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 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, 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.
The two-year graduate program at CCS Bard is designed to deepen students’ understanding of the true tasks of curating and balances a rigorous academic curriculum with an emphasis on curatorial practice.
The curriculum offers seminars in art and exhibition history and cultural and social theory with an intensive focus on the formation of museums, biennials, and alternative spaces, postcolonial and decolonial theory and history, Black studies, Native American and Indigenous studies, queer and feminist studies, ecology and infrastructure, media theory and technology, and embodiment and performance studies, among other areas.
In addition, students curate two significant exhibitions at the Hessel Museum and organize programming at CCS Bard and in collaboration with partner institutions while in the program. Classes and workshops that involve the conception and production of exhibitions and curatorial projects are led by curators, critics, artists, archivists, librarians, and other art professionals. A great emphasis is placed on writing as a teachable skill that graduate students grasp and fine tune while in the program. Between their first and second year, students are required to complete a work placement with a contemporary art institution - see the Student Activities page for a list of recent placements.
Toward the culmination of study, each student prepares a final master’s degree project. The final project consists of a curated component or exhibition presented at the Hessel Museum during the final spring semester of study and a scholarly paper (6,000-9,000 words) which is supervised by the student’s Faculty Advisor and commented on by multiple readers. The exhibition or curated component can consist of works from the Hessel Collection, temporary loans, new commissions, or be comprised of performance or time-based works—it is open to the design and ideas of each graduate student.
Past Graduate Thesis curated projects are available to view online here and written theses are archived for the public in the CCS Bard Library.
Proseminar led by Lara Fresko Madra – Assistant Professor and Luma Fellow
This seminar introduces key texts, questions, and issues of curatorial practice and its histories. The semester is divided into three subsections that broadly investigate the institutions, objects, and forms of the curatorial. The readings are designed to focus on one or two texts a week as well providing an expansive bibliography to work from as background reading and future reference. While our focus remains in the recent past, the readings provide an opportunity to delve deeper into the history of art and curatorial practice reaching back into the 18th century.
Case studies from institutions such as museums, galleries, alternative spaces, and curatorial projects ground this course. Each week we will attend to a different aspect of curatorial production: our conceptions of time; what we archive and how we categorize things; what infrastructures we have and need; the political economy of collecting, curating, preserving, maintaining, and continued operations; how we can work with and around the benefits and pitfalls of existing frameworks. In the second half of the semester, we will also broach the complex relationship between art history and curatorial practice through the objects of the curatorial, artistic movements, and form.
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, Senior Lecturer
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 modeling 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.
All students are required to participate in a year-long curatorial module. The curatorial modules for 2021-2022 were:
• “Presentation of the Moving Image at EMPAC” organized by Vic Brooks
• “Studies in Oral History” organized by Suzanne Snider
• “Anna Campbell Event at PARTICIPANT INC” organized by Lia Gangitano
M.A. Exhibition Development and Graduate Thesis Exhibition led by Lauren Cornell, Director of the Graduate Program and Chief Curator, and Ian Sullivan, Director of Exhibitions and Operations, and Amanda Bard, Graduate Program Administrator
This course culminates in the presentation of each student presenting a curated project or exhibition at the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College. Through regular curatorial meetings and workshops, in addition to frequent advising, this course is the framework through which these projects are produced. Workshops are led in studio visits, communications, writing contracts and agreements, SketchUp, lighting and sound, construction and design, accessibility, graphic design, building budgets and fundraising, digital exhibitions, and outreach, among other topics of the students’ own recommendation.
M.A. Written Thesis & Interpretive Materials led by Dawn Chan, Senior Lecturer
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.
Specialized courses taught by core faculty, as well as visiting curators and scholars, offer studies of the contemporary arts, their expanded contexts, and timely and interdisciplinary discourses upon which they bear. The following are a selection of electives offered in recent years:
• Space-Time Art: Curating Experimental Sound - Instructed by Sarah Hennies (Fall 2023)
• Contemporary Black Atlantic - Instructed by Kobena Mercer (Spring 2022)
• New Perspectives on Latin American Art: Roberto Jacoby and Social Institutions - Instructed by Karen Schneider (Fall 2022)
• 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 Summer between their first and second years, each student conducts direct, project-based work at an art institution and receives mentoring from a curator, scholar, critic, or other arts professional. The Professional Development and Work Placement Program was initiated to expand the individual student’s existing base of curatorial research, collegial relationships, and professional skills. Through a concentrated period of practical, hands-on work, students are introduced to projects and institutional contexts that they have personally indicated a longer-term interest in. In addition to broadening students’ existing frames of knowledge to holistically develop their curatorial practice, we also hope to encourage existing practices of collegiality within the curatorial field, by way of interpersonal, cross-cultural, and intergenerational exchange. Detailed fully on the Student Activities page, a few organizations that have hosted work placements are: Dia Art Foundation (New York), KW Institute for Contemporary Art (Berlin), New Museum (New York), MoMA PS1 (New York), SculptureCenter (New York), and Spelman College Museum of Fine Art (Atlanta).
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.