Our program helps students to . . .

  • gain a deeper understanding of their ideas and practice
  • achieve greater awareness of the global context of contemporary art
  • develop skills in presentation needed to pursue a career in the visual arts

Courses in history and theory provide exposure to contemporary art movements and related ideas. Fine arts seminars with knowledgeable faculty offer extended dialogue based on focused issues in current art practice. Electives offered by all seven graduate programs are open to students in any of these areas, allowing for interdisciplinary exchange.

Course Descriptions

Graduate Studio Practice

(24 units / 12 units for social practice students)

Studio Practice is a course of flexible, individualized study with the faculty. Primarily structured around studio visits, this portion of the curriculum is designed to give the student an opportunity to gather diverse opinions and outlooks through one-to-one conversation.

Social Practice Workshop

(12 units)
(Social Practice students only)

The Social Practice workshop is a yearlong studio/practicum course led by resident faculty members in coordination with national and international visiting artists and theorists.

Each workshop takes a field-based approach and is centered on a particular thematic framework.

The workshops may be located in diverse social and physical contexts, including urban environments, formal and informal organizations, and popular media.

Dialogues & Practices I and II

(6 units)

This sequence of seminars is required for the first two semesters of the Graduate Program in Fine Arts. They are designed to introduce and deepen the students' ability to engage in a critical, interdisciplinary dialogue about their artwork and the work of fellow students.

In the first semester, Dialogues & Practices also provides a forum for introducing students to one another and to a broad range of CCA faculty.

Invited speakers present their work and working methods. Students will not only use this course as a means of orienting themselves within the college and the broader Bay Area arts community but also to learn more about galleries, artists' studios, and museums through a weekend field trip to the Los Angeles region.

The second semester of Dialogues & Practices deepens the contact and critical focus of the first semester and also serves as the central course that prepares the first-year students for their Advancement review, which occurs at the end of the second semester.

One of the central focuses of Dialogues & Practices II is on cultivating individual methods of experimentation within a student's practice, with the aim of moving the student's work either conceptually, formally, or materially well beyond the level and quality of work exhibited upon entered the program.

History & Theory

(6 units)

Contemporary Art History and Theory: This course is taken in the first semester of the first year. It introduces students to a variety of aesthetic practices, art historical frameworks, and theoretical debates within contemporary international art. Through slide lectures, intensive reading, and group discussions, as well as preparation of written works, students gain awareness of historical precedents and global contexts for their work.

History and Theory Elective: These courses are designed to hone students' critical skills through intensive reading and writing assignments. Recent course topics have included gender, ethics, disease, aesthetics, and discourse on global art movements of the past 50 years.

Graduate Program in Fine Arts courses that satisfy this requirement are usually offered in the spring. Courses offered through the Graduate Program in Visual and Critical Studies listed as Grad-Wide Electives will also satisfy this requirement.

Fine Arts Seminars

(Units vary)

These courses are intended to broaden and clarify students' perspective on contemporary art practice. Each semester these seminars shift in focus and subject matter. Seminars may concentrate on art from the perspectives of art history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and so forth, or may take the form of a discipline-based critique focusing on the history, theory, and practice of painting, sculpture, and photography, among others.

Thesis Seminar I & II

(6 units)

This course is a preparation and practicum for writing the MFA thesis, which is created in conjunction with the MFA Thesis Exhibition. The written thesis is a document that articulates the nature of the student's work.

This course is conducted during the student's second year of study (3 units in fall; 3 units in spring). The professor who is the instructor for the student’s section of thesis seminar serves as that student’s thesis advisor for the year, and is present at their Candidacy and Final reviews.

In the fall semester of the Thesis Seminar, students must prepare and present a thesis proposal to their Candidacy review committee. Students must pass this review in order to advance to their final semester and are expected to turn in a partial rough draft of their written thesis at the end of the first semester.

In the spring semester students complete their written thesis with continued guidance from their thesis advisor, and are required to turn in a final draft of their thesis one week prior to their final review.

Two bound copies of the thesis must be completed two weeks prior to the end of the final semester. These must be signed by all the members of the student’s Final review committee and received by the Graduate Office and the library.

Failure to turn in a thesis results in an incomplete grade for the course and prevents the student from graduating.

Grad-Wide Electives

(Units vary)

Grad-Wide electives are offered by the Graduate Program in Fine Arts as well as the other graduate programs. With a wide range of topics to choose from, these courses are open to students in all of the graduate programs and allow for interdisciplinary exchange.

Degree-seeking students may substitute one undergraduate course for a graduate elective.

Students who wish to enroll in an undergraduate course should consult with their main advisor and the Graduate Fine Arts Office.

While this range of course varies widely, the conception of the graduate electives envisages them as basically following one of two directions:

Topical electives are designed around a specific interdisciplinary theme that is not bound to a specific idea of medium or production.

In the past, these have ranged from topics related to professional development, including grant writing, gallery economics, and portfolio development to more theoretical ideas, such as the concept of failure within a studio practice or an exploration of the grotesque in contemporary art.

Project-based seminars are led by international visiting artists and curators in conjunction with resident faculty.

These courses focus on group production of exhibitions, temporary projects, and public programs, often in collaboration with local museums and arts organizations.

They give students crucial experience in creating fully realized projects that are embedded in the art world, and they help them to cultivate a network of fellow practitioners and supporting institutions that can be built upon after graduation.