History of Art, Design and Visual Culture

The Department of Art and Design at the University of Alberta offers students exciting and rigorous programs leading to Masters and Doctoral degrees in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture. This dissertation-based program emphasizes critical thinking about how the world is mediated by technologies of vision, images and material objects. We offer a range of courses on modern (nineteenth and twentieth-century) and contemporary art and theory, design, new media, the graphic arts, and museum practices.

Faculty in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture specialize in the study of Europe, the Americas and Asia, and focus on three areas of study: 1) Modern and Contemporary Visual Art and Theory; 2) Modern and Contemporary Design and Design Theory; and 3) The Visual and Material Cultures of Asia.  These three areas of focus are linked by their interrogation of various forms of modernity, attention to critical theory, and emphasis on the international exchange of material goods and ideas.  The study of art, design and visual culture at the University of Alberta is fostered by excellent collections, among them the Mactaggart Collection of rare Chinese paintings and textiles, the Print Study Centre, the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, and the Rawlinson Rare Medical Books Collection.  

A new PhD program in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture was approved by the province of Alberta in the fall of 2011. This program offers an exciting opportunity for graduate students to pursue advanced studies in the History of Art, Design and Visual Culture under the supervision of our faculty.

Recently completed thesis topics include: democratic design practice in eastern Europe and the West; the political possibilities of play in contemporary installation art; the aesthetics of distortion in a monumental Chinese landscape painting by Shi Lu; time and technology at San Francisco's 1915 world's fair; representations of cancer in medical discourse and contemporary art; and architectural politics in early modern France.

Prospective students are encouraged to contact individual professors before applying to learn more about the particular strengths of the department. Please consult individual faculty web pages for more information about faculty specializations and research interests.

Professors in the History of Art, Design, and Visual Culture are committed to supporting MA and PhD students, offering workshops on applying for grants, building a curriculum vita, and giving conference or artist talks. Financial support is also available to many students in the form of scholarships, research assistantships, and teaching assistantships.

Students at the NGA in Ottawa

is studying how the various kinds 
of cognitive differences often 
characterized as disabilities 
inform some artists’ creative 
practice, and how their processes 
give their unique viewpoints a 
platform and help them integrate 
into communities of support.