The CCS Bard Graduate Program provides a solid foundation in exhibition and art histories as well as theory and criticism within a dynamic and interdisciplinary academic environment. Our intensive two-year course of study balances academic research with the practical aspects of curating and the processes of conducting scholarly research.
The Graduate Program is housed within the larger Center for Curatorial Studies with peerless resources for the exhibition and study of contemporary art and culture. While pursuing a master’s degree, graduate students have access to:
● The CCS Bard Library is one of the foremost contemporary art research collections in the United States focusing on post-1960s contemporary art, curatorial practice, exhibition histories, theory and criticism and includes over 38,000 volumes. Please see the library page for more information.
● The CCS Bard Archive provides access to a wide range of primary materials documenting the history of the contemporary visual arts and the institutions and practices of exhibition-making since the 1960s. Please see our research center page for further details.
● The Marieluise Hessel Collection of Contemporary Art, comprised of more than 3,000 objects collected contemporaneously from the 1960s to the present day.
● The Hessel Museum of Art and CCS Bard Galleries prioritize experimental and innovative group exhibitions and monographic shows with graduate students presenting over half of the program year-round.
While believing contemporary art is best grasped in counterpoint with its historical precedents, the graduate program at CCS Bard recognizes that the field of art today is porous at its borders with many artistic practices taking up economics, politics, philosophy, and the like as their subjects. Therefore the graduate program is concerned with charting the various trajectories of art’s conception, creation, distribution, circulation, and display as they have been manifested in institutional and alternative settings, interrogating and theorizing the character and role of art both today and in the decades ahead.
Course offerings include seminars in art and exhibition history, cultural and social theory, and curatorial practice, with intensive focus on Black studies, postcolonial theory and history, queer and feminist studies, ecology and infrastructure, media theory and technology, and embodiment and performance studies, among other particular areas of inquiry.
In addition, classes and workshops that take up the conception and production of exhibitions and curatorial projects are led by curators, critics, archivists, librarians, and other art professionals; independent research courses, as well as reading and writing tutorials, are also integrated into the two year curriculum. Students are required to complete a professional development and mentorship project at the end of their first year; they also develop projects and exhibitions that engage the Marieluise Hessel Collection and the CCS Bard Library and Archives.
Proseminar led by Nana Adusei-Poku, Associate Professor and Luma Scholar
This course provides an introduction to key texts, terms, and research methods for the study of modern and contemporary exhibitions and curatorial practice, from which students will examine exhibitions and curated projects as sites of display, artistic production, aesthetic experience and political action. The history of museums, galleries, alternative spaces and curatorial projects from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century provide a foundation for this course; special attention will be paid to the historical and ideological foundations for the culture of display and how they are reflected in the recent past and present. Students will develop research skills to critically assess both the cultural and discursive functions of exhibitions and various legacies of curatorial practice. We will consider how different methods and typologies of curating have evolved; how exhibitions engender forms of spectatorship, reception and transmission, and how exhibitions and curators participate in the development of various theoretical art historical and sociopolitical contexts.
Theory and Criticism in Contemporary Art led by Evan Calder Williams, Associate Professor
A year-long course that aims to develop an expansive approach to theoretical and critical work that has become central to contemporary artistic and curatorial practices. We will read and discuss work that addresses cultural practice and ideology, race, gender and sexuality, aesthetics, ecology, the social reproduction of capitalism, radical history, media, and theories of subjectivity and embodiment. The second semester will focus more specifically on the incorporation of concerns, tropes, and methodologies from twenty-first-century theoretical work into recent art criticism and discourse, with an extended focus on decolonization and anti- racism, art markets and the commodification of culture, queer theory, migration, indigenous thought and history, media archaeology, and new ecologies.
First Year: Curatorial Practice led by Dawn Chan, Faculty
First Year: Curatorial Practice is a year-long, practice-based course that incorporates individual and collaborative curatorial and research projects, writing clinics, student-led presentations, and workshops with faculty and visiting guests. The Fall semester of First Year: Curatorial Practice emphasizes the practical aspects of curating in collections through group collaboration, peer learning, and faculty-led workshops and seminars. The course consists of seminars that touch on the history and founding of the Hessel Collection, methodologies and critiques of collection-building, and ways to narrativize exhibitions around collected works. Students will learn how to create checklists, use the 3D modelling program Sketchup, and be introduced to conservation issues, among other skills, while they develop their own curatorial projects. Student-curated exhibitions run for two weeks and conclude with faculty and peer critiques. The Spring semester of First Year: Curatorial Practice focuses on genres of non-fiction writing related to curating and criticism.
