Five students dressed in black clothing at The Manual of Curiosities: A Workshop with Na Kim.

MACuratorial Practice

Join a program that foregrounds expanded perspectives of the curatorial, working creatively across disciplines.

Overview

Build bridges between artists and their publics

Faculty instructing Curatorial Practice students on political versus poetic art

In CCA’s two-year MA in Curatorial Practice, students work closely with faculty alongside visiting curators, designers, and artists to develop the intellectual and analytical skills needed to pursue a range of professional paths in curating and contemporary art.

With a broad perspective of the curatorial, the program positions the curator as a productive agent and researcher who embraces context as a valuable asset for articulating connections among artists, ideas, objects, archives, institutions, digital technologies, and audiences. The program equips students with knowledge and tools, inspires curiosity and builds self-confidence for working creatively across disciplines and thinking imaginatively about mediation today, incorporating activity beyond art into the field of curating.

Studios + Shops

Experience the art world first-hand

Students laughing during a lecture in the Curatorial Research Bureau

The interdisciplinary learning environment at CCA is conducive to an expanded vision of the curatorial, offering students exposure to graphic design, architecture, visual studies, and conversations around sustainability.

Student selecting a book from the Curatorial Research Bureau

In conjunction with faculty, students routinely engage with guest curators, designers, and artists from around the world and San Francisco. The rich cross-disciplinary contexts at CCA combine with the vibrant arts scene in the Bay Area where the program is in dialogue with the de Young Museum, SFMOMA, The Lab, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 500 Capp Street Foundation, and others. These are potent ingredients for curatorial research and education, furthering the field of curating as a discursive practice by pursuing the links between curating and knowledge production where organizing ideas and concepts are part of thinking and working curatorially.

Quinjin Montoya and the Curatorial Practice cohort present at their 'Black Light' thesis exhibition in the Wattis

Access to professional training

Another essential part of the program is access to professional training through paid fellowships and teaching assistantships. A publishing fellowship is available with Art Practical, a visual arts publishing organization at CCA, while a curatorial fellowship is available at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts. Each graduate student in the program receives an annual teaching assistantship to work with faculty in the MA Visual and Critical Studies, MFA Fine Arts, and MA Curatorial Practice programs.

Curatorial Practice Student at YBCA Curatorial Research Bureau during class

KADIST fellowship opportunity

Each year, KADIST San Francisco awards a research fellowship to a second-year student or recent alum of CCA’s graduate program in Curatorial Practice. The fellowship provides a stipend and an opportunity to collaborate with the KADIST director and curators on research related to work by artists in the collection. Fellows generate original pieces of writing for publication on the organization’s website and participate in the development of KADISTʼs art collection and video library.

Opportunities to build long-lasting relationships

Faculty

Socially engaged artists and museum professionals

Our faculty include a core group of instructors as well as visiting and adjunct faculty. Their combined expertise and experiences—from working with artists in public spaces and commissioning projects to curating media arts programs and directing nonprofit organizations—provide a range of perspectives on curation.

James-Voorhies.jpg

James Voorhies, Chair of MA in Curatorial Practice

For Chair James Voorhies, “graduate education is about projecting outside the walls of the academy, providing students immersive experiences inside an operating arts institution.” Voorhies is the founder of the Bureau for Open Culture, a combined curatorial practice, philosophy, and strategy that forges intersections between art, design, education, and consumer culture. His critical writing has been published in Texte zur Kunst, Frieze, and Harvard Design Magazine, among others. His book, Beyond Objecthood: The Exhibition as Critical Form Since 1968 (MIT Press, 2017), traces the changing role of the spectator in art and exhibitions.

Curriculum

Curatorial thinking and practice

The program’s first year offers courses focused on exhibitions—their history, forms, and design—combined with courses in contemporary and global art history, theory, and criticism, alongside engagements with artworks and artists. The second year concentrates on research-driven and project-based learning with the collaboration and mentorship of faculty, resulting in a written thesis project and a collectively authored exhibition at CCA’s Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts.

To get a feel for what awaits, view sample courses.

MA Curatorial Practice

Year 1: Fall Semester

Contemporary Art History and Theory
3 units
Exhibition Form
3 units
Art and Criticism
3 units
Art and Experiences
3 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Exhibition Design
3 units
Global Art Worlds
3 units
Artists and Designers
3 units
Elective (GELCT-6100 or Grad-wide)
3 units

Year 1: Summer Semester

Professional Development: Internship
0 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Talking Contemporary Art
3 units
Exhibition Project: Research and Development 1
3 units
Exhibition Project: Organization 1
3 units
Thesis Project 1
3 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

Exhibition Project: Research and Development 2
3 units
Exhibition Project: Organization 2
3 units
Thesis Project 2
3 units
Elective (GELCT-6100 or Grad-wide)
3 units

Total 48 units

Careers

Thrive in a range of art practices

Our alumni emerge from the program with skills in rigorous intellectual engagement and first-hand experience working behind the scenes for contemporary arts institutions. They hold prestigious positions throughout the art world, including associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, North American curator at Facebook, curator of exhibitions at The Power Plant in Chicago, and director of the Kunstverein Munich.

Potential career paths

  • Museum curator
  • Independent curator or consultant
  • Foundation, gallery, or museum director
  • Art critic
  • Writer
  • Archivist
  • Art collections manager
  • Exhibit designer
  • Arts administrator

News + Events

Engage in timely conversations

How to Apply

Curate materials for your application

Our two-year program is designated for those with a bachelor’s degree in art history, fine art, or a related humanities and sciences field. Most of our applicants have some practical experience in the visual arts and can demonstrate their commitment to curation. Overall, placement is based on the strength of your portfolio and transcripts. After you submit all materials, you may be contacted for an online or on-campus interview with the graduate program manager or a faculty member.

Application fundamentals

You’ll need to submit three components that are common to all CCA graduate applications:

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
  • Two recommendation letters
  • Unofficial college transcripts

Additionally, you’ll submit a portfolio and personal essay that are tailored to your specific master’s program.

Curatorial Practice portfolio requirements

Critique an exhibition

You’ll need to submit a 500-word essay that critiques a recent contemporary art exhibition. In your essay, please evaluate the exhibition’s contents, order, ideas, and presentation. Your critique must be in PDF format and should be submitted via SlideRoom.

Propose an exhibition

In 500 to 750 words, write a basic thesis and outline for a proposed exhibition. You’ll need to include a list of artists and their works, a possible site/venue, and a minimum of five visual elements. Your exhibition proposal must be in PDF format and should be submitted via SlideRoom.

Curatorial Practice personal essay requirements

In 500 to 1,000 words, you must provide a clear statement of your work within the context of contemporary curatorial practice and describe why you want to pursue a master’s degree. While personal statements can vary, it’s generally a good idea to focus on your areas of interest in contemporary art, critical influences, and examples of previous experience, such as research projects, publications, and organizational roles.

Like the portfolio components, your personal essay must be in PDF format.

Scholarships and awards

Merit scholarships

Each year, an admissions committee selects a limited number of outstanding students for prestigious merit scholarships. Recipients receive a $22,000 award that’s renewable.

Diversity scholarships

CCA’s Fine Arts division awards special scholarships to incoming students with diverse experiences and ideas and exemplary creative work. These awards, which can range from $11,000 to $24,000, are also renewable.

Chair’s Award

Discretionary and renewable, the Chair’s Award provides a student with up to $1,000 for the purchase of books and materials.

Contact our program manager with questions

Emily Shallman

Senior Program Manager of Academic Programs, Fine Arts Division

+1 415-551-9213

[email protected]

Redefine art’s role in contemporary society

Apply now