Graduate Studies Electives


The division of Graduate Studies offers studios and seminars designed to provide students with opportunities for interdisciplinary study and the exploration of issues and practices of interest to advanced-level students in all disciplines. The courses provide opportunities to:

  • explore areas of interest beyond program requirements
  • collaborate on projects with students from diverse backgrounds
  • connect with the larger graduate student population
  • ground your own studio explorations in the context of contemporary theory and practice

Not all of the following courses are offered every year, but this list gives a sense of the kinds of questions and conversations supported by the Graduate Studies curriculum. All GS electives are open to any graduate student, without prerequisites.


  • GRAD-015G

    This seminar will consider the various ways in which manifold artists from Marcel Duchamp through Joseph Cornell, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, Louise Lawler, Fred Wilson, Mark Dion and the Atlas Group have made aspects of the museum a subject matter of their work. Alternatively engaged in a critique of museum practice or romantic evocations of the past, many artists for the past seventy years have addressed the staging devices that museums utilize to confer aura on the work of art as well as the makeup of their collections, categorization and behind the scenes storerooms and archives. This history will be linked to an expanding body of writing that has emerged in the past three decades given to the differing discursive narratives that museums and their archives employ. Writers such as Sigmund Freud, Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Rosalind Krauss, Douglas Crimp, Ralph Rugoff, and Susan Stewart. will be considered. Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-205G

    Are you fascinated by the vast and profound public/private thinking and communication apparatus called writing? Are you struck by the warp speed with which writing culture is changing and impatient to see what's next? Do you want to engage practically, intellectually, and collectively with the possibilities? If so, here's a course for you. Writing+ engages with the current moment in writing-when every link in the print world supply chain between writer and reader has dissolved or transformed; looks at key transitional moments of writing culture in the past-from oral to written, from manuscript to print, from the announcement of a new century to articulation of its identity; and asks students to imagine and make models of what writing will be in the mid-21st century. In 2011, Microsoft commissioned a design project called The Future of Writing from the Royal College of Art in London. Five small teams of design alumni "took a speculative approach to looking at the way authorship may change in the future." We can start by critiquing the results. But our project will be specific to 2014, RISD culture and resources, the commitments of our particular team(s)-and how far we can lean from there. The course, which is funded by RISD 2050, will be supported by a visiting speaker series which students will organize, host, and moderate. Toward the end of the semester, students will co-curate and manage an exhibition of their ideas/models, engaging in public dialog. Graduate elective seminar Undergraduates can Register by permission of instructor only
  • GRAD-155G

    This class explores the ways that objects and bodies come into contact with one another, asking how objects adorn, articulate, equip, augment, and constitute the person. Our exploration follows three tracks: we examine artifacts from the fields of design, fashion and medical engineering, as well as experimental propositions from the visual and conceptual arts, literature and film; we pair these case studies with scholarship that critically engages issues of embodiment and material agency; and we attend to the political and ethical debates raised by dynamic conceptions of posthuman bodies. Interdisciplinary readings across the humanities and social sciences include: Appadurai, Freud, Haraway, Hayles, Heidegger, Latour, Marx, Miller, and Scary. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-158G

    What is "global art?": Artists' perspectives and interpretations Artists have, for centuries, worked across languages, disciplines, and lands to create work, artifacts, and collaborative projects that respond to specific contexts, geographies, and cultures. Yet, over the past decade we hear increasingly from curators, critics, and art historians about the so-called "global turn" in the art world. This course works with art and design students at RISD, as well as visiting guests, to explore, from the artists's perspective and voice, what global art is, what it means, and whether it is a useful or relevant term for practicing artists today. To guide the discussion, we explore the genealogy of the terms "global," "global art," "global art world," while also inviting in artists, critics, and curators to create a dialogue around this contested field. In addition, we look at how the concepts relating to "global art" have been developed and explored through art historical texts, art criticism, exhibitions and related catalogues, as well as larger art world events such as biennales and art fairs. And we review how such terms and trends relate to the way in which artists are educated in a global context. Students are asked to participate in discussions as a class and with visiting guests, to regularly respond to readings, and to present a final paper that presents their perspective on this large topic. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-059G

