COURSES

 
PRACTICUM 1: RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES
 

In this practicum, students will examine basic art-historical research methods through scholarly investigation of a curator (historical or contemporary). Working independently and in collaboration to seed a database on the topic, students will seek out and visit primary and secondary source collections in the New York City area, demonstrate investigative skills and present their research in the form of a database contribution and a brief presentation. 

 
PRACTICUM 2: LOGIC AND RHETORIC
 

This practicum will be a formal introduction to logic and rhetoric, founded in the classical canon. It is commonplace in art practices to talk about “conceptualism” and the concepts that are the basis of works of art, particularly in the post-Duchampian era. However, the foundational ideas of what concepts are and the way logical structures and rhetorical arguments undergird the formation and expression of a concept are largely unexamined. Through readings and exercises, students will examine logical rules for concepts, classification, and definition, as well as how to construct arguments using Aristotelian syllogistic logic and modern symbolic systems. By acquainting students with the basics of logic and rhetoric, this course will provide a background that will help curatorial practitioners rigorously address the practice of concept formation as it relates to artists’ works and to their own formulations of exhibitions and other curatorial expressions. 

 
CASE STUDY SEMINAR 1: CURATING DIGITAL ART THROUGH NETWORK, GALLERY AND PUBLIC SPACE
 

This course gives an overview of curatorial models for digital art, ranging from approaches to online exhibitions to models for presenting (networked) digital art in museums and galleries, at festivals or in outdoor spaces. The curation of digital art is now commonly understood as an engagement with a variety of aspects of the production, presentation and reception of the work of art. Through weekly case studies and readings, students engage with challenges of and best practices for the presentation of digital art in various contexts; audience engagement and educational materials; organizational structures and funding as well as exhibition documentation. The exhibition history of digital art and changes that have occurred in presenting the work throughout the decades will also be discussed.

 
PHILOSOPHY & SOCIAL THOUGHT SEMINAR: CURATORIAL PRACTICE, BODY AND WORLD
 

In a well-curated exhibition, one can “feel” that something has been done right (or wrong) through the exchange between the body, the objects in the exhibition space, and space itself. Understanding this relationship is crucial for curatorial practice, and this seminar offers a philosophical framework for thinking it through rigorously and critically. The phenomenological movement has made perhaps the most important contribution to this discussion, and we will engage various accounts of the body and its relationship to space and the world along with excursions into memory theory, the philosophy of technology, feminist theory, and speculative materialism. Note that this is a philosophy course, not an art history or curating course. Yet the subject of the course should bear directly on your practice as a curator: as every participant in an exhibition immediately enters into this unspoken relationship, the curator must be conscious of the manner in which perception, consciousness, objects, and space are dynamically intertwined. 

 
CURATORIAL ROUNDTABLES 1-4: VISITING INTERNATIONAL CURATORS PROGRAM
 

Every week a curator or institution director visits to discuss a current project. The presenters come from all over the world, work across all disciplines and represent different kinds of institutions and practices. The format is informal and intimate; each presentation is followed by a reception that allows students to interact with guests and develop a growing professional network. 

 
WORKSHOP IN CRITICAL WRITING 1: CURATORIAL ANALYSIS
 

Each week students must write a 500-word review as a curatorial analysis of a museum exhibition that gives ample evidence of the curatorial argument for the show, aspects of exhibition design that clearly manifest the argument, and other manifestations (catalogue, online presence, conference, workshops) worth noting. This is a good way to visit museum exhibitions on a weekly basis in the city and learn to analyze exhibitions for their curatorial work-not for the art itself, but for the presentation of the art. Each review must exhibit clean writing, strong argument, and proper use of syntax, grammar, and punctuation.

 
WORKSHOPS IN PROFESSIONAL PRACTICES
 

These intensive weekly workshops address a variety of technical and professional skills, ranging from installation and lighting design to making effective presentations. The focus of the workshops is to prepare students with basic understandings of skills they will need themselves as curators or to be able to more effectively work with professional collaborators in curatorial settings. 

 
ART PRACTICE
 

The Curatorial Practice program intends to fully immerse its students in the world in which they will advance their careers as professional curators. Central to this world are the artists whose works provide the content of exhibitions and other curatorial projects. In order to fully value this work, students will try their hands as art practitioners by enrolling in a studio art course of their choosing at the undergraduate level (unless otherwise approved for graduate level). Ongoing critiques by their instructor and classmates will be given. By the end of the course, students will have a deeper understanding of the techniques, materials, conceptual challenges and risks of being a working artist. This will contribute directly to their curatorial practices and collaborations with artists. 

