What is Visual & Critical Studies?


Visual & Critical Studies is the investigation of visual culture and regimes. In the interdisciplinary and culturally diverse environment of California College of the Arts, students critically examine visual phenomena across the range of fields studied at the college: art, social practice, film, design, digital media, comics, creative writing, architecture, and curatorial practice.

If you aspire to learn how to think critically about visual culture in relation to urgent social, cultural and political issues around the world today, then the Visual & Critical Studies program at CCA is for you. If you are prepared to take intellectual risks, then the Visual & Critical Studies program at CCA is for you. If you want to acquire the tools and skills that will enable you to change in the world, the Visual & Critical Studies program at CCA is for you.


Who applies to the program?


Prospective students from across the country and around the world apply to Visual & Critical Studies at CCA. We admit applicants who have demonstrated writing skills and an investment in visual culture. Our students come to us from diverse cultural backgrounds with academic training in a range of fields. A small but significant sector consists of “returning students” who have professional experience in a visual vocation. About half of our students exercise the Dual-Degree Option; this enables them to concurrently earn an MA in VCS and an MA or MFA in one of the graduate programs at CCA devoted to creative practice.


Who teaches our courses?


Our award-winning faculty members contribute to various (often multiple) fields: fine arts, architecture, design, philosophy, critical theory, film, literature, creative writing, performance studies, gender studies, cultural studies, and anthropology, in addition to visual studies.


What careers do our graduates pursue?


Visual & Critical Studies graduates excel in a wide range of visual professions. They are cultural journalists, critics, editors, curators, community activists, arts administrators, and educators. Many continue graduate study at the PhD level in Visual Studies, Cultural Studies, Anthropology, History of Art, Performance Studies, and other fields after graduating with an MA in VCS.

What sets us apart?

Compared to similar MA programs at other schools, the Graduate Program in Visual & Critical Studies at CCA proudly features:

  • Unique practice-driven curriculum
  • Sustained commitment to social justice
  • CCA’s dynamic art-school environment
  • Exceptionally diverse student and faculty community
  • Individual attention
  • Collegiality and collaboration
  • Openness to innovative modes of research and scholarship
  • Interdisciplinary problem solving
  • Project-based classes
  • Professional development in teaching, writing, and visual communication
  • Internship opportunities in San Francisco cultural enterprises
  • Support for field work
  • Public talks, symposia, and roundtables introducing cultural leaders
  • International network of potential professional mentors