Curriculum

The Visual Studies program takes advantage of the unique access, scale, engagement, experimentation and breadth within Portland’s arts ecosystem. From one-on-one mentorships with highly respected artists and critics to partnerships with flagship institutions such as the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, PNCA’s Visual Studies program is deeply integrated into the city’s arts infrastructure in a way that allows you to focus on your individual growth while expanding your connection to a professional practice. Students will have opportunities to engage audiences outside the program through Open Studios, studio visits with national artists and critics, public presentations, and exhibitions. Cohorts in the program also engage in specialized residencies and travel to international art cities such as New York, Mexico City, and Los Angeles alongside guest artists, critics, and alumni.

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  • Year One
  • Year Two

Fall

Course
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Contemporary Art Seminar
Elective Credit

Spring

Course
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Critical Studies Course
Elective Credit

Fall

Course
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Elective Credit

Spring

Course
Graduate Studio (this reflects studio work time)
Graduate Critique Seminar
Thesis Writing

Learning Outcomes

Establish a self-directed studio practice focused on ideas, materials, and a process of making that is responsive to historical context and relevance.

Demonstrate an ability to identify paradigms and evaluate levels of meaning within contemporary art and to situate one’s creative practice in response.

Expand one’s understanding of art within both local and global society. Articulate aesthetic inclinations within clearly delineated historical, political, cultural, and power relations.

Actively seek engagement and dialogue with a contemporary arts community in the program and beyond. Develop a sustained model for graduate level research, production, promotion, communication, and writing skills.

Course Descriptions

Critique Seminar

Taken all four semesters by all students in the Visual Studies program, the Graduate Critique Seminar provides MFA candidates with an intellectual community and critical forum. The Seminar will meet weekly to critique, in rotation, the work-in-progress of all candidates. The cross-disciplinary nature of the conversation is meant to foster the widest possible dialogue among artists, encourage divergent thinking, and discourage the easy acceptance of received notions. The Seminar is led by MFA faculty members, as well as visiting artists, critics and scholars, who join in on discussions and critiques. Students may also be assigned critical readings to prepare for presentation and discussion, and class meetings are supplemented by lectures and performances of visiting artists to PNCA through the visiting artist series.

Contemporary Art Seminar

This course exposes students to contemporary art making strategies, artists, curators, critics, histories, and systems that influence and drive the expansion of the current art world. Topics will be explored through: slide lectures, museum and gallery visits, videos and websites, as well as reading discussion of selected books, articles and essays. Over the course of the semester, a series of related issues are addressed in conjunction with invited guests and MFA lectures whose work is relevant to the subject under discussion.

Critical Studies Course

Students may choose one of the following Critical Studies courses to fulfill this requirement:

  • CRIT 501 Introduction to Critical Theory
  • CRIT 526 Creative Nonfiction Writing
  • CRIT 525 Critical Writing and Visual Culture
  • CRIT 533 Critical Theory Special Topic
  • CRIT 601 Critical Race Theory
  • CRIT 501 Queer and Feminist Theory
  • CRIT 521 Introduction to Cultural Studies

Graduate Thesis Research + Writing

This course is designed to instruct, guide, and support the MFA student with the completion of the Thesis Paper. The Thesis Paper is a statement of your critical positions as an artist. It is informed by your studio practice and supported by relevant sources. This course prepares the MFA student to develop a successfully researched Thesis Paper that relates the concept, process, and evaluation of their artwork to a reader. At the end of this course, the student should be prepared to present a thoroughly developed Thesis Paper. Each student will be led through three rough drafts before the final paper is presented for grading, binding, and storage in the PNCA library holdings. The final body of text will be between 6000 and 9000 words (approximately 20-30 pages) in length.

Critical Pedagogy

Offered both Fall Semester and Spring Semester

This is a graduate level course addressing pedagogical strategies in post-secondary arts education. Students will be introduced through readings to various philosophies of education and will critically discuss these ideas in class. By the end of the course students will develop their own written teaching philosophy, a sample syllabus of a class of their choice, a cover letter and a teaching CV. Lectures and invited guests will augment discussion of professional practice issues surrounding arts education and what is involved in successfully applying for teaching positions. MFA students who complete this course will be eligible for paid TAships.

Electives

Students can choose elective classes from upper division Undergraduate course offerings with the submission of a Graduate Elective Form. Students can also choose to take electives from Critical Studies, Applied Craft and Design, Collaborative Design, or Print Media.

Pnca Harry Dodge Vs Visiting Lecture MFA Visual Studies

The Graduate Visiting Artist Lecture Series

PICA's Time-Based Art Festival

The Time-Based Art (TBA) Festival produced by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art brings an international group of performers and visual artists to Portland for a ten-day festival, and our students are there for all of it! PNCA partners with PICA to host festival exhibitions we are the primary location for the TBA Institute with talks, panels, and workshops. Our students attend countless performances, exhibitions, and events and have plenty of time to hang out with artists at the after-hours Works venue.

More Info @ PICA

Caldera Residency

Each fall, second-year MFA candidates gather with visiting artists, scholars, curators, and/or critics at the Caldera Arts residency to engage in artmaking, research, and thesis preparation amidst the stunning beauty of rural Oregon. Previous guests have included Julie Ault, Gregg Bordowitz, Saul Ostrow, Tom Zummer, Alix Pearlstein, Kate Gilmore, and Amanda Hunt.

Open Studios

Open Studios

Each year students hold an Open Studios event. Friends and fellow students, faculty and staff and the wider public tour studios and view works. Students make new connections and benefit from conversations about works in progress

Have questions?

Reach out to Garrick Imatani, Chair of Visual Studies, to schedule a time to talk.
gimatani@willamette.edu

Request Info