University at Buffalo
Department of


Art & Design

Art History

Visual Studies

Overview of Degrees

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The Department of Art at the University at Buffalo offers the Doctorate [Ph.D.] in Visual Studies, two distinct MAs, the Masters of Arts [M.A.] in Visual Studies, and the Masters of Arts [M.A.] in Critical Museum Studies, and the Master of Fine Arts [M.F.A.] in Art (studio art and design).

Master of Fine Arts [M.F.A.] in Fine Art Studio

The M.F.A. is a full-time, two-year 60-credit art and design program that promotes freedom of creative inquiry and production. Research that redefines parameters and confronts contemporary issues is encouraged. Unique abilities and potential are developed in a community of students and faculty engaged in intensive discussion, investigation, and production of challenging new work. Critical interactions with resident faculty, visiting artists, designers and critics form the core of graduate level involvement. M.F.A. students each work with three graduate faculty who serve on their Thesis Advisory Committee.  Individually and collectively, the members of this committee are responsible for critical analysis of the student’s progress. The degree culminates in an M.F.A. thesis exhibition or alternative public presentation, a written thesis research paper, and an oral defense.

Other requirements include seminars, courses in critical theory, art history and academic electives. The program is rigorous, requiring a serious work ethic and the ability to chart a course of personal development.

Students have private or semi-private secure studios with 24-7 access and may use all departmental facilities and communal labs. Shared labs support photography (digital, film, and non-silver), print media (lithography, intaglio, screen, digital, relief and letterpress), sculpture (full wood and metal shops, metal foundry and digital lab with laser cutter), graphic design, video/sound recording and editing, electronics/physical computing, large scale digital output, biological art, installation, performance, painting and drawing. All studios and labs have Wi-Fi connections.

A joint M.F.A. venture with the Department of Media Study focusing on Emerging Practices (EP) is committed to exploring the interdisciplinary space between emerging technologies and the arts. EP students are focused on exploring the technical, tactical, cultural and communicative potential of emerging technologies such as interactive multi-media, electronic installation, networked telematic communication, robotics, biotechnology and algorithmic image synthesis.

Master of Arts [M.A.] in Visual Studies

The MA in Visual Studies is a two-year 36-credit program of study designed for a small, highly selective body of students who have already identified an intellectual project in keeping with faculty specializations. If admitted to the Visual Studies MA, you will work closely with faculty in developing an interdisciplinary course of study. Though it is a degree program, the MA in Visual Studies should be viewed as a stepping-stone to an eventual PhD, although acceptance in the MA program in Visual Studies does not guarantee admission to our PhD program.

Master of Arts [M.A.] in Critical Museum Studies

The Department offers an MA in Critical Museum Studies; a two-year 36-credit program of study conceived according to a more traditional pedagogical model, with a broad distribution of courses across a wide geographical and chronological span. Less modern and contemporary in focus than our Visual Studies degrees, the MA in Critical Museum Studies is ideal either as a stepping-stone to a doctoral program in Art History or as a credential degree for a museum/gallery career.

Ph.D. in Visual Studies

The PhD program in Visual Studies is a small, highly selective program for motivated, independently-minded scholars invested in critical discourses that analyze and challenge the social norm. We specialize in exploring those structuring ideologies that lurk beneath the visible and help select, order and make legible what can be seen—and what cannot be. We especially welcome students interested in considerations of sexuality and the body, and the technologies and sciences that underwrite and make visible our embodied self-understandings.

The Visual Studies Doctoral program prides itself on close faculty/student contact, more in a European than American pedagogical model. We admit no more than three students annually and we work closely with them not only through the degree program, but afterwards towards securing a position. Instead of a standardized program with requisite steps, we will meet with you frequently and tailor a program that builds from your interests. This means you can take any course offered in the graduate school for credit, and there is active encouragement to explore subjects from a variety of disciplinary perspectives—but at the same time, we want to emphasize that this is not a studio program. On the contrary, it’s a highly rigorous doctorate with the traditional emphasis on research and writing, designed for the student with an active politics, precisely the kind of student often alienated from more traditional art history doctoral programs.

All students admitted to the PhD program will receive a full tuition scholarship for at least three years, as well as living expenses and health care, in exchange for teaching and research responsibilities.  In addition to this support, highly competitive applicants are eligible for supplementary stipends awarded by the offices of the President and Dean.

202 Center for the Arts, North Campus
Buffalo, New York 14260-6010
(716) 645-6878
(716) 645-6970 fax
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