We’re a groundbreaking low-residency Masters program at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Our core is story. What sets us apart is that we value the craft of writing and visual arts equally. We’re a community of diverse professionals, dedicated to elevating our students and their stories.


Anna EveslageI knew that I wanted to use my art to tell stories but I didn’t know exactly how I wanted to do it. My background was in photography, but I loved writing as well. I was applying to various other MFA programs when I stumbled across the (then brand-new) MFAVN Program at SVA and it sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I applied, got accepted, and embarked on the journey as part of the inaugural class.

It was, at times, a tumultuous experience, but one I’m happy to have tackled. The eclectic and talented mix of students and faculty provided an exciting environment to explore and challenge my own understanding of what story and art can mean. Since completing the program, I’ve been able to continue to expand my horizons by teaching students in a variety of disciplines. I look forward to seeing how this story continues to unfold.

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Anelisa Garfunkel: Life is not a list of events. It’s a series of stories. As a list, my life makes no sense, but as a story, it’s a good one. The Visual Narrative program helped me discover how my personal narrative, all of the stories that came before, could contribute to the stories I tell, by giving them details and depth and a truth that only I could write. Finding my story meant figuring out what I had to say, what I absolutely had to say, that nobody could say better than me.

Liz Enright: As a child I drew my favorite comic book characters. As a newly minted adult I drew stilted bodies and bowls of fruit. As a twenty-something with a BFA I was confident in my ability to draw a pretty picture, but I wanted more. The Visual Narrative program has not only helped me hone my artistic voice, it’s made me a stronger storyteller. I’ve come to learn that outward observation can only carry my work so far. In order to grow as a writer I had to embrace introspection and ask myself how and why I wanted to tell the stories I did. Sometimes those questions can be difficult to answer, but my classmates and instructors are always there to buoy me up. I’m lucky to belong to such a dedicated and inspirational group of creatives.

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Jenny Goldstick: I spent a few years after undergrad designing corporate infographics and diagrams, and I often found myself just as fascinated, if not more fascinated, by the patterns of how things get explained, rather than by the topics of the graphics themselves. I find it so interesting that story structures hold this semi-transitive power across genre and industry – where similar principles of relaying information are constantly effective, engaging and/or memorable. I wanted to indulge this curiosity further while expanding my professional pursuits into editorial, publishing, and other more creative realms.

It seemed like an obvious choice that I should apply to this new MFA program, which promised to focus on story content rather than any particular medium. It was the only program I applied to when I considered graduate school and has indeed been integral to shifting my career path and has helped launch me on the journey to building a practice as an artist.

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Matt Murphy is an Illustrator and writer who focuses on the production of self-published comics and zines. A charter member of the Chattanooga Comix Co-Op; he has been a featured vendor at Chattanooga ZineFest 2016 and has had his works presented in the Cress gallery and the AVA gallery, both located in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Visual Narrative at the School of Visual Arts in New York, New York. While not attending classes in New York, he resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he teaches at Bachman Academy, a boarding school for children with learning differences.

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Michelle Nahmad: I was studying design and illustration before discovering the MFA Visual Narrative program. I often felt on the outskirts of any comfortable identification in one role, always wanting to experiment further and have more agency in creating content. The idea that narrative could be the focus of a program, allowing for flexibility in medium and format to best suit a particular story, was particularly exciting. This program gave me a space where experimentation was not only encouraged, but expected and nurtured. In fact, it’s still pushing me beyond much of what I’d become comfortable with, for the better. Finding my story will be a continuous work in progress, but I’m thankful for the tools and inspiring faculty and peers that I’ve gained through this program.  

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Ryan Ansel: The most difficult thing as an artist/writer is to define a personal style and voice. Something that someone else recognizes as ‘yours.’ MFA Visual Narrative encouraged me to explore and take chances in my work. Not to be the next Hemingway, Picasso, or Nathan Fox, but the first Ryan Ansel. And that’s exactly what it has done for me. I have found confidence in my marks and in my words, trusting my instincts, knowing every choice counts.

Working as an Associate Professor, I’ve brought the same lessons to my students. Encouraging them to take their own risks, defining their styles through exploring their personal story. The growth has been exponential.

The best part of this journey so far, isn’t simply knowing that I’ve been a part of and influenced the stories of several others, but rather the realization that it is merely the beginning

Ryan Ansel Find Your Story


Alex Barsky: As a storyteller that likes to create work with a lot of different media, choosing the Visual Narrative program for my graduate degree was a great fit.  I want to concentrate on animation, but I still want to experiment with comics, picture books, and printmaking.  I’m currently under the guidance of Jim Rugg and Mark Sable who are both really thoughtful and push me to think about story more structurally.  My biggest inspiration in the program so far has been my classmates.  I’m fortunate to have an awesome group of peers who push me to work hard and think creatively.



Ella Romero: I wish I could remember how I first found out about MFAVN, because I bet it involved angels singing. I majored in art history but studying and writing about others’ work was less of a career path than inspiration for my own work, which had been firmly hobby-zoned. Professional options were either to work with words or images, and it never felt right for me to split the two. Enter MFAVN, a haven for storytellers. Defining “storytelling” broadly is key; this program understands that it is a basic human need, and the ways to achieve it vary as wildly as the effects it has on both creator and audience. I cannot fully experience art and writing passively or alone anymore. Storytelling is about sharing experiences: translating your own into something with which anyone else can engage, and seeing what someone else saw. It can be overwhelming, but MFAVN has my comfort zone under constant, benevolent siege, and it will never be as small.


 Thomas SlatteryThe Visual Narrative program has given me a place to refine what it is that makes me an artist. I’ve simultaneously broadened my skill set and focused my vision, learning to use narrative as the framework in my creative process. Viewing story as the beating heart of all of my work allows me to cut to the core of what I’m creating and why. I think that mostly, I’ve come to understand that a story can be told in an infinite number of ways, spanning various media and styles, and that there’s no need to limit a narrative that demands to be told bigger.FINAL_Thomas-Slattery1

Bill Wehmann: I decided to attend the MFA Visual Narrative program because I wanted to strengthen both my drawing and writing skills. What I have found since I started this program is that neither of these skills mean anything on their own unless they are being utilized to effectively communicate what you want to say to your audience.  A drawing can be immaculately rendered, but if it does not connect with the audience the way you want it to, it doesn’t have much value. Since beginning this program, I’ve started to think of myself more as a storyteller, not an illustrator or a (still learning!) writer. I’ve begun to see these skills not as separate practices, but more as tools that when combined can best help me tell effective stories.

Shannon OertleWhen I was seven, I wanted to be a writer. When I was eight, I was going to be a painter. When I was nine, I found my mother’s old Minolta camera and realized I could be all of those things. I was going to be an artist. To understand how to be a storyteller, you first have to understand your own story. That was what I had come to discover my first summer in New York. The Visual Narrative program is a hybrid of writing, psychology, history, and visual creation in any medium you can think of. You learn as much about yourself and your classmates as you do your characters. You will never look at advertising, film, comic books, children’s books and journalism the same way again. It’s a transformative experience to say the least.


To learn more about our groundbreaking low-residency program with an innovative approach to visual narrative, click here.

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