pages double-spaced.

Letters of Recommendation: Applicants should provide three letters of recommendation, at least two of which should come from faculty who can support the applicant’s ability to perform PhD level scholarship. For those applying who hold an MFA, the third recommendation may address the applicant’s studio practice in terms of philosophical significance and promise.

Portfolio and Artist Statement: Candidates who have a studio practice may also submit a portfolio and artist statement. The admissions committee will consider the portfolio and artist statement as a means of contextualizing the application and not as a determining factor in the admissions process.

Credit Transfer: Because of the unique design of this PhD program, credit from previous graduate level work is not transferable and credit is not given for experience. 

Admission Deferral: Accepted applicants admitted into a particular enrollment may defer admission to a later enrollment without penalty. If, however, admission is delayed for more than one year beyond the initial acceptance, the accepted applicant is required to reapply; readmission is not guaranteed.

International Students: IDSVA cannot accept applications from international students at this time, as the Institution is not able to issue I-20s appropriate for participation in this program. Prospective international students who have established other means of US Residency are welcome to apply.

How To Apply

Step 1: Fill out the initial online application. Molly Davis, Director of Admissions, will be in touch, and will be available to assist with steps 2-3 of the application process, listed below. Molly can also arrange for applicants to speak with a faculty member and a current student or alumni.

Step 2: Send the following by email: admissions(at)idsva(dot)edu

  • Current curriculum vitae

  • Statement of intent, minimum of 750 words

  • One academic writing sample, 10-20 pages double-spaced

  • Optional: artist statement of no more than 500 words

  • Optional: ten to twenty images or other documentation of creative practice. Submit as a Google Drive folder or link to website

All written documents should be attached as a PDF document. Application materials can be sent in stages.

Step 3: Three letters of recommendation must be sent by the references to IDSVA from their own email address to admissions (at) idsva (dot) edu. The letters should be an attachment as a PDF, preferably written on letterhead. At least two of the three letters should come from faculty who can support the applicant’s ability to perform PhD level scholarship.

Step 4: Arrange for your academic institutions to send official sealed copies of undergraduate and graduate transcripts to:

IDSVA Admissions Committee
795 Congress Street, Portland, ME 04102

or by secure email to: admissions(at)idsva(dot)edu

Step 5: Once your materials have been submitted, a representative from the admissions committee will be in touch to arrange for an admissions interview.

To apply for financial aid: fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)and enter the IDSVA school code: G41888. If accepted, your completed application file will be forwarded to the Scholarship Committee. You will also be eligible for Federal Student Loans.

Questions: Contact the Director of Admissions, Molly Davis at (800) 240-7357 / info (at) idsva (dot) edu

Important statistics about IDSVA students:
Each cohort is made up of approximately fifteen students, for a total of 45 students in the course of study. Additionally, another 45 students are writing dissertations.
The student body is 20% male; 80% female; 11% Hispanic/Latino; and 13% Black or African-American
The average retention rate for 1st-year students continuing on to the 2nd year is 89%
The cohort default rate on federal student loans is 0% for each of the past three years

Statement on Discrimination: IDSVA is committed to basing judgments concerning the admission, education, and employment of individuals upon their qualifications and abilities and affirmatively seeks to attract to its faculty, staff and student body qualified persons of diverse backgrounds. In accordance with this policy and as delineated by federal and Maine law, IDSVA does not discriminate in admissions, educational programs, or employment against any individual on account of that individual’s sex, race, color, religion, age, handicap or national or ethnic origin; nor does IDSVA discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

IDSVA: The World-Class Low-Residency PhD in Visual Arts