October 6, 2011

California College of the Arts, MFA with a Concentration in Social Practice

California College of the Arts (CCA)
Nancy Nowacek, Threshold, 2010.

MFA students at California College of the Arts in San Francisco may choose to focus on social practice instead of a traditional studio discipline. Their studies incorporate diverse strategies, from urban interventions to utopian proposals, guerrilla architecture, “new genre” public art, social sculpture, project-based community practices, and street performance.


Social practice students focus on questions of aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, persona, media strategies, and activism—the intersection of art and actual social situations. They expand on these questions via critical readings in social economy, democracy and participation, theories of the public sphere, and the history of the everyday. Because much of their work potentially involves public commissions, long-term residencies, or the creation of alternative institutions or collectives, students gain experience conceiving complex projects, articulating narratives that support them, and cultivating a network of fellow practitioners and supporting institutions.


The Workshop
Central to the social practice concentration is the workshop, a yearlong studio/practicum course led by resident faculty members in coordination with national and international visiting artists and theorists. Each workshop takes a field-based approach and is centered on a particular thematic framework. The workshops may be located in diverse social and physical contexts, including urban environments, formal and informal organizations, and popular media.


At the end of the course, each workshop publishes a book that critically documents the students’ and visiting artists’ work. Check out one recent volume, After Words: Texts on Voice, as a free download at Lulu.


Campus Facilities
Social practice students are based on CCA’s San Francisco campus, in an 1,100-square-foot shared space that is designed to facilitate dialogue and the creative process. It is also a “home base” for the program’s visiting artists, who interact with students both in the formal context of the workshop course and via informal, day-to-day contact and conversations.


Interdisciplinary Studies
Students concentrating on social practice also participate in the broader curriculum of CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts. They take graduate-level critique and theory seminars alongside students concentrating in studio disciplines, and they can enroll in electives offered by CCA’s other graduate programs (Writing, Curatorial Practice, Visual and Critical Studies, Architecture, Design, and the MBA in Design Strategy). This interdisciplinary approach enables them to understand and contextualize their work across a variety of fields and discourses.


International Opportunities
International summer courses take place each year. In summer 2011 the program offered opportunities to work with faculty members on community-based projects in Tarnow, Poland, and Gothenburg, Sweden.


Scholarships and Financial Aid
CCA awards a range of competitive merit and diversity scholarships as well as substantial need-based financial aid. For more information about financial aid at CCA, visit


Resident Faculty 2011-12
Amy Balkin
Josh Greene
Amanda Herman
Ranu Mukherjee
Ted Purves
Sanjit Sethi


Visiting Workshop Faculty 2009-11
Tania Bruguera
Banu Cennetoglu
Fallen Fruit
Leah Gordon
Christine Hill
Shannon Jackson
Hari Kunzru
Oscar Romo
Jorgen Svensson
Otto Von Busch


For more information about CCA’s MFA with a concentration in social practice, visit


To request a CCA graduate viewbook, please contact us at 415.703.9523, 800.447.1ART, or [email protected] You can also view it online at


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