    While the Modernist ideal of individuated autonomy within each medium continues to play a determining role in art and design, even the most independently produced artworks involve degrees of collaboration, discussion, and shared processing, whether along the vertical axis of historical predecessors and influences or along the horizontal axis of collaboration and connection with fellow artists, designers, and fabricators. Through this course we will chart the relations between the artist-designer and society and consider the economic and ethico-political valences of collaboration. We will read from a variety of texts on subjects such as relational aesthetics, performativity, labor theory, site specificity, public art, collectivity. We'll also question whether the increasing visibility of collaboration has any critical purchase on questions of authorship, property, and value. This course is organized around a series of case studies in collaborative art/design practices that focus on two or three artists, projects, or works per session; two visits to New York to meet with artists and visit exhibitions; and in-class production sessions on collaborative projects. There are also short excursions around Providence to visit local artists and projects.Graduate elective
  • GRAD-159G

    In Imaginary Homelands, the Indian British author Salman Rushdie writes, "The word 'translation' comes, etymologically, from the Latin for 'bearing across.' Having been borne across the world, we are translated [people]. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained." What does our work in art and design gain from acts of translation? How does a creative practice rooted in multilingual experience navigate linguistic and cultural hybridity? How does material and conceptual contact between languages shape one's work or provide a foundation for asking large questions? This combination studio/seminar course explores the relationship between art and language on multiple scales. We will collectively examine, through in-class discussions, lectures, readings and critique of studio assignments, how our relationships to language make possible an aesthetics of communication, a space where visual and verbal intersections speak of interactions between cultures. Lectures will present the work of artists who use text, translation, voice, and language learning as strategies to parlay their sociolinguistic perceptions into agency. Critique of student work produced in response to assignments will focus on an exploration of language within and around each student's art practice. This course is recommended for those who speak more than one language or are interested in multiple Englishes and intercultural communication as material, subject and foundation for creative excavation. Graduate Elective
  • GRAD-026G

    Funded by Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and open to all graduate students in all disciplines, this professional practices course explores models, philosophies, strategies, and adaptive skills crucial to developing and communicating self-aware, diverse, sustainable, and evolving practices in art and design. The course is arranged in thematic parts - Work, Money, and Love. Work explores labor, manufacturing/fabrication, studio space and work environments, and diversified practice. Money tackles legal and financial literacy, markets, grants, and fundraising. And Love invites students into writing as discovery, collaboration, ethics, and engagement. We will act as a research group on professional issues in art and design - to, as Charles Eames once put it, "arrive at as well as convey insight." The goal is to experiment in shared, flexible forms of pedagogy in which we support one another in thinking critically and expansively about the work we want to do, the ideas we want to cultivate, and the lives we choose to live. In addition to the faculty of the course, visiting artists, designers, and other practitioners provide presentations, workshops, activities, and assignments over sustained meetings to broaden and deepen levels of inquiry, discovery, dialogue, and exchange-based experience. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-142G

    Designers and artists have become central to projects of humanitarian intervention in different parts of the world. From designing refugee camps and village schools to water filtration systems and weaving patterns that could compete in Western markets, they are not only making physical objects for disenfranchised across the world, but also shaping how we understand the problems at hand as well as the people in need. This extended role demands a new ethical sensibility and historical knowledge in addition to technical know-how and aesthetic capability. What does it mean to act ethically in a global context? What is the nature of responsibility? How do we communicate across difference without turning whom we seek to help into convenient caricatures of helpless poor? Can art and design only provide stopgap solutions, leaving larger political and policy discussions for other disciplines? Or can they address questions beyond the object and change our understanding of the problem itself? This course will ask these hard questions and unpack them with the help of rigorous theoretical thinking and historical study. This is not a "how-to" course. Nor will we use ready-made definitions of ethics to endorse convenient and familiar ways of working. This is a course about thinking. We will slowly shape an understanding of ethics as a way of introducing reflective friction in our modes of operation and learn to criticize what we must simultaneously use. Course material will include mind-opening historical and theoretical texts, uncomfortable fiction, and fraught films. Only serious thinkers hopelessly invested in their making, and vice versa, invited. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-031G

