KCAD is discontinuing the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies at the onset
of the fall 2022 semester. While we are no longer accepting applications to this program,
we invite you to learn more about KCAD's certificate in Visual and Critical Studies
Students from the fields of fine art, design, library or information science, anthropology,
sociology, political science, cultural studies, etc. may find the addition of a certificate
or Master of Arts degree in Visual and Critical Studies advantageous to advancing
the development of their research, practice and career.
In the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies degree program, you’ll explore
the influence of visual images on everyday life through a theory-driven, integrative,
and experimental course of study. By focusing on the strategic points of cultural
context, material conditions, and critical theory, you’ll learn to investigate visual
culture through a synthesis of multiple qualitative research methods and concepts
and to communicate your analysis through scholarly writing suitable for peer-reviewed
As you move through the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies degree program,
you’ll develop the ability to critically unpack visual information and meaningfully
situate research within a broader epistemological horizon. You’ll build versatile
critical thinking and critical reading skills that will empower you to effectively
analyze theoretical texts.
You’ll elevate your writing and public speaking skills in order to publish scholarship
in peer-reviewed journals as well as communicate your findings through engaging and
informative oral presentations. All of these skills will be informed by your awareness
of how images shape our attitudes and actions, allowing you to more effectively navigate
the ever-shifting landscape of the modern world.
Housed in an institution with a rich history of innovative art and design education,
the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical Studies program is attentive to the concerns
of practicing artists and designers, which means that you have more freedom to dive
deep and experiment than in similar programs situated in a traditional liberal arts
setting. You even have the opportunity to take classes alongside other graduate students
in the Master of Fine Arts and the Master of Arts in Design programs at KCAD.
There’s also the matter of flexibility: you can choose to pursue either an 18 credit-hour
certificate or the full 30 credit-hour degree program that includes a thesis requirement.
Whatever path you take, you’ll receive intensive and personalized instruction from
the program’s diverse, faculty, who possess interdisciplinary expertise in visual
art, digital media, art history, visual culture, and literary studies in addition
to critical theory and analysis.
The skills and knowledge you’ll develop in the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical
Studies program are invaluable in today’s highly visual world, as the growing need
for critical analysis and cultural synthesis demands a new kind of interdisciplinary
scholar who is invested in a more experimental mode of research and scholarship. As
society negotiates an increasingly complex landscape of visual information, the ability
to understand the visual world becomes paramount.
You’ll emerge from the program equipped with the tools and framework to be an individual
researcher who can suture together knowledge in new ways, fostering experimentation
and discovery through published peer-reviewed scholarship. The degree will also act
as a springboard for you to pursue a PhD in fields such as visual and critical studies,
art history, fine arts, design, museum or curatorial studies, and library or information
If you’re entering the program with an undergraduate degree in fine art, design, library
or information science, anthropology, sociology, political science, or cultural studies,
obtaining a certificate or MA in Visual and Critical Studies will aid you in advancing
the development of your research, practice, and career. If you’re entering the program
with an MFA, you develop enhanced theoretical knowledge and writing skills that will
enable you to achieve more in your professional artistic practice.
The capstone of the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical studies degree program is
a year-long thesis project* in which you’ll propose, research, compose, and present
an original work of intensive scholarship on a specific topic, either historical or
contemporary in nature, related to visual culture. You’ll first work with your faculty
advisor to determine a suitable topic and theoretical direction. Then, in the semester-long
Research and Methods course, you’ll develop a framework of research that will eventually
become your thesis proposal. Finally, you’ll spend your final semester in the program
completing your thesis in the Writing Practicum course.
Both the Research and Methods course and the Writing Practicum will help you develop
very specific skills: critical reading and evaluation of scholarly literature, understanding
the different ways to analyze images based on disciplinary and theoretical concerns,
planning and execution of a large writing project that indicates discipline and self-motivation,
and finally, honing your writing and self-editing skills necessary to communicate
*The completion of a graduate-level thesis is required for all students who wish to
obtain the M.A. The thesis is not required for students pursuing the certificate.
In addition to the support of the faculty in the Master of Arts in Visual and Critical
Studies program, you’ll have access to the KCAD Library, which provides access to millions of books through the MeLCat shared library catalog
as well as access to specialized research databases and subscriptions to scholarly
journals; and KCAD’s Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), an innovative cultural institution hosting exhibitions of such contemporary artists
and designers as Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, Carrie Mae Weems,
and Judi Werthein.