Wang Hui, Landscape after Old Masters, 1674 (detail), Metropolitan Museum

Wang Hui, Landscape after Old Masters, 1674 (detail), Metropolitan Museum

Concentration in Theory and History of Art and Design

With its emphasis on history and theory as a tool for critical thinking and critical making, the Concentration in Theory + History of Art + Design (THAD) offers individual courses and customizable tracks that enrich and challenge students’ understanding of global practices in art and design. The THAD concentration adds collaborative learning experiences to the curriculum in the form of opportunities for semester-long Museum Fellowships at the RISD Museum. Fellows work in designated museum departments under the direct supervisions of curators, conservators, registrars, and media specialists. Whether in classrooms, studios, or at the museum, the THAD concentration prepares students to bridge practice, history, and theory.

Undergraduate Concentration

The 24-credit undergraduate concentration in the Theory and History of Art and Design is designed for students who wish to complement a studio major with in-depth studies in art history, theory, criticism and museum studies. The undergraduate THAD concentration can be completed as part of a typical 4- or 5-year degree program. All RISD BFA candidates may opt to add this concentration to their program of study.

The undergraduate concentration is composed of three major components:


1. Introductory Courses (2 courses): THAD-H101 (Global Modernisms) and THAD-H102 (Premodern Worlds) courses, which are required for all first year students across the school.

2. Theory and Methods (1 course): All THAD concentrators must complete a course in this topic area.

3. Electives (5 courses): At least 1 of the 5 elective courses must be a seminar.


Courses outside of the department (HPSS, LAS, or Brown University courses) must be approved by the concentration coordinator. 

Graduate Concentration

The Theory and History of Art and Design concentration offers the opportunity to augment a graduate degree with a 15-credit Theory and History of Art and Design concentration. Knowledge of the histories and theories of art and visual culture is increasingly demanded of artists and designers, and the THAD department has designed the concentration in recognition of this phenomenon and the fact that MFA, MLA, MAT and MID recipients often enter teaching careers in which they are expected to teach history and theory as well as studio classes.


1. Theory and Methods (2 courses): Graduate concentrators are required to take two courses in THAD in this topic area.

2. Seminars (2 course): Graduate concentrators must complete at least 2 elective seminars.

3. Electives (1 course): Graduate concentrators are required to complete an elective course. This course may be a seminar or a lecture.

Please note: The department is changing the requirements for the Graduate Concentration to a total of 5 Electives (2-3 Seminars recommended). This change is pending approval by the Instruction Committee and it will go into effect once approved.


Any Liberal Arts graduate degree requirements and certain graduate courses offered within the individual programs may be incorporated in the credits necessary to complete the concentration. All master’s degree candidates are eligible to add this concentration to their program of study.

Concentration TRACKS

The Department of Theory and History of Art and Design offers 8 concentration tracks, including:

  • Design Studies

  • Global Modern and Contemporary

  • Global Pre-Modern

  • Museum and Curatorial Studies

  • Photography and Screen Cultures

  • Queer and Gender Studies

  • Race, Ethnicity and Representation

  • Theory and Criticism

Concentrators are encouraged to focus their studies in Theory and History of Art and Design on one of the following tracks, but choosing a track is entirely optional. We also strongly recommend that all students consult the concentration coordinator before declaring a track.

Lean more about each concentration track here:

Declaring THAD as your Concentration

We strongly recommend that, before declaring THAD as a concentration, you consult the department’s concentration coordinator, Professor Jung Joon Lee. Professor Lee holds regular office hours for concentrators and inquiries about the program, but you can also contact her at to make an appointment.

Please go to the “Declare Concentration” page in order to declare your wish to choose THAD as your undergraduate / graduate concentration. The button below will also take you to the declaration page.