    This seminar is for graduate students who are preparing their written thesis. Within the context of this writing-intensive course, we examine the thesis form as an expressive opportunity to negotiate a meaningful integration of our visual work, how we think about it, and how we wish to communicate it to others. In support of this exploration, weekly thematic writing sessions are offered to open the imaginative process and to stimulate creative thinking as a means of discovering the underlying intelligence of our work. In addition, we also engage in individual studio visits to identify and form a coherent 'voice' for the thesis, one that parallels our actual art involvement. Literary communications generated out of artists' process are also examined. The outcome of this intensive study is the completion of a draft of the thesis.Graduate elective; Graduate level only
  • GRAD-204G

    In this course, an art history of exchange projects from the past forty years informs individual and collective projects that involve critical exchange. From Franz Erhard Walther's First Work Set (1963-69) to Ben Kinmont's I Need You (1992), from Jose Antonio Vega Macotela's Time Divisa (2006-2010) to Carey Young's Mutual Release (2008), this course understands the reciprocal labor, production, and distribution in artworks as integral to the meaning of the work. Readings from economic sociology as well as contemporary art criticism are paired with contemporary art works and practices to build a framework for the development of critical exchange projects. During the 2014 Fall semester this course is taught online on 10/2, 10/9, 10/23, 11/6 & 11/13; Course meets in New York City on 9/20, 9/21, 11/22 & 11/23 Graduate elective
  • GRAD-044G

    How can we add to the future enrichment of our disciplines? How do we make our future teaching a more meaningful practice? This semester-long professional practice course is for artists, designers, architects, and educators and is designed for students who will be teaching during their course of study at RISD and or who plan to teach in higher education after graduation. The course draws upon the varying expertise and pedagogical practices of RISD faculty and guests from all disciplines to provide graduate students with models of teaching that can inform their development as future faculty. The goal of this seminar is to introduce graduate students to reflective teaching principles and to provide an orientation to the collegiate teaching and learning experience. The course is composed of readings, reviews, discussions and Individual Teaching Consultations (ITCs), where students engage in microteaching sessions and receive feedback from faculty and peer observers. The major products resulting from the course include a personal statement of teaching philosophy and a proposal for a course description and course syllabus. This course maybe also be taken in any sequence with Collegiate Studio: Learning-Centered Teaching.Also offered as ARTE-044G.
  • GRAD-2312

    This course provides students with the skills needed to fully transform their 2D rendering and drafting skills into effective 3D forms. Through the use of large stationary machines, power tools, and hand tools, individuals will develop the ability to communicate their design skills into highly evolved, tangible forms. Contemporary joinery methods, efficient shaping, and construction schemes will be systematically delineated. Additionally, numerous hardware, fasteners, surface treatments, and finishes will be thoroughly covered throughout this class. Graduate elective Open to Seniors and above
  • GRAD-202G

    This seminar examines the dynamic environment of international curatorial work. Using a case study approach that focuses on particular projects, exhibitions and venues, the course explores contemporary curatorial strategies and innovations sited in museums, galleries, other locations, and the public realm - as well as artists and designers who use curatorial concepts in their practice. Through critical discussions, conversations with curators, and visits to projects, we explore how curatorial work responds to and shapes power structures in art, design, and material culture and how ideas of audience, engagement, participation and interactivity influence the critical environment for contemporary artists and designers. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-152G

