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While believing contemporary art is best grasped in counterpoint with its historical precedents and antecedents, 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, geopolitics, 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, mediation, 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, decolonial 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.

Master’s Degree Requirements

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)

Student Research Trips

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.

Learn more about Student Research Trips

Mentorship Placement

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.

Learn more about Mentorship Placement


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)

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.

Additionally, 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 

Student Journal

As part of Second Year Curatorial Practice, students work together to produce a new online publication that makes meaningful intervention in contemporary curatorial practice and discourse. As one of the aims of this project is to engage fully with all the processes that go into developing and launching a publication - from conception through commissioning, writing, editing, and collaboration with a designer - the format, scope, and theme of the journal is decided collectively at the beginning of the year in introductory sessions and discussions.

Past Student Journal projects can be found here.

Two Year Academic Schedule

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.

First year / Semester I / Fall term
Proseminar: Histories and Theories of Curating
2 Credits
Seminar: Theory and Criticism in Contemporary
2 Credits
First Year Practicum I
3 Credits
Elective Course
2 Credits
First year / Semester II / Spring term
Proseminar: Studies in Contemporary Art
2 Credits
Seminar: Theory and Criticism in Contemporary Art II
2 Credits
First Year Practicum II
3 Credits
Elective Course
2 Credits
Professional Development and Mentorship Placement
6 Credits
Second year / Semester III / Fall term
Independent Research: MA Project Research
2 Credits
Second Year Practicum I
3 Credits
Elective Course
2 Credits
Elective course [Second elective may be taken in either the Fall or Spring term of the second year]
2 Credits
Second year / Semester IV / Spring term
Independent Research: MA Project Research
2 Credits
Second Year Practicum II
3 Credits
Elective Course
2 Credits