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Visual Arts Launches New
Concentration in Art Practice

September 24, 2009

By Sheena Ghanbari

This fall UC San Diego’s Department of Visual Arts welcomes the inaugural class for the Ph.D. concentration in art practice, one of the first doctoral programs in the country designed for practicing artists.

Incoming students will have a wide range of resources on campus, including the cutting-edge departments of Music, Theater and Dance, CALIT2 (a center for new computing technology) and the extensive collections of the libraries.

“Our department has a long history as a center for research across the boundaries of history, theory and practice,” says Visual Arts Department Chair Grant Kester. “Where other schools will often segregate art history and art practice, Ph.D.s and MFAs, we bring them together in an environment that encourages exchange and collaboration. This history, combined with the remarkable resources of a top-ranked research university, will make this an ideal program for artists seeking to expand their understanding of artistic practice as a form of research.”

The art practice concentration is housed within the Ph.D. program in Art History Theory and Criticism. The concentration is located in a visual arts department that combines a top-ranked MFA program and an innovative new art history Ph.D. program with a strong focus on contemporary art. As a result, students in the art practice concentration have access to a remarkably diverse range of faculty in studio, media and new-media production, as well as across the breadth of art and media history, theory and criticism.

The new concentration is well suited for artists whose work involves research methodologies from both the humanities and the sciences. UC San Diego is known internationally as a center for advanced scientific research, as well as for its innovative programs in science studies, communications, gender studies, ethnic studies, urban studies, history and world literature. The campus offers a rich terrain for advanced, interdisciplinary research.

While the MFA is largely a practice-based degree, the new Ph.D. concentration is intended for students who wish to combine art practice with sustained scholarly inquiry through writing and research. As incoming student Katrin Pesch explains, “I was looking for a place that would allow me to equally focus on my artistic practice and my interest in writing within an environment that emphasizes interdisciplinary perspectives. I think the program is unique in its combination of art practice and theory and a faculty comprised of artists and theorists, respectively. I am very much looking forward to pursue my work and engage in an ongoing dialogue with both faculty and fellow students.”

Pesch and Cara Baldwin are entering the Ph.D. concentration in art practice; both artists have completed their MFA degrees. Baldwin received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and is a published author and exhibiting artist with a background in curatorial work and art activism. She is a founder and co-editor of the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest and is currently working on a pair of anthologies on contemporary art and politics. Pesch completed her MFA at Weissensee College of Art, in Berlin. She has participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program and was a visiting artist at the Art Center College of Design. Both Baldwin and Pesch have and established art practice and have exhibited their work internationally.

The new concentration follows the formal structure of the art history Ph.D. Students must have a reading knowledge of two foreign languages and take a qualifying exam. Their doctoral examination incorporates both a written dissertation (of shorter length) and a creative component (which might include a film, installation, exhibition, performance, public work or other form of artistic practice). Like the other Ph.D. concentrations, art practice requires two-and-a-half to three years for course work and one to three years to complete the dissertation.


Media Contact: Sheena Ghanbari, 858-822-7755 or sghanbari@ucsd.edu

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