Humanities & Sciences

The embodiment of CCA’s interdisciplinary culture, Humanities and Sciences trains students to become critical thinkers and ethical citizens who expertly observe and participate in the production of writing and visual culture.


Critical thinking is a creative act

Students in MFA writing studios.

Develop new modes of expression

To engage meaningfully in the production of culture, we need to be adaptable, inclusive, and ethical participants. Critical thinking is essential to broadening our perspectives and exploring uncharted territory with compassion and resourcefulness. From criticism to comics, prose to poetry, the study of humanities and sciences embraces a wide range of practices.

Our two undergraduate and three graduate degrees encourage cross-disciplinary writing and spirited inquiry. We partner with established cultural institutions, such as the Queer Cultural Center, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to forge greater connections between theory and practice. With experience in multiple modes of critical thinking and visual analysis, students learn to be empathetic listeners and nimble collaborators.

Humanities and Sciences at CCA is also the foundation of the college’s interdisciplinary culture. Every undergraduate student can take courses in history of art and visual culture, core studio, critical studies, critical ethnic studies, history, literature, math, philosophy, science, social science, visual cultures, and writing. A strong liberal arts curriculum helps undergraduates sharpen their research, verbal communication, visual literacy, and narrative storytelling skills.

Drone view of CCA's campus in San Francisco.

Study in the culturally diverse Bay Area

CCA’s location in the heart of the Bay Area, a hub for emerging artists, entrepreneurs, innovators, and social activists, draws a diverse community to campus. You’ll easily exchange ideas with architects, curators, designers, and many other professionals who push disciplinary boundaries in their work. In addition to our partnerships with museums and cultural centers, we also collaborate with nearby academic institutions, including UC Berkeley and Stanford University.


Bridge theory and practice

Portrait of Tina Takemoto standing in front of a black and white photo.

Tina Takemoto, Dean of Humanities & Sciences

Meet the dean of Humanities & Sciences

Dean Tina Takemoto is a visual studies scholar and artist who oversees our five programs and its collegewide curriculum. In their creative practice, they explore queer identity, race, grief, and memory. Takemoto’s work has been presented at the Alphawood Gallery, the Asian Art Museum, SF Camerawork, the Spencer Museum of Art, and the GLBT History Museum, among many others. Their film Looking for Jiro received the Jury Award for Best Experimental Film at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and their films have screened at numerous venues in the U.S. and abroad. Takemoto’s current research interests include the hidden dimensions of same-sex intimacy and queer sexuality for Japanese incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II. Takemoto has received grants from Art Matters, the Fleishhacker Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the San Francisco Arts Commission for their archival research, experimental filmmaking, and writing.

Professor Jasmin Darznik teaching in the MFA writing studio.

Jasmin Darznik, Associate Professor, Writing & Literature program

Brilliant faculty who actively shape visual culture

Our faculty’s enthusiasm, visionary research and writing, and commitment to equality and social justice propel interdisciplinary work at CCA. Students can learn about feminist poetry from an Iranian-born New York Times best-selling author or about modernism and racial art in America from a well-known art historian and curator. What differentiates humanities and sciences at CCA from curricula at traditional liberal arts colleges is that our approach bridges theory and practice. Faculty, including an award-winning cartoonist, acclaimed queer feminist writer, and groundbreaking photographer and video artist, help students make clear connections between studio-based projects, personal interests, community needs, and research endeavors. Students are not only inspired to question and challenge conventional viewpoints, but also develop new modes of expression that give voice to their personal vision.

Public programming that spans disciplines

Students meet and learn from the biggest names in art, design, criticism, and writing. Our lecture series span disciplines and feature some of the most celebrated creators and thought leaders from around the world. Recent guests include U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize; award-winning cartoonist, writer, and community organizer MariNaomi; and the internationally renowned Dinh Q. Lê, best known for his fine arts photography. These conversations help students analyze the cultural challenges and power dynamics that influence art and literature today.

We also encourage our students to share their research and work with the public through readings, forums, and exhibitions in CCA galleries. Undergraduate and graduate writing students can perform during open mic nights and assist with hosting the acclaimed Tuesday Talks with visiting writers. Forums, organized around specific themes, give all students, particularly those focused on visual and critical studies, the opportunity to engage in dialogue with leaders across a range of scholarly fields. Exhibitions, which can include collaborative projects and senior shows, present studio-based work in CCA’s public-facing galleries.


Prepare for professional publication

MFA writing students perform at 2011 gala dinner.

