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Story First | Summertime at MFA Visual Narrative

The Visual Narrative MFA at SVA responds to the needs of today’s evolving creative markets by merging the artist and author. It’s an evolutionary process that puts story first and gives you the tools you need to craft your own stories and to help others craft theirs.

More than just a degree program, the MFA Visual Narrative program is a school of thought that immerses you in story. A select group of artist/authors, we are a diverse, tight-knit community where you learn in small classes and are mentored by top professionals who know how to navigate today’s competitive creative markets.



What’s Your Story? MFA Visual Narrative @ SVA from MFA Visual Narrative at SVA on Vimeo.

MFA Visual Narrative is the first low-residency, interdisciplinary MFA program to focus on creative writing and image-making as a single language—visual writing. A diverse and carefully selected community of story-focused candidates come together at SVA’s NYC campus for three intensive summer residencies. In the successive fall and spring semesters, students engage in rigorous, multi-media online coursework from anywhere in the world. Digging deep, they explore and elevate their authorship and visual story development skills.

As an MFA Visual Narrative student, you will:
-Master what story is and how it functions structurally across a range of visual media and writing formats
-Go beyond just delivering visual stories or solving visual editorial problems, to creating and contributing unique original works as both author and artist
-Work within a rich, transformative and diverse creative community
-Advance your writing skills and integrate them into your professional practice
-Partner one-on-one with a mentor of your choosing during your thesis year
-Expand your collaborative and professional network in NYC and beyond
-Audit up to four SVA courses to expand your skill and knowledge base tuition-free
-Explore hands-on print and media resources at SVA’s Visible Futures Lab, RisoLAB and partnering departments

Ella Romero talks about life at MFA Visual Narrative

Mary Georgescu talks about life at MFA Visual Narrative

Winter 2017 Info Session


AND THEN… 2017

These driven, hardworking students have devised exciting and wildly diverse bodies of words and pictures while maintaining a focus on narrative.

The work you will see arose from the closely- held parts of our students’ own lives — using the connective tissues of their own histories, preoccupations, experiences and found stories. This process required a great deal of personal bravery and tenacity to find the voice and means necessary to achieve their own unique visions.


The MFA in Visual Narrative program at SVA (MFAVN) is a groundbreaking approach to visual storytelling. Comprised of three eight-week summer sessions in NYC and two academic years online, this low-residency program places equal emphasis on creative writing and figurative visual expression. The program is designed for both working professionals and recent graduates from all creative disciplines who are dedicated to the art and craft of visual storytelling as both artist and author.



Matthew Weise, CE faculty & Game Designer

MFA Visual Narrative presents game designer Matthew Weise, as he explores questions such as, “Where do stories come from? Why do we love the characters we love? Why were there almost no movies about WWII between the late 60s and the late 90s? Why is Superman so depressed these days? Why are some stories popular while others struggle to find an audience?” and more.

Matthew Weise is a game designer whose work spans industry and academia. He co-founded both Fiction Control and Empathy Box, two companies that specialize in narrative design for games and across media.


Jordan Bruner

Jordan Bruner is an artist, filmmaker, and animator based in Brooklyn, NY. An ADC Young Gun and Emmy Award Nominee, she has created music videos for bands like Hem and Paramore, commercials for Paul McCartney, Google, Yakult, mythical independent films, animation for documentaries like Waiting For Superman, and Clio award winning illustration.


Bridging Image and Context 2016 from MFA Visual Narrative at SVA on Vimeo.


Lisa Cron, MFAVN faculty

Imagine knowing what we’re hardwired to crave in every story we encounter, what fuels the success of any story, and keeps readers transfixed. The answer is a game-changer, especially since the secret to writing a compelling story has very little to do with the surface plot or learning to “write well.” We’ll explore what your reader’s brain craves, why, what a story actually is, and why writers are therefore the most powerful people on the planet. The result? You’ll be able zero in on what your story is actually about before you write word one (or if you’re in the midst of your umpteenth rewrite, before you write another word). You’ll not only produce a more powerful story, chances are you’ll drastically reduce your rewrite time.

Lisa Cron is a story coach and the author of Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From the Very First Sentence and Story Genius: How To Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages that Go Nowhere) both published by Ten Speed Press.

Her video tutorial Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story can be found at

Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and CourtTV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency.

Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program and is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA Visual Narrative program in New York City.

Lisa works with writers, nonprofits, educators and organizations, helping them master the unparalleled power of story, so they can move people to action – whether that action is turning the pages of a compelling novel, trying a new product, or taking to the streets to change the world for the better.


Rob Barnett, Maro Chermayeff, E. Donna Shepherd, Vashtie Kola

MFA Social Documentary Film and MFA Visual Narrative presents “See the Music: The Evolution of Music and Video” – an advance screening of Soundbreaking’s seventh episode, “Sound and Vision,” which focuses on the origins and influence of music videos, followed by a panel discussion on the topic and the series. The discussion is moderated by Rob Barnett, a former executive at MTV and VH1, and features Maro Chermayeff, Soundbreaking’s editor E. Donna Shepherd (who is also an MFA Social Documentary faculty member) and SVA alumnus Vashtie Kola (BFA 2004 Film and Video), who has directed videos for such artists as Justin Bieber, Kendrick Lamar and Solange.

