UCLA DMA — MFA in Media Arts

MFA in Media Arts

The MFA in Media Arts at UCLA is a rigorous program which presents unique challenges and opportunities for serious and ambitious students looking for a lifelong engagement with the rich and ever evolving field of Media Art.
Refik Anadol, Liminality. Collaboration with Kian-Peng Ong. Los Angeles, CA, 2013
Nicholas Hanna, Bubble Device. 2013
Tyler Stefanich, The Auditory Equity Interpreter. 2010
Matthias Dörfelt, Weird Faces Vending Machine. Paper.js, Arduino, c++. 2013

The program is focused on preparing students in three primary ways. First, through the acquisition and development of technical and craft based skills in various related media. Second, by building a thorough theoretical foundation in media history and theory, and supporting each student’s journey in developing their own unique discursive framework through writing, research, and interdisciplinary engagement with other departments at UCLA. Finally, by helping students hone a sophisticated and compelling body of work, through critiques, seminars, exhibitions and one on one mentorship.
Chris Reilly, Linguaphone of Tremulous Communion. Wood, metal. 12in x 6in x 3in. 2011
Su Hyun Kim, DNA for Songs
Phoebe Hui, Granular Graph. 2012
Kian-Peng Ong, Flood Helmet. 2009

Who We Are

The Department of Design Media Arts (DMA) at UCLA investigates and cultivates a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to media creation that fosters experimentation and innovative thinking.
Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, Movable Type. 560 vacuum-fluorescent display screens. New York Times Building, New York, 2007
Christian Moeller, Hands. 400,000 plastic chips, chain-link fence. 1250ft x 62ft. San Jose, California, 2009
Victoria Vesna, Bodies Incorporated. 1993
Casey Reas, Process 2. Static images selected from an infinite number of variations. 19.685in x 19.685in. 2010
Christian Moeller, Nosy. Laminated glass, LEDs, robotic light and camera system. 43ft x 43ft x 15ft. Tokyo, 2006
Victoria Vesna and James Gimzewski, Blue Morph. Interactive installation. Joshua Tree, California, 2008
Jennifer Steinkamp, Cornering. Philips 2700 400 lumen projector. 8ft x 8ft x 8ft. Los Angeles, 1997

Our internationally renowned faculty include Rebecca Allen, Steve Anderson, Johanna Drucker, Erkki Huhtamo, Willem Henri Lucas, Peter Lunenfeld, Lauren McCarthy, Chandler McWilliams, Rebeca Méndez, Christian Moeller, Casey Reas, Ramesh Srinivasan, Jennifer Steinkamp, Eddo Stern, and Victoria Vesna. They have in common hybridity in their creative and intellectual works and pedagogy.
Casey Reas, Process 13 (Software 2). Two-minute capture from generative software. Variable dimensions. 2011
Rebecca Allen, Laberint. Single-channel video. 1992
Jennifer Steinkamp, Hurdy Gurdy Man. Optoma TX779 4500 lumen projector, Asus computer. 2005-08
Eddo Stern, Best Flamewar Ever. Two channel 3D computer animation diptych. 2007
Rebecca Allen, Sleight of Hand. Mixed reality with visual markers. 2004
Eddo Stern, Emoticon. Digital Video. 2010
Rebeca Mendez, Quagmire. Single channel video installation. Pasadena, 2012
Rebeca Mendez, Nothing Further Happens. Single channel video. 2010

Experimentation and invention continues with our distinguished alumni, who make their mark around the world with their unique contributions to media arts. View the work of our MFA students — Is there a connection to your own work?
Gil Kuno, The Six String Sonics
Aaron Koblin, Just a Reflektor. 2013
Christopher O'Leary, Black Hole Simulation. Processing, generative animation. 2013
Mark Essen, Punishment: The Punishing. Computer Game. 2009
Justin Lui, Speak & Spoil
Zach Blas, Facial Weaponization Suite. 2011
Krister Olsson, Pink Cosmos (after High and Low). Mixed Media. Yokohama, Japan, 2012
Michael Kontopoulos, Measure of Discontent 3. 2011
Eric Siu, A couple of Irons. 2008
Noa K. Kaplan, Oculus. Microscope, monitor, medium density fibreboard. 24in x 52in x 24in
Mattia Casalegno, Augmented Architecture. 2009
David Wicks, Bend
Jesse Chorng, Basketball Spinner. Steel, electric motor, basketballs. 2012
Christo Allegra, Survivor Database
Jonathan Cecil, Chicago Fly. 2008-11
John Houck, Echelon #8