    This course will serve as a forum for extended group critiques of the ongoing and self-initiated projects of its participants. While different disciplines have differing formats for critique, the practice of critique in this class will not be taken for granted. In general it will mean open-ended, generous, and rigorous analysis exchanged between peers. Through group critiques students will develop critical skills that will help them articulate the conceptual and formal premises of their work. In addition, the course will speculate on critique as a form, examining what it might mean and how it can be used from a variety of perspectives that will chart out a recent history of intellectual thought on the subject. The goal of this course, regardless of discipline, is to develop a cogent and critical understanding of your work that aid you in the elaboration and illumination of your practice and push the development of you ongoing practice. The seminar portion of the class will include examinations of artists, designers and architects tailored to fit each student's interests and related readings by: Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Judith Butler, Michel DeCerteau, Paul DeMan, Ricardo Dominguez, Umberto Eco, Paolo Friere, Michel Foucault, Antonio Gramsci, Elizabeth Grosz, Stuart Hall, N. Katherine Hayles, Friedrich Nietzsche, Oscar Wilde, and Raymond Williams, among others. Note: This hybrid seminar/studio course is scheduled for 5 hours. There will be some days when class may meet for 3 or 4 hours.
  • GRAD-091G

    The Art and Design for Development graduate seminar is for students interested in exploring the role art and design can play in addressing social justice issues in vulnerable, under-resourced and often still-developing regions of the world. The seminar positions the artist/designer as an innovator and activist and explores methodologies and rationale for applying strategic design thinking, processes, and outcomes to issues as complex and diverse as persistent poverty; displaced communities, human and environmental devastation due to war; human trafficking and enslavement; resource deprivation, lack of educational opportunity; livelihood needs, etc. Strategic planning and action, systems thinking, participatory methods, resilience theory, and capacity building provide the theoretical underpinnings for the course and are discussed within a critical framework of the history of international development and ethics of engagement. Critical to this effort will be the students' development of rigorous research skills and clear methodological approaches, and their ability to map and critique their own progress through a strategic design thinking process. The seminar is project based, and situates this effort within an overview and critique of the methodologies and scales of engagement represented by contemporary social impact focused design practice. Projects are undertaken by interdisciplinary teams and focus on the design of strategic action plans for communities and/or organizations currently partnering with RISD's DESINE-Lab-an interdisciplinary applied research group focused on employing design, innovation, and entrepreneurship to address social and environmental justice issues and drive community-based social and economic development. As key players in these on-going relationships, class participants have opportunities to stay involved with DESINE-Lab activities, help implement the steps of the various plans through interning with partnering organizations, lead workshops in the field, and collaborate with future design-build efforts. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-078G

    This course focuses on the graduate level inquiry of wood-based construction designs and commensurate skills. Lighting and upholstery techniques as well as outside vendor protocols may be employed depending on the graduate student's design needs. Graduate students develop a multi-lateral skill set applicable to their area of study. Thesis concepts are often explored within this class. Students concentrate, in sequence, six weeks of studio-based learning of numerous techniques and skills followed by six weeks of a dedicated, full-scale, designed and executed piece. Located in the Center for Integrated Technologies (CIT), the Graduate Studies Wood Studio focuses on contemporary and traditional joinery, shaping, and bent lamination construction techniques. Surface treatments and finishing methods for metal and wood also will be covered throughout this class.
  • GRAD-026G

    Funded by Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and open to all graduate students in all disciplines, this professional practices course explores models, philosophies, strategies, and adaptive skills crucial to developing and communicating self-aware, diverse, sustainable, and evolving practices in art and design. The course is arranged in thematic parts - Work, Money, and Love. Work explores labor, manufacturing/fabrication, studio space and work environments, and diversified practice. Money tackles legal and financial literacy, markets, grants, and fundraising. And Love invites students into writing as discovery, collaboration, ethics, and engagement. We will act as a research group on professional issues in art and design - to, as Charles Eames once put it, "arrive at as well as convey insight." The goal is to experiment in shared, flexible forms of pedagogy in which we support one another in thinking critically and expansively about the work we want to do, the ideas we want to cultivate, and the lives we choose to live. In addition to the faculty of the course, visiting artists, designers, and other practitioners provide presentations, workshops, activities, and assignments over sustained meetings to broaden and deepen levels of inquiry, discovery, dialogue, and exchange-based experience. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-112G

