The Master of Arts degree in Curatorial Practice is a two-year program that focuses on professional training, with a thorough grounding in the relevant study of history, research, and theory, and with an emphasis on hands-on work with experts in the field, professional networking and the foremost goal of placing graduates of the program in curatorial jobs. The program takes full advantage of the vast number of arts institutions and professionals on the doorstep of the school in Chelsea and throughout New York City, which provides countless opportunities for study, mentoring, and professional development. Our faculty members are all working in significant institutions in New York, with curators, museum and gallery professionals, and artists streaming into our space on 21st Street each week from around the world to talk about their exhibitions, programs, and events, and to meet emphasis on hands-on work with experts in the field, professional networking, and the foremost goal of placing graduates of the program in curatorial jobs.
There has never been a moment so potent in the explosive growth of venues for curatorial work across the globe. Our program in Curatorial Practice (CP) is predicated on the fact that the global enterprise of the art world—including museums, Kunsthallen, commercial and nonprofit galleries, private collections, alternative spaces, biennials, art fairs, online art sites, and a vast number of other publicly and privately supported art platforms—has increased the number of curatorial ventures for programming on local, national, and international stages. CP embraces the nature of artistic and curatorial practices as fully interdisciplinary. The visual arts, design, film, new media, performance, research-based practices, and other aspects of knowledge production and transfer are all within our program’s active educational and professional purview.
To emphasize the deeply entwined nature of education and professional engagement, CP considers itself a hub for practitioners in the global field, not an academic cloister. What this means in real terms are established relationships with museums, as well as other organizations and independent experts, in New York and from around the world. Ongoing exchanges, internships, and both local and international opportunities to train and collaborate with others in the production of exhibitions, publications, conferences, and events, along with collateral online efforts, are critical components of what curatorial candidates experience in the program.
The space that CP occupies on West 21st Street, close by the galleries in Chelsea, with easy access to museums and other exhibition venues in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the other boroughs, affirms this programmatic approach. Our facilities have been designed from the ground up specifically for us by Charles Renfro of the world-renowned architectural practice of Diller Scofidio + Renfro, in association with the young design firm Leong Leong. Their mission is to create a dynamic environment in which continual discussion, pedagogy, professional visits, critical encounters, research, and production take place. Of course, our purpose-built facilities fit within the exceptional network of studios and workshops for every creative practice, along with libraries, labs, and galleries that comprise the School of Visual Arts. The faculty and artists of SVA’s other programs offer still more possibilities for collaboration.
No other curatorial program in the world brings more extraordinary resources, more creative enterprises, more artists and experts as faculty and visitors, more internationally respected and bountiful institutions, more adventurous and vanguard undertakings across every disciplinary practice, more of an intellectual seedbed for thought and production, and more opportunities for professional connections than what our Masters in Curatorial Practice has at its fingertips in New York to bring to its students.
– Steven Henry Madoff, chair
The MA in Curatorial Practice offers a preliminary boot camp that begins in late summer as part of its first semester, introducing fundamentals of research methodologies and conceptual thinking, followed in the full four semesters of the program with rigorous practical and intellectual training. The course work is designed to offer macro and micro views of the field, with the study of different curatorial histories across disciplines, constant practical exercises in curatorial craft, and engagement with working curators and other experts across disciplines and from around the world.
The curriculum is founded on a series of case study seminars; writing workshops; practicums in every aspect of exhibition-making and other forms of knowledge presentation; and programmatic engagements with curators, artists, and experts who will meet with the students as a group and on an individual basis. Students will also take two semesters of art practice in their first year to have a hands-on experience of what it is to engage in the production of art.
In their second year, students will enter into an internship/mentorship program, while they begin work on their curatorial plan for a final exhibition project. Internships will happen with New York institutions and also with national and international partners. Students will have the enormous resources at their disposal of more than 20 graduate programs at SVA to draw work and collaborators from. These projects can take many forms and are encouraged to address interdisciplinary practices, as befits the expanded field of curatorial platforms today. The Curatorial Practice program will not only house exhibitions within SVA but will partner with institutions so that curatorial candidates’ final projects are exhibited throughout New York and in virtual space.
Degree candidates must successfully complete 50 credits, including all required courses, while maintaining a high level of academic and practical performance as judged by faculty and mentors. In their fourth and final semester, students will present their culminating exhibition and an accompanying catalogue that meet professional standards in order to be granted the Masters degree in curatorial practice. Applicants with a prior background in curatorial work are especially encouraged, as are art historians and artists whose enterprises are relevant to advanced work in the curatorial field.