 
CP EXHIBITION
 

For the CP Projects Space exhibition, an exhibition plan must be presented to the program chair for approval. This includes the following components: a full description in writing of the concept of the exhibition, a checklist of artists and the works to be included in the exhibition, an installation plan of the works in the CP Projects Space, a budget for the exhibition, all wall labels for works, a wall text that summarizes the exhibition for viewers and a press release. Installation and deinstallation of the exhibition must be successfully completed by the curatorial fellow. All requirements are to be fulfilled with the oversight of the department chair and administrative staff. 

CASE STUDY SEMINAR 2: MODELS OF THINKING–CURATING A PROGRAM
 

This course takes as its starting point an expanded notion of what curating is. Beyond just exhibition-making, there are numerous ways in which a curatorial practice takes shape. Together we’ll explore the notion of “programming” as a way to understand how, why and for whom contemporary art exists and is shaped by curators, contexts, and constituents. Through site visits, we will observe and interrogate firsthand a range of ways that programming responds to different ideals and realities, to the discourse of contemporary art itself, as well as to diverse artists and audiences.

CASE STUDY SEMINAR 3: HISTORY AS COMMODITY–ON THE CONTEMPORARY
 

The purpose of this course is to understand contemporary art as a distinct historical period and why the closing of this period seems marked by the threat of imminent catastrophe. It is not a coincidence that this has also been a time marked by the reformatting and redeployment of history and historical tropes on the one hand, but also a shift in the use of memory and progressive thinking towards economic and informational ends. How have inertia and cyclical time been redeployed in the contemporary period as the time of finance and of the museum? This course looks at historical precedents and theoretical formulations to better understand how these changes have come about but also takes for granted that their effects are becoming increasingly bizarre—demanding that we cast a very wide and often scattershot net across many disciplines in order to make sense of their movements. 

CASE STUDY SEMINAR 4: INSTITUTION BUILDING AND THE NEW INTERNATIONAL
 

While the 1990s saw the beginning of the biennial boom, the last decade was witness to the evolution of new models for institutions that enable the development of longer-term networks and collaborations both regionally and internationally. During this time, the role of the curator has come of age, transforming the legacy of 19th- and 20th-century art institutions and finding a voice within broad geopolitical arenas. As curators have undertaken increasingly politicized roles and exhibition topics the growing pains are evident, particularly within the spectacle culture of globalization. This course will think through what it takes to create a three-year exhibition program that embraces a new internationalism and responds to the specific contexts of an institution, from audiences and budget to strategic development and creating institutional identity.

CASE STUDY SEMINAR 5: CURATING THE INTERDISCIPLINARY
 

This course will address working across formats in interdisciplinary programming, including the visual arts, dance, music, performance, video, and film. Using The Kitchen for this case study seminar, we will examine historical and contemporary developments to produce an integrated curatorial practice for diverse audiences. Time in the classroom will be spent addressing practical considerations and relevant intellectual concerns. 

 
CASE STUDY SEMINAR 6: 20th- AND 21ST- CENTURIES EXHIBITION HISTORY
 

How is art presented to the broad public? What are the origins of exhibition-making, and with what intentions has it been carried out? How have governments, nonprofit cultural organizations, extra-institutional entities, independent curators, and artists dealt with public exhibitions, and at whose initiative were/are they organized? This course is conceived to consider a range of exhibition and public initiatives to understand how exhibitions have evolved from the earliest biennials (beginning with the Venice Biennial in 1895, the Carnegie International and Documenta) to community and locally-based public art initiatives that have impacted and have been responsive to the public’s expectations around their reception of exhibitions. The focus of the course will move between the international and local institutional models on a larger scale, to more ephemeral and experimental approaches to exhibition-making, emphasizing how the production of exhibitions has shifted as the role of the curator has expanded.

PRACTICUM 3: EXHIBITION-MAKING
 

This practicum is required for all first-year students to review the fundamentals of traditional exhibition-making. The course offers participants a platform for debate, exploration, and experimentation in curatorial practice, and encourages interdisciplinary thinking as a way of addressing the expanded role of the curator beyond the traditional art world nexus. With the guidance of the lead instructor and the participation of visiting experts in areas discussed, students will consider practical issues of curating, such as studio visits with artists, exhibition planning and related software, exhibition design and installation, lighting, art handling, transportation and insurance, registration and condition reports, all aspects of budgeting, commissioning and fundraising, as well as such topics as ancillary program development, exhibition outreach and marketing, online development, tools and methods of documentation, and de-installation. 

 
WORKSHOP IN CRITICAL WRITING 2: CURATORIAL ANALYSIS
 

In this course, students will write reviews of exhibitions or other curatorial ventures, with emphasis on their curatorial aspects. These reviews are critiqued in a workshop setting, refining students’ writing and analytical skills. As one of the goals of the program is to make its candidates highly professional explicators of their ideas, this workshop will improve students’ ability in written communication. Writing well, however, means thinking clearly and so this course is equally about honing students’ ability to organize and express their thoughts, while also making them more attentive to curatorial craft as practiced in the city’s immensely varied spaces. It will serve also to raise students’ awareness of the various forms of presentation available to them, while deepening their knowledge of methodologies and execution.

