September 17, 2012

Call for applications: Art Criticism & Writing MFA

School of Visual Arts (SVA)

The Art Criticism & Writing program at the School of Visual Arts is one of the only graduate programs in the world that focuses specifically on criticism and art writing.

The practice of criticism involves making finer and finer distinctions among like things, but it is also a way to ask fundamental questions about art and life. The MFA program in Art Criticism & Writing is designed to give students a grounding in the philosophical and historical bases of criticism, to improve both their writing and their seeing, and to provide sources that they can draw on for the rest of their lives.

Critics cannot afford to be specialists, so our curriculum is wide-ranging. In addition to the foundation seminar, Bases of Criticism I & II, taught by chair David Levi Strauss, three levels of writing practicums, and the thesis seminar, we offer an array of continually changing electives taught by prominent writers and critics. We concentrate on the essay as form, as well as on shorter forms of review, and learn criticism by doing it. The thesis that students write at the end of their course of study is intended to be a substantial piece of criticism. We want students to come out of this program better prepared to write in the world.

From its inception, this program has had a special emphasis on the history and future of the image. The critics of tomorrow must study images in all of their manifestations in order to better understand how we are subject to them.

In addition to our exceptional core faculty, including Michael Brenson, Nancy Princenthal, Lynne Tillman, Vincent Katz, Trinie Dalton, Munro Galloway, Alan Gilbert, Phong Bui, and Claudia La Rocco, we invite many writers, critics, philosophers, editors, artists, and art historians in each year to give lectures and to meet with our students individually and in small groups. Recent guests include: Susan Buck-Morss, Sylvère Lotringer, Robert Storr, Avital Ronell, W.J.T. Mitchell, Ann Lauterbach, Michael Taussig, Boris Groys, Cuauhtémoc Medina, T. J. Clark, Peter Schjeldahl, Bill Berkson, Lucy Lippard, Amy Sillman, Linda Nochlin, and Dave Hickey.

Our acclaimed monthly lecture series at the SVA Theatre in Chelsea continues this fall with Marcus Boon, “Abject Future: Tyler, the Creator, Azealia Banks, and the Politics of Vibration,” on September 27th; Elaine Scarry, “Beauty and the Pact of Aliveness,” on October 11th; Luc Sante, “The Genius of the System,” on November 15th; and Debra Bricker Balken, “Harold Rosenberg and the Twilight of the Intellectuals,” on December 13th. All events are free and open to the public at the SVA Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues) in New York City.

In January 2012 we moved into our new facilities (including a new library) on the 6th floor of 132 West 21st Street in Chelsea. It is obviously a big advantage to have such a program situated in the heart of New York City, amidst the greatest concentration of artists and art activity in the world.

On October 11, 2012 at 5pm, join us for an Open House and Information Session. Tour our new facilities, meet students and faculty, and join us for the Elaine Scarry lecture at the SVA Theatre at 7pm. Call us for more information and register for this event here.

Our students produce an online journal of timely reviews of current exhibitions in New York City and other writings called Degree Critical, edited by Nancy Princenthal. Read Degree Critical on our website.

We are now accepting applications for the Fall 2013 term. Generous departmental scholarships are available on a competitive basis. To download an application, go to or contact us at [email protected], or 212 592 2408 for further information.

To see sample programs, faculty bios, news, the Degree Critical online journal, recordings of past lectures, and admissions procedures, go to




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