Graduate students may enter a program of study as a terminal MA student, as an MA/PhD student who will complete both degrees at VCU, or as a PhD student who has already completed an MA at VCU or elsewhere.
MA/PhD and PhD students complete a major and a minor field of study in the following areas of faculty expertise:
- Modern and Contemporary Art
- Nineteenth-century European and British Art
- German Art and Historiography
- African, African American, and African Diasporic Art
- Museum Studies
There are two curriculum concentrations in the MA program: historical studies, and museum studies. Each concentration provides students with a general background in the research methods and teachings of art history, and equips them for careers in arts and cultural institutions that require an MA degree. Each concentration also prepares students for the more rigorous research demands of the PhD, which is the required degree for academic and curatorial careers.
MA students complete their programs of study in 2 years (four semesters), which culminate in the submission of a qualifying paper completed in consultation with a faculty advisor.
In the first semester, all students complete a course in art historiography and methodology, which provides an essential foundation for embarking upon research relevant to the current state of a chosen area of study.
In the second semester, students complete a course in art history and pedagogy, in which they explore various philosophies and contemporary practices in the teaching of art history in academic and museum contexts. This course prepares students to teach college-level art history, facilitate museum tours and programs, and develop a teaching portfolio.
During the third semester, students complete a writing seminar, in which they are immersed in the process of preparing their work for academic publication (including issues of copyright, publication submissions, and standards for review and professional success). For Museum Studies students, the qualifying paper may be based upon a museum project completed during a previous semester.
While completing the aforementioned required courses,
- students in the historical studies concentration complete 6 seminars (18 credits) in art history, with at least one seminar in each of two categories—period/regional and thematic;
- museum studies students complete 2 museum studies seminars (6 credits), a museum internship (3 credits), and three seminars in art history (9 credits)
The program requirements can be completed in 2 years—with full-time enrollment in three semesters and part-time enrollment in the fourth semester. Some students opt to enroll in additional, non-required graduate courses during the fourth semester. These optional electives can be in art history, museum studies, non-profit management, or other departments relevant to students’ interests and professional goals.
In addition to coursework, each MA student demonstrates an ability to translate art historical literature from a foreign language relevant to his/her research into English. This requirement is completed during the first semester of coursework, during which students may opt to enroll in the departmental course on German for Art History Research.
The PhD program* offers two curriculum concentrations: historical studies and curatorial. Both concentrations require at least 30 course credits beyond the MA degree and culminate in a dissertation that makes an original, significant contribution to the candidate’s major field of study. The time to degree, ideally 4 years beyond completing the MA, varies according to the nature of dissertation research. For example, some students’ research includes extended international fieldwork or travel to archives and collections.
At the PhD level, historical studies students complete a total of 5 art history seminars (12 credits), while curatorial students complete 2 art history seminars (6 credits), a museum internship (3 credits), and a course in non-profit management or education research methods (3 credits).
All PhD students complete a major and minor field of study, both of which must be in an area of expertise among the full-time faculty (listed above). The major field requires completion of 3 courses while the minor field requires 2 courses, some of which may be completed during the MA program of study. Students demonstrate mastery of their fields in field exams, completed at the end of the semester in which they enroll in 6 course credits of field exam preparation.
In addition to coursework and field exams, all PhD students complete 3 credits in dissertation prospectus, and 6 dissertation credits. They also demonstrate an ability to translate art historical literature from two foreign languages into English, one of which may be achieved while completing the MA degree.
*The Department of Art History is currently not accepting applications for the PhD programs in Historical and Curatorial Studies.
More detailed information about the MA and PhD programs of study is provided in the graduate manual.