Visual and Critical Studies 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.

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The Master of Arts (MA) in Visual and Critical Studies program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is designed for students interested in the scholarly and creative investigation of the production, dissemination, and impact of visual images, objects, experiences, and practices. With the visual as a starting point, students use multiple methods of critical investigation to study the interactions between visual phenomena and their historical, disciplinary, and social contexts.

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 post-disciplinary 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 before November 2013 are listed in the Flaxman Library catalog.

Upcoming Admissions Events


Graduate SAIC Days offer prospective students the opportunity to get portfolio feedback from faculty from individual departments during one-on-one meetings, plus learn more about all SAIC's graduate degree offerings, tour campus, and learn more about financial aid. 

Saturday, December 02 12:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. CST at MacLean Ballroom 112 S. Michigan Chicago, IL 60603

Take the Next Step

Graduate Priority Application Deadline: 12/1

SAIC's Graduate Programs offer a priority deadline and reduced application fee before December 1. APPLY

MFA in Studio Admissions Information
Curriculum & Courses

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

Clau Rocha, Do Ghosts Cast Shadows?, 2022

MA Visual & Critical Studies Program Brochure

Clau Rocha, Do Ghosts Cast Shadows?, 2022