We host a diverse range of international artists, thinkers, and performers that share their practice through lectures, workshops, and studio visits with grad students. Upcoming and recent visitors include Juliana Huxtable, Andrea Polli, Lars Müller, Nathalie Lawhead, Astra Taylor, Gelare Khoshgozaran, Ronen Sharabani, Toshio Iwai, Helen Molesworth, Ian Cheng, Angela Washko, Yung Jake, Auriea Harvey, Pinar Yoldas, and Aram Bartholl.

Resources and Facilities

DMA's resources and facilities make our research, pedagogy, and creations possible. DMA operates state-of-the-art instructional and service labs in support of its curriculum including a fabrication lab for construction, a dedicated electronics lab for interactive and electronic installations, a digital audio lab, a print lab equipped with laser printers, inkjet printers and large-format plotters, a shoot room that facilitates photographic and video production, a mixed reality lab for motion capture and VR/AR development, our Media Arts Research Space (MARS) that provides access to hard to find audiovisual material and literature from the fields of media arts and design, thirteen faculty research labs, and several large studio spaces shared by graduate students. Read more here.

Partnerships on campus provide additional resources, including the Center for Digital Humanities, UCLA Arts Library, UCLA Center for the Art of Performance, the Fowler Museum, and the Hammer Museum.

Labs and Research Groups

The UCLA Game Lab fosters the production of games and game-related research within an experimental art and design context. It values conceptual risk-taking and development of new tools, forms and modes of expression through games. The Game Lab supports interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate and faculty creative research, and encourages projects that establish new paradigms for gaming and espouse an expressionistic and humanistic approach. The UCLA Game Lab is directed by Professor Eddo Stern and managed by Tyler Stefanich. The UCLA Arts Conditional Studio is a group of individuals who develop software within the context of the arts. We create, distribute, perform, modify, and critique software. We trace our history from systems and conceptual art in the 1960s, to internet experimentation in the mid 1990s, to the recent rise of Apps. The Conditional Studio has three goals: Cultivate a discussion around software and the arts at UCLA and beyond; Fund and assist graduate students who work in this area; Provide infrastructure and knowledge around creating software. The UCLA Arts Conditional Studio is directed by Chandler McWilliams, with Professors Casey Reas and Lauren McCarthy. The Art | Sci Center is dedicated to facilitating the infinite potential of collaborations between contemporary artists and cutting edge scientists. The center was founded in 2005 in cooperation with California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI), the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and the Department of Design Media Arts. Themes range from artificial intelligence to nanotech, to designing with genetics and biomaterials, with an eye to address social, medical, ethical and environmental issues. Students, faculty and the public benefit from the international community that the center is actively part of including University of Tokyo, University of Tsukuba, Academy of Applied Arts in Vienna, Ars Electronica in Linz and Leonardo ISAST. The Art | Sci Center is directed by Professor Victoria Vesna. Counterforce Lab is a research and fieldwork studio, dedicated to using art and design to develop creative collaborations, new fields of study, and methods to research, create, and execute projects that investigate and mitigate the social and ecological concerns of the anthropocene era, a time when human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment. The Counterforce Lab is directed by Professor Rebeca Méndez.

MFA Schedule

First Year — required courses include Programming Media 1 (DESMA 252A), Programming Media 2 (DESMA 252B), Graduate Seminar (DESMA 269), Graduate Group Critique (DESMA 403), and Graduate Tutorial (DESMA 404). Sample course syllabi for Programming Media 1 and Programming Media 2.

