Graduate Overview

SAIC's Master of Arts (MA) in Visual and Critical Studies program integrates scholarly, studio, and hybrid research practices.  It is designed for students who wish to pursue a scholarly and creative investigation of practices of looking and the production, circulation, and impact of visual images.  

Through immersive research intertwined with studio practice, writing, or both, students explore ways of seeing and representing social, cultural, and visual phenomena. The curriculum balances topic-based seminars, independent work with advisors, and electives to create a singularly interdisciplinary course of study.

At the heart of the Master of Arts degree in Visual and Critical Studies is a core structure of visual theory surrounded by a flexible curriculum in which students, guided by SAIC faculty advisors, design their own course sequence to match their interests.  The Visual and Critical Studies program aims to redefine disciplinary practices, and explores interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and postdisciplinary thinking and making.

Each year artists, curators, and scholars participate in critiques of MAVCS student work.  This opportunity enables students to understand their production in a broader context.

Depending on students’ research interests, the final thesis may be a written work of criticism, a creative writing project, a body of work presented in a gallery during the annual student-run exhibition, or a hybrid-platform production.  Graduate students also organize an annual symposium to share their research in a professional context.

Thesis Abstracts

The SAIC Thesis Repository contains theses submitted since November 2013.

Theses submitted prior to November 2013 are listed in the Flaxman Library catalog.



Recent visitors to the Visual and Critical Studies department have included:

  • Akili Tommasino (on Black Panther Party newspapers
  • Ling Yang (on Boys’ Love in Chinese online culture)
  • Lauren Berlant (on dissociative poetics)
  • Boris Groys (on changing the world through art)
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff (on political activism and visual culture)
  • Gordon Hall (on object lessons)
  • Joey Orr (on public art actions)
  • Szu-Han Ho (on transnational collaboration)
  • Francois Piron (on the social life of books)
  • Ben Kinmont (on social sculpture)
  • Pierre Von-Ow (on conversation pieces)
  • Mitesh Dixit (on “Complex Projects” at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands)
  • Nico Dockx (on archives)
  • Zak Kyes (on Fighting With Inanimate Objects)
Selections from the 2017 MAVCS Symposium

Greg Ruffing

Notes in the Margins: Spatial Politics, Artistic Production, and Communities of Resistance

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Willy Smart

My Secreted Life

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Anna Foran

A Brief History of Glue

View Video

Interested in learning more about how you can apply?

Visit the graduate admissions website or contact the graduate admissions office at 312.629.6100, 800.232.7242 or