    The purpose of this seminar is to unearth a direction - an origin point - for your graduate thesis and to jump-start the writing process for the Master's written document. Organized as a series of writing intensive workshops, this forum will enable you to explore relevant ideas, themes, core values, and to conduct research in support of the inquiry process. The process involves seeking out and scrutinizing various angles of your perspective as an artist / designer. You will write from these angles to discover the emerging aspects of solutions that matter. Each class will suggest a specific theme or principle of inflection to precipitate what is needed for the work's progress. Included will be several forms of writing: profile, review, narrative essay, poem, report, extended caption, as well as several levels of research: journal and book reading, archival and fieldwork, and conversations and interviews. Emphasis will also be on maps of meaning that will be used as a way to further processes of ideation and understanding. At the conclusion of the seminar you will have a conceptual focus for your thesis that is clearly formulated visually and verbally. With this is place, the summer months can then be used productively to further the breadth and depth of this initial idea through open-ended exploration and self-generated work.Graduate elective; Available to first-year graduate students
  • GRAD-157G

    In this course, students work individually and collaboratively to research and develop 3 projects that investigate structures of participation and collective action. In the first half of the semester, students learn about art collectives and collaborative formats via site visits, short projects, and advising sessions with contemporary artist collectives. In the second half of the semester, students utilize these collaborative approaches to create self-directed projects. Readings from economic sociology (Viviana Zelizer's Relational Work, Mary-Beth Raddon's Women and Men Making Change) as well as contemporary art criticism (Shannon Jackson's Social Works, Tom Tinkelpearl's What We Made, Pablo Helguera's Socially Engaged Art, Ted Purves and Shane Selzer's What We Really Want is Free, Claire Bishop's Artificial Hells) are paired with contemporary art works and practices (Adrian Piper's Calling Card, Paul Ryan's Threeing) to build a framework for the development of participatory and collaborative projects.Graduate elective
  • GRAD-153G

    "I know very well what time is," writes Augustine in the Confessions, "until the moment you ask me, and then I do not know." This philosophical candor was much admired by Ludwig Wittgenstein, who advised that what we cannot speak of we must therefore remain silent. Time, in itself imperceptible, is rendered salient through a variety of intercessionary technologies, utilizing sand, shadow, water, or more complex kinetic devices, to make visible, or audible, its 'passage.' Time can be measured through the body in any number of ways: the physical aging of our bodies, our kinetic movements, the performance of our everyday actions, and our changing outward personal style or disposition. Aesthetic forms, scientific and literary productions 'unfold' in time, moving toward an inexorable conclusion, end, closure or renewal. Phenomena persist, endure, and dissipate. In our contemporaneity time-based media are ubiquitous, and the intimacy between, for example, a naturally produced utterance and its technical reproducibility has become coextensive. In this seminar we will begin with an inquiry into the nature of time, beginning with the pre-Socratics, carrying through to Kant, Heidegger, Agamben and Stiegler; at the same time we will also examine the notion of 'technical-being' or techné, contrasted with biological, living being, bios, zöon. But the primary orientation of this seminar will address the medial or technical and aesthetic register of time-based processes and devices. From the camera obscura to telephony, from the incunabula of the proto-cinema to current digital globalizations, we will explore both the materialities and the theories of time, technics and media, and the complexities they entail. Graduate elective
  • GRAD-541G

