MFA in Visual Studies


Required Classes

Fall 1st semester
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Contemporary Art Seminar

Spring 2nd semester
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Critical Theory

Fall 3rd semester
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar

Spring 4rd semester
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Thesis Writing

Other requirements

3 electives 
2 at any level 200 to 600
1 at 500 to 600 level - Critical Pedagogy fulfills this elective (offered fall and spring)

Graduate level options at 500 and above

Visual Studies
Critical Pedagogy
MFA Independent Study (this is decided in consultation with the Chair)
VS internship (this is decided in consultation with the Chair)

Other options through the other graduate programs

Applied Craft and Design
Entrepreneurial Studies
Theory of the Object

Collaborative Design
Applied Systems Thinking
Design Ecologies

Print Media
Critical Pedagogy
Contemporary Print Seminar

MFA in Visual Studies Course Descriptions

Critique Seminar

Taken all four semesters by all students in the MFA program, the Graduate Critique Seminar provides candidates with an intellectual community and critical forum in which they may test, temper, and enlarge the ideas that underlie their artistic goals. The Seminar will meet weekly to critique, in rotation, the work-in-progress of all candidates. The cross-disciplinary nature of the conversation is meant to foster the widest possible dialogue among artists, encourage divergent thinking and discourage the easy acceptance of received notions. The seminar will also include, critiques, and discussions with Visiting Artists/Scholars/Critics. The Seminar is led by MFA faculty members, as well as visiting artists, critics and scholars, who join in on discussions and critiques. Students may also be assigned critical readings to prepare for presentation and discussion, and class meetings are supplemented by lectures and performances of visiting artists to PNCA through the MFAVS visiting artist series.

Contemporary Art Seminar

This is a graduate level one-semester course that exposes students to contemporary art making strategies, artists, curators, critics, histories and systems that influence and drive the expansion of the current art world. This is an image-based course in which art and theory are approached in an interconnected fashion, with an emphasis on the flow and interchange of significant ideas between the visual and the textual — art in dialogue with theory and history. Topics will be explored through: slide lectures, museum and gallery visits, videos and web sites, as well as reading discussion of selected books, articles and essays. Students engage in research methodology as part of the oral presentation and writing component of the class, providing an opportunity to share research. In order to reflect a variety of viewpoints and disciplines, guests are invited to speak on a broad range of contemporary art and theoretical concerns. Over the course of the semester, a series of related issues are addressed in conjunction with invited guests and MFA lectures whose work is relevant to the subject under discussion.

Critical Theory

This seminar explores critical theory as a critique of seeing, images, art, the construction of “otherness” (sexism, racism, classism, heterosexism, nationalism, etc.), and the roles and responsibilities of artists and viewers. Questions about theory and practice will be grounded in examples of the work of artists. The seminar begins and ends with questions. When images can be used both to save and to kill, what does it mean to be an artist? Drawing on critical theory, performance theory, rhetorical analysis, and ethics, we will attend to the responsibilities of image-makers and image consumers; the roles of artists in an image-saturated culture; the (mis)use of images to construct difference; and questions about how human beings engage language and images to make worlds. Topics to be covered include: visuality, panopticism, performativity, ideology, experience, racism, whiteness, phenomenology, postcolonialism, sexism, queerness, resistance, agency, language, grievability, mystery, and (in)visibility.

Graduate Thesis Research + Writing

This course is designed to instruct, guide, and support the MFA student with the completion of her/his Thesis Paper. The Thesis Paper is a statement of your critical positions as an artist. It is informed by your studio practice and supported by relevant sources. This course prepares the MFA student to develop a successfully researched Thesis Paper that relates the concept, process, and evaluation of their artwork to a reader. At the end of this course, the student should be prepared to present a thoroughly developed Thesis Paper. Each student will be led through three rough drafts before the final paper is presented for grading, binding, and storage in the PNCA library holdings. The final body of text will be between 6000 and 9000 words (approximately 20-30 pages) in length.

Optional graduate elective:

Critical Pedagogy

Offered both Fall Semester and Spring Semester
This is a graduate level course addressing pedagogical strategies in post-secondary arts education.  Students will be introduced through readings to various philosophies of education from arts educators and philosophers from around the globe and will critically discuss these ideas in class. By the end of the course students will develop their own written teaching philosophy, a sample syllabus of a class of their choice, a cover letter and a teaching CV.  Lectures and invited guests will augment discussion of professional practice issues surrounding arts education and what is involved in successfully applying for teaching positions. MFA students enrolled in this course will simultaneously act as a student teacher to one of the PNCA faculty and will maintain a weekly log of their experience in the class.

Peter Simensky


Viewbooks & Packets