Second Year — students continue with Graduate Group Critique (DESMA 403), Graduate Tutorial (DESMA 404), and Graduate Seminar (DESMA 269), which guide them through the MFA thesis process. Students are required to take 16 units of electives and are encouraged to select elective courses from other departments across UCLA. For a complete list and description of courses offered at UCLA, consult the UCLA General Catalog at www.registrar.ucla.edu/catalog.
  • Fall 2020

    DMA Faculty Seminar
    Programming Media 1*
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Seminar:
    Contemporary Topics in Media Arts
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
  • Winter 2021
    Programming Media 2*
    Graduate Seminar
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
  • Spring 2021
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
    Elective of Choice or Directed Research
  • Fall 2021
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
    Elective of Choice or Directed Research
  • Winter 2022
    Graduate Seminar
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
    Elective of Choice or Directed Research
  • Spring 2022
    Graduate Group Critique
    Graduate Tutorial (2 courses)
    Elective of Choice or Directed Research
  • *These classes can be waived in favor of other graduate-level electives.


Students are able to select from electives offered in the department and across the university. Recent electives offered in the department include: Anxious Aesthetics: Suveillance as Cultural Form, Exploits in Nonart, Game Theory, Design and Development, Compressed Cinema, Location Of Violence And Construction Of Time, Performing User, Wrecking the Coffee Table, Media Archaeology of Moving Image, Small Objects Of Desire, Experimental Narrative and Media Production, Foucault and Deleuze: Art and Representation, and Worldbuilding.

Some of the courses taken by previous students include: Theories of Architecture (Architecture / Urban Design), Interdisciplinary Studio (Art), Advanced Japanese Art (Art History), Korean American Experience (Asian American Studies), Structure, Patterns, and Polyhedra (Chemistry), Machine Perception (Computer Science), Artificial Life for Computer Graphics and Vision (Computer Science), Situation Comedy and American Culture (Communication Studies), Environmental Change (Environmental Studies), Videogame Theory (Film and TV), Issues in Biophysical Geography (Geography), Information and Power (Information Studies), Intimate Relationships (Psychology), Location-Based and Audience-Aware Storytelling (Theater), Myth and Ritual (World Arts and Cultures), and Ethnography of and as Colonialism (World Arts and Cultures). View the full UCLA course catalog.

Graduate Student Fees*

University Fees $17,352
Nonresident Supplemental Tuition $15,102

*Based on 2019-2020 fees and tuition. UCLA Graduate Student Fees are subject to change at any time.

Financial Support

Various merit- and eligibility-based financial support is available to entering and continuing graduate students at UCLA. Entering DMA graduate students are offered financial assistance at the time of admission based on the strength of their application; continuing students are usually informed of their second-year financial support before the beginning of their second-year of study. The most common form of financial support is through teaching assistantships, which typically include fee remissions and health insurance.

More information on financial support, including extramural awards, is available through the UCLA Graduate Division.
Applicants must complete and submit the UCLA Application for Graduate Admission by January 9, 2020.

DMA accepts applications only once a year for fall quarter admission.

Note: We do not accept traditional graphic design portfolios. The focus of the MFA program in media arts is the use of digital media in an art context, not in an applied arts context.

Read More

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in order to apply. A minimum grade point average of 3.0 in the last two years of upper-division undergraduate work is also required. The applicant's bachelor's degree need not be in media arts, though applicants with degrees in interdisciplinary programs that emphasize media arts are preferred. Applicants are expected to have working knowledge of a variety of software. Additional experience with video, interactive media, or 3D modeling and animation is expected.

Students are recommended for acceptance into the Department of Design Media Arts program based on a faculty evaluation of their portfolio, written statements, and official academic records from all higher-education institutions attended after high school. Any applicant whose first language is not English is required to submit a minimum TOEFL score of at least 560 on the paper and pencil test or 220 on the computer based test. All applicants are also required to provide two letters of recommendation. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) also is not required.

A portfolio documenting no more than ten of the applicant's original works is required as a part of the Department Supplemental Application.

Formal faculty review of graduate applicant portfolios takes place in February of each year. Applicant finalists should be available for an in-person or Skype interview as a part of the application process.

For more information, contact dmainfo@arts.ucla.edu.

Useful links: 1) UCLA Graduate Division 2) School of Arts and Architecture 3) General Catalog 4) Financial Aid Office 5) Scholarship Office 6) Housing Office 7) Office for Students with Disabilities 8) Registrar's Office

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