Challenge traditional confines

Our two undergraduate degree programs introduce students to a spectrum of methods and people with many different passions. We regularly challenge and break through the narrow confines of traditional art history, literature, and representation. Students learn to harness their interdisciplinary education at CCA to develop their individual voices and engage with the world in responsible, ethical ways.

Visual and Critical studies students on Marin headlands field trip.

Writing and Literature students build toward a full-length thesis collection, drawing inspiration from the many Bay Area literary organizations and reading series. History of Art and Visual Culture students directly engage with a broad range of research materials in the course of their studies at CCA. This work culminates in the production of a senior thesis project that mirrors the rigor of professional practice. Both programs encourage students to integrate visual art and design into their work by introducing them to creative spaces across the disciplines and offering studio-based electives.


CCA offers five minors that explore social impact projects, alternative systems of representation, literary arts, and the myriad roles and contexts of technology in creative disciplines. Choose from Ecological Practices, Computational Practices, Social Practice and Community Engagement, History of Art and Visual Culture, or Writing and Literature. Minors are a great way to incorporate a second interest into your writing, criticism, and studio-based projects without adding to your total required units for graduation.


Time and space to nurture your craft

Student at "Take Action / A For Liberties Exhibition at Hubbell galleries.

Shape your interests into a polished manuscript

Our three graduate programs give students the time and space to refine or reinvent their critical and creative voices. Our tight-knit community produces in-house publishing and draws inspiration from the Bay Area’s rich literary and Arts and Crafts history, while engaging in a vibrant contemporary scene for stand-up comedy, slam and spoken word poetry, independent publishing, alternative art spaces, groundbreaking cultural institutions, and more. You have the freedom to explore many different research methods and genres as you work toward a thesis collection that can serve as an exceptional sample for jobs, residencies, and PhD applications.

Participant at  "Take Action / A For Liberties Exhibition at Hubbell Street galleries.

Dual-degree options

The MA in Visual and Critical Studies (VCS) program offers three dual-degree options that give students an edge in competitive, postgraduate arenas. Combine the MA in Visual and Critical Studies with an MA in Curatorial Practice, MFA in Fine Arts, or MFA in Writing and earn two graduate degrees in just three years. You can apply for any dual-degree program with a single CCA application but must submit a different personal essay and portfolio for each.

Studios & Workshops

Engage with urgent issues

Book Arts Teacher handing something to student.

Add to your creative toolbox

Humanities and Sciences students learn to develop new modes of expression in their thoughts, words, and actions. CCA’s range of creative spaces, from the Book Arts and Letterpress Studio to our extensive Media Center, supply the inspiration and hands-on tools for directly engaging with material practices. With more skills in your creative toolbox, you’ll be empowered to embrace the unknown and take advantage of opportunities that leverage your interdisciplinary education.

In addition to physical spaces, students thrive in intimate workshop settings, whether in person or online. The MFA in Comics, which is a low-residency program, uses the time between intensive on-site summer sessions for long-distance workshops that keep comics students on track with their goals and manuscripts. Undergraduate students have ample opportunities to learn from acclaimed faculty, including visiting writers, during workshops focused on poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and other genres. And the MFA in Writing students experience craft talks with visiting writers, like R.O. Kwon and Andrew Sean Greer, during special masterclasses.

Students in the photobooth at the 2012 Visual and Critical Studies Symposium.

Visual and Critical Studies Symposium

In addition to forums that convene throughout the semester, MA in Visual and Critical Studies students formally present their research to the public during an annual spring symposium. Graduating students are grouped into thematic panels moderated by prominent scholars in relevant fields. The most recent symposium touched upon the themes of queer pop music videos and revisualizing public housing in Singapore, among others.

Tom Barbash speaking at Tuesday Talks in the MFA Writing Studio

Tom Barbash, Professor, Writing and Literature program

Tuesday Talks in the Writers’ Studio

The MFA in Writing program’s famed Tuesday Talks is a series that hosts some of today’s most dynamic writers, giving them a platform to share new work with CCA and the surrounding communities. Graduate students have the chance to engage with visiting writers during masterclasses that focus on craft, revision, publishing, and more.

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

Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

A nonprofit exhibition venue and research institute, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts shows new and existing work from artists all around the world. It also dedicates an entire year to reflecting on questions posed by a single artist. The Wattis Institute collaborates regularly with the MA in Visual and Critical Studies faculty and students. Recently, it hosted genre-bending writer and CCA faculty member Dodie Bellamy, who read from her forthcoming novel.

Patrick Jackson and Candy Jernigan's exhibits at the Wattis Institute, June 2017.

Patrick Jackson, KNOW YER CITY (installation view), 2017; Wattis Institute.

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