    This is a graduate seminar that provides an intensive study of current critical issues in contemporary art. The class is divided into two segments: a seminar and a studio. Each week the seminar lasts for three hours followed by studio visits with each student. This course helps students carry the dialogue of contemporary art issues into the studio more effectively. The specific themes covered in this course change each year. This fall Regine Basha focuses on the following: Making Sense: an experimental seminar exploring the five senses Since we derive vital information about the world around us through our specific portals – skin, eyes, ears, nose and mouth, we are not only processing but also participating in a reciprocal construction of subjective reality. This seminar explores the value of this 'carnal knowledge' and how it has manifested through art both experientially and conceptually. We cover a wide range of texts – from poems to scientific treatise, to eastern philosophy covering each sense as well as the conditions of sensory overload, sensory deprivation, blindness or deafness and phenomena such as synesthesia and phantom limb. We discuss relevant contemporary works which prioritize a specific sense as well as visit specific artists' projects in New York city such as La Monte Young's Dreamhouse, Walter de Maria's Earthroom, Max Neuhaus's project in Time Square and others less well known such as a blind photographer’s workshop. Occasionally, guest artists are invited to speak on their approach to either sound, taste, smell, touch or sight. Each student is asked to design a sensory exercise for the class. One of the aims of Making Sense is disturb the sensory stagnation caused by our immersion into the digital realm and to consider the sensorial process as a generative source for art. Graduate major requirement for Glass majors as GLASS-451G; open to non-majors as GRAD-451G
  • AMST2697-S01

    This course examines current interpretive practices and offers students the opportunity to participate in creating gallery interpretation for the museum context. Questions of material and form; models of attention and perception, the relationship between language and vision; the role of description in interpretation; and what constitutes learning through visual experience will be considered. Throughout the semester students will develop their interpretive practice through a series of workshops, exercises, site visits, and critical discussions.
  • AMST2653-501

    The course offers an opportunity for RISD and Brown students to work together to understand the growing interdisciplinary field of public art. We will explore the potential of working in the public realm as artists and/or arts administrators. Topics include: pivotal events and artworks that formed the history of public art from the early 20th century to the present; approaches to site-specificity; ideas of community and audience; current debates around defining the public and public space; temporary vs. permanent work; controversies in public art; memorials, monuments, and anti-monuments; case studies; public art administration models, among others. It is both a seminar and a studio; students work individually and together on research, presentations, proposals and public projects. Enrollment limited to 12 seniors and graduate students. Instructor permission required. Note: This course begins one week before the RISD courses begin, please contact instructor for permission: Janet Zweig
  • GRAD-651G

    This seminar will draw on critical texts from the past three decades by writers such as Rosalind Krauss, Douglas Crimp, bell hooks, Dave Hickey and Arthur C. Danto to consider the various definitions of post-modernism and its aftermath. By considering issues that relate to the viability of the expression of the artist’s subjectivity in the post-modern era as well topics pertaining to race, gender, sexuality, the marketplace, mass media and popular culture, a broad view of the subjects, themes and discourses of contemporary art and culture emerges. The course is structured around in-class discussion of assigned articles, slide lectures, and presentations. The seminar aims to extend the range of critical texts currently read by students, additionally serving as a springboard for the development of the graduate thesis.
  • GRAD-730G

    Color pervades and persuades all that we do in the visual world. Color scholarship can step and stage our own projects. This course will expand our knowledge of color through examples of watermedia. Qualitative looking at historical collections, comparative analyses of artists’ or designers’ color methods and materials, and an interpretation of color models in ink, gouache or watercolor will deepen our understandings. The class will investigate particular color characteristics in translucency, tonal sequencing, color interaction, and phenomenal hue effects through 10 guided quick projects. During the course students will evaluate selections from the body of 600 British watercolors in the RISD Museum for color cues and material use. A range of contemporary color watermedia works will be viewed in galleries to better understand and question newer applications, trends and inventions. A color reader will accompany students’ visual studies. Each participant in this seminar will complete a comparative color analysis of a historical and contemporary work with a review of methods, means and contexts. How, for instance, does the artist or designer order tasks in each piece to distinguish a color voice? Which way does the nature of the color medium heighten meaning? The course’s final assignment consists of the presentation of students’ self-selected color topic with a responsive and corresponding body of watermedia work. It is hoped that an adopted feedback strategy will contribute both to a period of self-reflection and ultimately inform a larger conceptual framework for students’ own original work. It is primary goal of this course to provide students with a research-based foundation to enhanced color acuity in an artist’s or designer’s studio work.
Grad Studies Foreground Image 5
A gallery visitor checks out one of the many interactive installations often found at the grad shows.