MFA Visual Narrative NO|ON Stories

It can be said that every object contains its own narrative and every successful narrative strives for a unique objective. Green is the color of growth, the color of spring, of renewal and rebirth. Green is the color of American currency and traffic light GO. Students wrote, visualized and executed a five-minute short story utilizing their object, an original character they had created, and the color Green. Required to incorporate elements of spoken word, visual projection/film, and props, these fully realized five-minute visual narratives were performed, presented and critiqued in studio

MFA Visual Narrative Digital Short Stories

Story: Visualized is the motto and mission statement of SVA’s groundbreaking MFA in Visual Narrative program, where the artist is author. From animation and video to comics and picture books, these digital short stories and their accompanying physical artwork are the culmination of the students’ work in visualizing stories that showcase their wide array of talents and distinct authorial voices.


MFA Visual Narrative 2016 Thesis Presentations

Andrea Schmitz, Walter Tyler, Traci Zaretzka, Alex Beguez, Jon Bero, Masami Kiyono, Barbara Geoghegan, Anelisa Garfunkel

MFA Visual Narrative proudly brings to you eight new cutting-edge multi-media storytelling installations by our 2016 thesis class. This is a playlist that allows you to watch all of these amazing presentations.


Tyler Chin-Tanner, Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente, Nathan Fox, Tom Raney, Taylor Esposito

Funded through Kickstarter and now available as an oversized hardcover, the Broken Frontier Anthology unites 50 creators, from multiple award-winning veterans to the brightest up-and-coming talents, who share new visions of breaking boundaries and exploring the great unknown. These creators have come together from all over the world to bring you 27 amazing stories about time travel, dystopian deserts, and the edges of the universe.

Moderated by co-editor of the anthology, Tyler Chin-Tanner (who also wrote 2 stories), this panel discussion will feature several of the contributors, including writers Greg Pak and Fred Van Lente, artists Nathan Fox and Tom Raney and letterer Taylor Esposito.

Topics covered will range from:

-Curating an anthology: choosing a theme and coordinating talent
-Funding through Kickstarter: how to run a successful campaign and managing fulfillment
-Creator owned vs. work for hire: the benefits of developing your own property and storyline
-The Creative Process: from writing, art, colors, letters & production.


Julia Wiedeman, improv artist, storyteller

Writer and performer Julia Wiedeman speaks about the power of narrative and shares her experiences as an improv artist and storyteller in an entertaining talk hosted by MFA Visual Narrative. Happy Hour Story Hour on Facebook


Rob Barnett, Ben Zackheim

Content maven and Founder/CEO of Omnivision Entertainment, a multi platform media company that includes My Damn Channel, speaks to author Ben Zackheim about creating and marketing your own content. Hosted by MFA Visual Narrative.


Liniers, Steve Brodner

Superstar Argentine cartoonist Liniers, whose MACANUDO strip appears daily in La Nacíon, in conversation with political cartoonist Steve Brodner. In the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, with the politics of cartooning discussed more than ever, Liniers and Brodner will take up the topic of the cartoonist’s job, whether his/her work is overtly political like Brodner’s, or intentionally non-political like Liniers’ daily strip. For as we all know, even even work that is not explicitly political is underpinned by an ethos and a strong point of view onto life––both inward and in the social-public space.

An evening of fun, outspokenness and big personalities, which will allow all of us to dig into some deep thinking about strips, cartooning, and the lives of those living it.


Leonard Marcus, Antoine Guilloppé, Istvan Banyai,

MFA Visual Narrative Department faculty member Leonard S. Marcus moderates a lively discussion on the art of creating children’s books. Part of the Picture This! series presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, which pairs illustrators from Paris and New York, this talk at SVA brings together illustrator Antoine Guilloppé, author of Pleine Lune (Full Moon) and Ma Jungle, and Istvan Banyai, creator of Zoom and Re-Zoom and a regular contributor to Rolling Stone and The New Yorker.

Marcus is one of the world’s leading experts on children’s books and the people who create them. His own award-winning books include Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; Minders of Make-Believe; The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth, and Show Me a Story! He is also a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review and is a founding trustee of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.


Pepo Perez

Cartoonist, illustrator and MFA Visual Narrative International Scholar Pepo Perez speaks about his work and process and discusses the making of his graphic novel series El Vecino (The Neighbor). He also shows samples from books he is currently drawing, including El Vecino 4 and La Crisis Según (The Crisis According to. . .).


Scott Snyder, Sean Murphy, Rafael Albuquerque, MFA Visual Narrative Chair Nathan Fox, Mark Doyle, Phil Jimenez

A panel discussion featuring comics all-stars Scott Snyder (American Vampire, The Wake, Batman), Sean Murphy (American Vampire, The Wake, Punk Rock Jesus), Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire, Uncanny X-Force), MFA Visual Narrative Chair Nathan Fox (Dogs of War, DMZ), Mark Doyle (editor at DC Comics/Vertigo) and moderator Phil Jimenez (Wonder Woman, X-Men). The panelists talk about their careers, creative process and collaborations, as well as what inspires and informs their approach to telling tales of horror in the realm of graphic novels and sequential art.