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MFA Art Writing at SVA is one of the only graduate writing programs in the world that focuses specifically on art criticism. It is designed to give students a grounding in the philosophical and historical bases of criticism, to improve both their writing and their seeing, and to provide sources that they can draw on for the rest of their lives.

In addition to the foundation seminar (Bases of Criticism I & II), three levels of writing practicums, and the thesis seminar, the program offers an array of continually changing electives taught by prominent writers and critics. Students concentrate on the essay as form, as well as on shorter forms of review, and learn criticism by practicing it. The thesis that students write at the end of their course of study is intended to be a substantial piece of criticism. From its inception, the program has also had a special emphasis on the history and current transformations of the image. The critics of tomorrow must study images in all of their manifestations, in order to better understand how we are subject to them.

2016 – 2017 student population

17 matriculated students

Department chair

David Levi Strauss, writer, scholar, and critic (Words Not Spent Today Buy Smaller Images Tomorrow: Essays on the Present and Future of Photography; From Head to Hand: Art & the Manual; Between the Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics; Between Dog & Wolf: Essays on Art & Politics; The Fighting Is a Dance, Too: Leon Golub & Nancy Spero; To Dare Imagining: Rojava Revolution)

Some notable faculty members

Debra Bricker Balken (Debating American Modernism); Thomas Beard; Michael Brenson (Acts of Engagement: Writings on Art, Criticism, and Institutions); Emmanuel Iduma; Jennifer Krasinski; Ann Lauterbach (The Night Sky: Writings on the Poetics of Experience); Dejan Lukic (Hostage Spaces of the Contemporary Islamicate World); Nancy Princenthal (The Deconstructive Impulse: Women Artists Reconfiguring the Signs of Power); Charles Stein (Persephone Unveiled); Lynne Tillman (What Would Lynne Tillman Do?)

Some notable guest lecturers

Holland Cotter, Susan Buck-Morss, T.J. Clark, David Graeber, Boris Groys, Dave Hickey, Lucy Lippard, Sylvère Lotringer, W.J.T. Mitchell, Avital Ronell, Elaine Scarry, Peter Schjeldahl, Michael Taussig, McKenzie Wark

Departmental publication

Student writings are published in Degree Critical, an online art journal, and Zephyr, a zine.

Department website

More information

SVA Admissions: 212.592.2107 | [email protected]

Media requests

SVA Communication: 212.592.2010 | [email protected]


209 East 23 Street, New York, NY 10010-3994 | Tel 212.592.2000 | sva.edu

School of Visual Arts | 209 East 23 Street, NY, NY 10010-3994 | Tel: 212.592.2000 | Fax: 212.725.3587