Learn to think critically and write eloquently about historical and contemporary art.
The Visual Studies program challenges you to think and write critically about the past, present, and future of visual culture. You’ll learn to analyze art objects and artifacts of pop culture from the perspectives of historian, theorist, writer, and maker. Positioned within one of the best art and design schools in the country, you’ll work alongside fine artists from many different disciplines, not to mention our renowned faculty, who frequently contribute to high-profile publications and curate exhibitions around the globe. Alumni leverage these connections and opportunities to lay the groundwork for their personal practices.
You’ll take visual studies courses alongside interdisciplinary studios, a unique opportunity to directly engage with material practices they want to research. Our curriculum also features a number of open electives to give you the freedom to handle and make art objects. Through field trips and seminar discussions, classes examine an even wider range of visual material, from ancient architecture to video games, analyzing and contextualizing what they see within broader social and historical phenomena.
Preparing for professional publication
Students culminate their classroom and studio work with a senior thesis project, designed to mirror the rigorous methodologies in professional settings. The thesis-driven research paper, which is transformed into a symposium presentation, can also be submitted as part of a grant or graduate school application. In addition to working closely with Visual Studies faculty throughout this process, students get feedback from visiting curators, historians, gallerists, and even CCA alumni.
Your research and writing life at CCA
- Analyze art objects through observation and research
- Build visual and cultural literacy skills
- Think and write critically
- Visit renowned museums and galleries
- Learn from visiting artists, scholars, and critics
- Network with journalists, conservators, and art dealers
- Take electives in fine arts, design, and writing
- Write a research-driven thesis paper
- Present your thesis at our annual symposium
Our faculty are practicing artists, museum professionals, and critics. Their collective expertise spans disciplines, including experimental cinema, creative writing, architectural and urban history, fashion theory and design, comparative literature, and graphic design. Deeply engaged with the art world, they’re dedicated to sharing their knowledge—from curation to publishing—with Visual Studies students.
Chair Elizabeth Mangini is drawn to the way objects can tell stories. A widely published art historian, she specializes in social histories of postwar and contemporary art, especially European art of the 60s and 70s. She’s held curatorial positions and postgraduate fellowships at renowned institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts.
Explore beyond the boundaries of traditional art history
Visual Studies at CCA expands the perspective of cultural critique by examining the intersection of art history and modern-day visual culture. Courses study everything from painting and sculpture to gaming and social media. You’ll learn from professional curators, historians, and gallerists how to think, write, and speak eloquently about the visual culture that surrounds you. The program culminates with a senior thesis you’ll present professionally. View sample course descriptions
Investigate ideas through every dimension
Before diving into their chosen major, every undergraduate participates in the First Year Experience. Students explore a wide range of materials and tools over the course of two semesters. Faculty from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.
Our students apply their skills in research-based critical writing, publishing, and art curation to myriad roles in the field. Some students go on to attend graduate and PhD programs, and others engage in political activism or become independent gallerists. Wherever they are, they ask challenging questions of themselves and the world.
Potential career paths
- Critic and writer
- Curatorial assistant
- Museum education assistant
- Assistant archivist
- Arts administrator
- Creative writer
- Arts publisher
- Professional at a nonprofit arts institution
Our students love art, design, and visual culture. They often want to share this passion through writing, curating, and teaching. Most importantly, Visual Studies students want to contribute to the field in a way that’s inclusive and groundbreaking.