Attendees at an exhibition at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts stand together viewing artwork on a wall.

MACuratorial Practice

Join a program that encourages you to imagine a curatorial practice beyond the current boundaries of the art world.

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, you’ll work closely with faculty mentors—and collaborate with fellow students—to develop the intellectual, analytical, and practical skills needed to pursue a range of professional paths in curating contemporary art.

The program positions the curator as a researcher, advocate, and ally who understands context as a means of articulating connections among artists, artworks, ideas, information, and audiences. Curatorial Studies students acquire the knowledge and tools provided by museum studies, exhibition studies, or arts administration programs, but they are also encouraged to work creatively, think critically, and imagine a practice beyond the current boundaries of the art world. We ask students to challenge the assumptions and inequities on which museums and other arts institutions have been built and to envision how cultural producers might work together to foster new models for the future.

Studios & Shops

Experience the art world first-hand

Exterior view of Playspace Gallery at night.

Outside view of the DISCODAZE//All that glitters is not gold exhibition at PLAySPACE Gallery.

Learn to shape culture and society alongside artists, thinkers, writers, designers, and architects at an interdisciplinary art school that embraces activism, sustainability, and an expanded vision of curating.

A special partnership with the internationally respected CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts provides hands-on opportunities to learn about making exhibitions. Curatorial Practice students are also able to explore the field of museum education by engaging diverse audiences, including CCA students, with Wattis exhibitions and programs.

A group of people at the opening of “Maia Cruz Palileo: Long Kwento.”

Attendees at the opening of Maia Cruz Palileo's Long Kwento at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts.

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, the new Institute of Contemporary Art San Francisco, and others.

Anthony Huberman site with a group of people in the back bar at Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Curatorial Practice students in Dena Beard’s Art and Experiences class meet with Anthony Huberman and Diego Villalobos to learn about the upcoming Wattis Institute exhibition, Drum Listens to Heart.

Access to professional training

As a Curatorial Practice student at CCA, you’ll also have access to professional training through paid fellowships and teaching assistantships. Curatorial fellowships are available at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in Napa Valley. 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, or MA Curatorial Practice programs. CCA’s Exhibitions and Public Programming department offers paid opportunities to create exhibitions and dialogues.

Student selecting a book from the Curatorial Research Bureau

KADIST fellowship opportunity

Each year, KADIST San Francisco, a gallery in the city’s Mission District, awards a research fellowship to a 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

CCA’s small class sizes ensure close conversation and mentorship opportunities with faculty. 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 curating and other work in the field of contemporary art.

Portrait of MFA Curatorial Practice chair Christina Linden.

Christina Linden, Chair of MA in Curatorial Practice

Chair Christina Linden is a curator and educator who strives to support social relevance and create platforms for underrepresented voices. She recently curated the exhibition Queer California: Untold Stories, a large-scale exhibition project focusing on LGBTQ+ history and art in California, at the Oakland Museum of California, where she also served as associate curator of painting and sculpture from 2013 to 2017.

Linden has also curated projects at SFMOMA, Kadist, Stanford University, and the Hessel Museum of Art in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. Her writing has been published in Art in America, Art Practical, Fillip, Modern Painters, Artlies, Might Be Good, Paletten, Provence, San Francisco Art Quarterly (SFAQ), Women & Performance, and numerous artists’ books and exhibition catalogs.

The Wattis Institute and CCA

Steps from campus, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art is an invaluable resource for Curatorial Practice students. Wattis staff members are closely involved with teaching in the program and they mentor students in producing publications, researching and designing exhibitions, and creating educational programs. Through close collaboration with the Wattis, you’ll gain an expansive understanding of curating.

Curriculum

Curatorial thinking and practice

In your first year, you’ll focus on exhibitions—their history, forms, and design—as well as contemporary and global art history, theory, and criticism. You’ll also have opportunities to develop practical skills and engage with artworks, artists, and audiences. The second year concentrates on research-driven and project-based learning, with the collaboration and mentorship of faculty, and results in an individual written thesis and a collectively curated exhibition at the CCA 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
3.0 units
Exhibition Form
3.0 units
Exhibition Design
3.0 units
Art and Experiences
3.0 units

Year 1: Spring Semester

Art and Criticism
3.0 units
Global Art Worlds
3.0 units
Visual and Critical Studies seminar
3.0 units
Elective (GELCT-6100 or Grad-wide)
3.0 units

Year 1: Summer Semester

Professional Development: Internship
0.0 units

Year 2: Fall Semester

Urgent Issues in Contemporary Art
3.0 units
Exhibition Project: Research and Development 1
3.0 units
Exhibition Project: Organization 1
3.0 units
Thesis Project 1
3.0 units

Year 2: Spring Semester

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

Total 48.0 units

Careers

Thrive in a range of art practices

Our alumni emerge from the program prepared for rigorous intellectual engagement and with first-hand experience working behind the scenes for contemporary arts institutions. They hold prestigious positions throughout the art world, including curator of modern and contemporary art at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, curator at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, assistant curator of media arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Lead of Strategy and Operations at Facebook Open Arts, curator of exhibitions at The Power Plant in Chicago, director of public programs and creative practice at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, 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 curating. Overall, admission is based on the strength of your portfolio and transcripts.

Start your application

You’ll apply to CCA and submit all required application materials via SlideRoom. Afterward, you may be contacted for an interview with a faculty member as part of the application process. Being selected for an interview doesn’t indicate applicant status or increase or decrease an applicant’s chances of being admitted into their desired graduate program. Interviews are conducted at the program’s discretion and are used to gain more insight into an application.

MA Curatorial Practice application requirements

  • Application and $70 nonrefundable application fee
    To be completed and submitted on SlideRoom.

  • Resume/curriculum vitae
    Please outline your educational and professional background and relevant experiences and activities, including community work. Resumes/CVs must be in PDF document format.

  • Two recommendation letters
    You’ll request two letters of recommendation from academic or professional sources in SlideRoom by entering the contact information for your recommenders/references. They will then receive an automated email from SlideRoom with instructions for uploading their letter of recommendation.

  • Unofficial college transcripts
    You are required to provide your complete undergraduate academic history. Students who have already taken graduate courses are encouraged to submit those transcripts, too. For international applicants, all transcripts must be in English or accompanied by a certified English translation.

    Please provide an unofficial transcript from the college where you will receive or have received your bachelor’s degree, as well as unofficial transcripts for all other undergraduate coursework. Unofficial transcripts will be used for review purposes.

    Once you have been admitted and enrolled, all students will need to submit official, sealed transcripts showing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to our graduate admissions office by August 1 of the fall semester they begin enrollment at CCA.

  • Proof of English proficiency (international applicants only)
    Review and plan to meet our English proficiency requirements for graduate students.

  • Personal essay
    In a personal essay, submitted as a PDF, write 500 to 1,000 words about your work within the context of contemporary cultural production 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.

  • Portfolio
    Please submit one exhibition critique and one exhibition proposal as PDF documents.

    • Exhibition critique: A 500-word essay that critiques a recent contemporary art exhibition. In your essay, please evaluate the exhibition’s contents, order, ideas, and presentation.
    • Exhibition proposal: A 500- to 750-word basic thesis and outline for a proposed exhibition. Include a list of artists and their works, a possible site/venue, and a minimum of five visual elements.

Contact our program manager with questions

ShawnJ West

Senior Project Managerggf

[email protected]

Redefine art’s role in contemporary society

Apply now