Curriculum Overview

The intensive, two-year graduate program at the Center assumes that a curator or critic of the contemporary visual arts must be acquainted with the recent history of the arts, the social and cultural conditions of their production, and the critical and theoretical conceptions that inform their reception. It further assumes that study of the arts in the context of contemporary society and culture requires familiarity with a wide range of thought in the humanities and social sciences, including social and cultural history, philosophy, sociology, political science, and economics. Finally, the program assumes that thoughtful exhibition and criticism of contemporary art require both a trained sensitivity to the aesthetic demands of art and study of the institutions and practices that frame them.

Course offerings in the graduate program include seminars in art history, theory, criticism, and curatorial practice; practicums taught by curators, critics, and other art professionals; and independent research courses and writing tutorials. Students are required to complete an internship with a curator, artist, or other art professional between their first and second years; they also have opportunities to work with curators, scholars, and critics in the preparation of exhibitions and publications. In addition, there is an annual class research trip for first year students to an international art event or center.

Upon satisfactory completion of course work and other requirements of the graduate program, students are awarded the degree of master of arts in curatorial studies.

Master’s Degree Requirements

Candidacy for the master’s degree requires satisfactory completion of a total of 40 course credits:

- 24 credits in ten required courses (four seminars, four practicums, and two independent research/writing tutorials)

- 10 credits over five elective courses

- 6 credits in a required summer internship

- The two-part final master’s degree project, which does not carry any course credit 

Two-Year Academic Schedule

The typical course schedule for a student in the graduate program is outlined below. All required seminars, proseminars, and practicums must be taken in the semesters indicated. All courses typically meet for two and a half hours each week, although some will have additional discussion sessions as well as meetings in other locations, such as institutions or studios in New York City. Classes are held on Mondays through Thursdays at the Center; Fridays are left free of regularly scheduled courses so that students can view current exhibitions and visit museums in New York City and elsewhere in the area. 

Graduate-level Internship 

As part of the program, each student is required to participate in a research-based internship with a curator, scholar, or critic. This component, consisting of at least 200 hours of engagement with this art professional, is intended to give students firsthand knowledge of the field, from its practical to theoretical aspects, while assisting extensively in the development of a significant project—for example, preparatory work for an exhibition, an analysis of a segment of a permanent collection, or a survey or catalogue of an artist’s archives. The graduate program faculty and staff help students find placements for their internships; some placements may be competitive. Each student is required to submit a written report upon completion of his or her internship. The internship supervisor is asked to provide a written evaluation of the student’s work. (6 credits)

Master’s Degree Project

As the culmination the program’s study and training, each student prepares a final master’s degree project. The project comprises two elements: a curated component and a written thesis.

The curated component consists first of a proposal submitted to the Graduate Committee in the third semester of study, describing the project’s subject, formal parameters, budget, and installation plan. Given the program’s understanding that contemporary curatorial practice often engages with unconventional formats, this proposal may put forward an exhibition, book, symposium, online platform, or other project for consideration. This endeavor will be executed with the input and approval of both the Graduate Committee and Center faculty and museum staff.

The written thesis consists of a theoretical and research-based engagement with art-historical or contemporary subjects and issues, and is an extension or elaboration of aspects of the curated component of the master’s degree project. Such an engagement is intended to provide students with the opportunity to develop an ambitious, scholarly investigation of topics of impor¬tance to past and present art, and to contextualize various aspects of the curated projects in art-historical, theoretical, and societal terms. This written component will be prepared under the supervision of a review committee made up of the student’s faculty advisor, a second faculty member, and a scholar, critic, or other art professional who is not on the Center’s faculty. Members of this group must be consulted with at every stage of the degree project.