Descriptions for courses and workshops recently offered in the VSW MFA program are below. For Electives and Public Administration classes that are part of the MFA’s Art Administration graduate certificate program, search The College at Brockport, SUNY’s online catalog.

  • Core Workshops

    Examines contemporary photography in the broadest possible sense. Investigates the act of making images and their social and psychological contexts. Requires students to produce a body of photographic work and to understand the effects of different visual strategies as well as physical material choices for images.

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    Examine contemporary uses of image juxtapositions in series, sequence, text and image relationships, and the various printing, materials, and conceptual concerns that come together in the book as an art form. Require students to plan and produce several books and to understand the material book as a metaphor that creates meaning in the work.

    Introduce students to the intersection of photography, film, video, audio, and digital media as well as historical and contemporary concepts of moving media.

    Require students to plan and produce several moving media pieces.

  • Studio I-VI

    Examines studio work by way of experimenting with materials, subject matter, and production techniques that are new to the student in addition to continuing to develop ongoing bodies of work. Weekly critiques are by peer review, led by the instructor, with several visiting artist critiques in the term.

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    The culminating event for the course is the Work Share where the student creates a visual display, book, screening, performance, installation, or some other physical presentation to be critiqued by a group of peers, faculty, and invited artists and critics/historians in the community.

  • Summer Workshops

    Specialty subjects taken over five days and forty hours, tailored to the cohort from the students’ input. For the full listings and description of current or recent workshops, visit the Summer Institute page.

  • 16mm Film I

    Introduces the student to independent 16 mm film production. Focuses on individual expression through scriptwriting, production, and postproduction. Sessions include the history of film, camera operation, use of light meters, lighting, composition, directing actors, and the principles and techniques of editing.

  • Critical Writing

    Provides an overview of current writing strategies and styles for artists, curators, and critics. Expands the boundaries of what is traditionally thought of as an essay. Examines the role of research in writing as well as the technical requirements for professional documentation of research.

  • Collections Management

    Provides an overview of the function of registration and cataloguing staff; developing cataloguing systems; collection management procedures; insurance; and condition reports.

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    Students learn cataloguing and the use of a collection database; the guiding principles of stewardship and collection management; explore various legal and ethical issues museum professionals face; examine the regulatory system designed to uphold the integrity of collection care and manage liability exposure associated with a broad range of collection activities.

  • Exhibitions Management

    Provides an overview of the function of visual art exhibitions and curatorial work. Exhibitions research, checklist creation, unpacking and object handling, gallery preparations, design, fabrications, installation, lighting, and labeling are all covered in the class.

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    Students learn the above skills through hands-on work in Visual Studies Workshop’s gallery exhibitions program and through site visits to other exhibition spaces and museums in Rochester, NY.

  • Art Organization Practicum

    Provides the opportunity to gain first-hand experience and working knowledge of one of VSW’s program areas: The Nathan Lyons Research Center, Artist Screenings, Exhibitions, VSW Press, and other areas.

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    Requires students to work under the direction of the Director or a program area coordinator to make active contributions in advancing the program’s goals. Provides insight into an art organization and learning particular professional skills.

  • Curatorial Outlooks

    Identifies the traditional role the curator plays within an institution, and examines the work of curators who have been particularly influential in their respective fields. Looks closely at curatorial practices within the disciplines of photography, film, and mixed media arts to uncover the political, social and cultural impact that the work of these curators has engendered.

  • Alternative Views of Art

    Examines and explores art and culture from radically different points of view. Uses strategies and disciplines including women’s studies, subculture, and political activism to see western art in a different light. Encourages the development of different means of theoretical frameworks for looking at art.

  • Contemporary Issues in Art

    Surveys themes and processes in the visual and media arts since World War II with emphasis on photography, the mass media, book art, time-based art, installation art, and performance.

  • Media Culture

    Explores the culture of media through image production and dissemination, sequence and montage and the media environment. Explores how individuals and groups respond to and manipulate images to make sense of their lives. Examines how images work as a language and how images and words function together.

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    Considers how images construct our environment and social world. Analyzes the practices of mass and alternative media in relation to emerging systems of information.


  • History of Photography

    Surveys the development of photographic processes and the movements and artists that have influenced photography.

  • Internship

    Designed to benefit students’ work by providing experience in the field. Involves the commitment of one semester’s time (or 120 hours) within an active, professional learning situation.

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    Examples include an apprenticeship with an artist, assisting a curator, setting up and teaching courses in a remote area, doing bibliographic research at an artist-run book center, assisting in digitization projects at a collection, etc. Culminates in a report including documentation and an evaluation letter.

  • Thesis I

    Lays the practical and conceptual groundwork for the final thesis project, a public presentation and contribution to the field of visual studies in the form of a gallery show, media art project, screening, or publication.

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    Focuses on issues of professional practice in writing artist statements, public speaking about work, display alternatives, etc. Culminates in the Graduate Review, a public presentation assessed by one’s peers, faculty, and outside experts.

  • Thesis II

    Requires a final thesis project that leads to a public presentation and contribution to the field of visual studies in the form of a solo show, media art project, screening, publication, or other accepted form.

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    Requires that the public presentation be available to the community for at least one week at an appropriate site within 50 miles of or at VSW. Two faculty members and one outside advisor act as advisor mentors to the project. A final presentation and discussion results in a vote to recommend the acceptance or resubmission of the project.