Second Year: Curatorial Modules
SYCP provides opportunities for independent curatorial and research practices in an expanded field. Students balance independently driven research and production with collaborative group-work with a view to realizing a number of projects that are presented to the public over the course of the year.
All students are required to participate in one semester-long curatorial module as part of SYCP. The curatorial modules for the Fall 2020 were:
• “Presentation of the Moving Image at EMPAC” organized by Vic Brooks
• “Studies in Oral History” organized by Nyssa Chow
• “Access as Creative Methodology” organized by Cori Olinghouse with Jordan Lord and Ali Rosa-Salas
Second Year: Curatorial Practice
Second Year Curatorial Practice (SYCP) guides students through the organization, preparation, and execution of the M.A. graduate exhibition. Workshops are led in SketchUp, lighting and sound, construction and design, accessibility, graphic design, building budgets and fundraising, digital exhibitions, and outreach.
M.A. Written Thesis & Interpretive Materials
This course is designed to prepare students for researching and writing a draft of their master’s degree written thesis. Students will focus on researching and writing the M.A. thesis, while also examining components of exhibition writing and interpretive materials that incorporate or utilize thesis research.
Particular attention is given in elective courses to developing interdisciplinary perspectives on the contemporary arts and their presentation. Specialized courses taught by core faculty, as well as visiting curators and scholars, offer studies of the contemporary arts, their expanded contexts, and the discourses upon which they bear. Courses include seminars focusing on contemporary art history and aesthetic theory. Others explore specialized studies of the history of exhibition, museum and curatorial practice, the sociology of museums and their audiences, the economics of arts institutions and the art market, the architecture of museums, the interplay between literature and art, and the preservation of ephemeral forms like performance and media. Additional elective offerings address the field of cultural production outside the domain of contemporary art, examining such subjects as political philosophy and media studies. The following are a selection of electives offered over the past two years:
• Queer Ecopoetics: Sentience, Aesthetics and Blackness - Instructed by Ama Josephine B. Johnstone (Spring 2021)
• Beyond Colonial Distinctions: Concerning Human – Non-Human Allyship - Instructed by Ama Josephine B. Johnstone (Spring 2021)
• Melancholia as Critical Practice - Instructed by Nana Adusei Poku (Spring 2021)
• Colloquium: Religion and Resistance in Latin America - Instructed by Susan Aberth (Spring 2021)
• Native Arts, Native Studies: Re/Framing the History of Indigenous Art and Collection - Instructed by Christian Crouch (Spring 2021)
• Absence / Telepresence - Instructed by Dawn Chan (Fall 2020)
• Symptoms - Instructed by Evan Calder Williams (Fall 2020)
• Geontologies and Rights - Instructed by Pelin Tan (Spring 2020)
• Experimental Monographies - Instructed by Lia Gangitano (Spring 2020)
• Evidence - Instructed by Thomas Keenan (Fall 2019)
• Embodiment: Practice as Research - Instructed by Cori Olinghouse (Fall 2019)
• A Brief History of Discord: Incidents in Art and Subjectivity in the Era of Identity Politics - Instructed by Jessica Bell Brown (Fall 2018)
During the first year of study, CCS Bard students and faculty travel to an international art event or artistic center and meet with a variety of curators, artists, and other cultural producers.
This unit is structured to enhance each student’s individual interests and broaden their base of practical and professional competencies, with the guidance of an international array of practitioners, CCS Bard faculty, and members of the Graduate Committee.
Candidacy for the Master of Arts in Curatorial Studies degree requires satisfactory completion of a total of 40 course credits, in addition to the execution and completion of both the written and curated components of the final master’s thesis project.
• 24 credits from 10 required courses (four seminars, four practicums, and two independent research courses)
• 10 credits from 5 elective courses
• 6 credits from the required professional development and mentorship placement, undertaken at the end of the first year of study
• The two-part master’s degree project (written thesis and curated component)
The typical course schedule for a student in the graduate program is outlined below. Required seminars, proseminars, and practicums are taken in the semesters indicated. All courses typically meet for two and a half hours once a week, although some will have additional discussion sessions, as well as meetings in other locations, typically in institutions or studios in New York City.