Program Structure

In the first year, the course consists of 10 classes (four year-long seminars, one writing seminar, and one elective) providing an intensive learning environment through which to acquire essential practical and theoretical curatorial skills. Students are expected to participate in research and exhibition projects, to give individual class presentations, as well as to complete regular writing assignments. Extra-curricular internships are also encouraged to enhance specific practical skills.

In the second year, the emphasis is placed on self-directed learning. With fewer core classes, the knowledge and skills that students gain over the first year is put to the test when the class collaboratively curates and produces an exhibition and accompanying catalog. During their second year, students also conduct independent research for a written thesis on an art historical subject of their choice.

Curatorial Practice Concentrations in Architecture, Design, or Visual & Critical Studies

California College of the Arts offers extremely strong programs in Architecture, Design, and Visual & Critical Studies, and students interested in pursuing curatorial avenues with a more specific focus are encouraged to apply for an MA in Curatorial Practice with a concentration in one of these other degree fields. The curriculum combines core courses in Curatorial Practice with a selection of theory and practice courses (including the option of a written thesis) in the second discipline. Applicants who wish to pursue this combination degree should indicate their interest in the personal statement that accompanies the application.

Sample Course Descriptions

Curatorial Models. Throughout the first year this two-part course will look at the structures and strategies behind different curatorial models, focusing on the history of exhibition-making and the development of ideas in each genre examined. Using case studies, the models of practice will include: the public museum or gallery; the biennial; interdisciplinary institutions; artist-led initiatives and institutional critique; art in the public realm; collections and the auction house; expanded museology; virtual curating and digital technologies; film and video; performance.

Exhibition Practice. This class offers practical information and advice in exhibition making, programming, project management and commissioning. Taught by a range of professionals over the first year, topics will include the following: Loan exhibitions (budgets and fundraising; art handling, registration and condition reports; loans, transport and insurance; exhibition design; installation). Extended dialogues (education, interpretation, commissioning for exhibitions and developing residencies). Working with collections (acquisitions) and the art market (dealers and collectors). Exhibition publishing and print production. Permanent siting (public art management).

Professional Development. Continued over both years of the program, professional development provides a framework for creating a deeper and more personal understanding of the processes of curating. Students will develop diverse strategies to extend their knowledge and expertise. These will include regular attendance of exhibitions; visits to related social and cultural institutions; independent research into artists’ and curators’ processes and practice; short-term work placements; group projects; studio visits; the development of international networks and dialogues; discussions with visiting artists, curators and arts professionals and research into cultural resources.

Course Requirements

First Year (30 units)

  • Contemporary Art History and Theory
  • Curatorial Models
  • Exhibition Practice
  • Judgment and Criticism
  • Professional Development
  • Elective

Second Year (30 units)

  • Curatorial Critique
  • Exhibition Project
  • Professional Development
  • Thesis Project
  • Elective