 
INTERNSHIP AND FIELDWORK PROGRAM 
 

Crucial to the professional training and networking that are core aspects of curatorial practice is the Internship and Fieldwork Program. The internship takes place during the summer break between the first and second years of the program. This is important for students to gain the fullest sense of working within a professional setting. Internships are arranged with New York-based museums, galleries, and alternative venues, as well as with national and international institutions. Mentors are assigned at host institutions to oversee student work and will be members of each student’s Review Committee the following fall for his or her final curatorial project. As well, students take a trip overseas to visit an important biennial exhibition and take part in discussion and workshops at the event. This is fieldwork that augments their understanding of various aspects of the curatorial enterprise, while having the opportunity to study firsthand a major international exhibition. 

 
CASE STUDY SEMINAR 7: PERFORMANCE AND INSTITUTIONS

 

As the practice and study of performance become increasingly institutionalized, this class explores wide-ranging approaches to curating performance within various institutional structures—from the club and cabaret to the proscenium and black box to the gallery and public art contexts—and the positioning of the audience in each of these situations. It will address the challenges and conditions around an ephemeral discipline in regards to documentation, preservation, and writing; the issues surrounding visual art performance versus the performing arts; and the role of producer versus curator.  

 
CASE STUDY SEMINAR 8: THE EXPANDED SPACE OF ART
 

Taught by an architect, this course uses historical and contemporary examples to examine the expanded field of exhibition-making in the 21st century. The complex, dynamic and productive relationships between exhibitions and their sites will be explored as the class tackles the challenges and opportunities of found or made space, site specificity, site neutrality, object specificity, temporality and media. Using images, videos, and texts, students will conduct independent research on exhibitions and their sites, and visit shows, performances, and events throughout the New York area. Guest lecturers will include artists, curators, exhibition designers, and other architects. Curatorial exercises dedicated to the reconciliation of space and art using conventional artworks, design pieces, time-based works, and performance, as well as consideration of the virtual exhibition space, will be an essential element of the course. 

 
ARTIST ROUNDTABLE
 

To complement the Curatorial Roundtable, the third semester of the program will focus on meetings with leading artists, architects, and designers in New York City. This course will take place in the classroom, as well as in studios, galleries, and museums around the city. Working toward an increased knowledge of curatorial issues from the artist’s perspective, students will participate in a series of conversations with guests to discuss their work, their exhibition experiences, and what they seek and expect from their relationships with curators. 

 
INDEPENDENT CURATORIAL PLAN
 

Under the supervision of the Review Committee, comprised of the department chair, faculty member, institutional mentor and external examiner, students will create and formally present the plan of their final exhibition/curatorial project. Putting into practice their refined research and writing skills, along with the cumulative knowledge of the case study seminars and practicums, they will draft the plan for their project, from its concept through proposed artists, works and budget, and any ancillary programming. Students are encouraged to work with artists from other SVA graduate programs for inclusion in exhibitions and various curatorial projects. The plan must be approved by the Review Committee. 

 
WORKSHOP IN CRITICAL WRITING 3: THE CATALOG ESSAY
 

In conjunction with their final exhibition/curatorial project, students will write a full-length catalog essay. For this workshop, they will consider the possible approaches the essay should take; the fields of information and ideas it should include and exclude; what audience it might reach, and the relationship between the essay and its audience; and the demands of the catalog essay as a form. Throughout the semester, students will write the essay while working with the instructor as a writer works with an editor. 

 
FINAL EXHIBITION/CURATORIAL PROJECT
 

Students finalize all aspects of their exhibition/curatorial project plan, prepare and install or otherwise present their work for critique, along with any ancillary activities. Curatorial projects will take place in SVA venues and in public spaces located throughout New York City. The final project is intended to demonstrate each student’s learning, development, use of practicum methods, intelligence and creativity toward the realization of curatorial work that meets high professional standards. The presentation of the final project, along with the submission of the catalog essay and the plan for any ancillary activities, will complete the requirements to earn the master’s degree. The record of this final work, along with successful completion of the full curriculum, will also demonstrate the professional level of knowledge—inclusive of practical, historical and theoretical aspects—that students have gained and can bring to their work as advanced practitioners in the field. 

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MA Curatorial Practice 
School of Visual Arts


132 W. 21st Street, 10th Floor 
New York, NY 10011-3203

 

Tel: 212.592.2274
Fax: 212.592.2555

Email: macp@sva.edu