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, and 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.
Students choosing a track must complete at least one seminar and two electives that qualify for their declared track.
The Design Studies track focuses on the forms and uses of material objects from industrial design, craft, furniture, interiors and architecture, as well as graphic and digital design. Students may take courses in both THAD and HPSS and have the opportunity to study design objects and design cultures from the perspectives of art history, anthropology, political economy, and critical social theory.
Global Modern and Contemporary
This track addresses modern and contemporary art and design as embedded in the processes of global exchange and trade that accelerated dramatically with the spread of colonialism in the nineteenth century, and which set the stage for the global culture of the present. Modernism is treated as a network of multiple and dispersed histories, unfolding variously and unevenly across the globe. And modern art and design are posited not only as creative, productive response to cultural alterity, but also as implicated in producing the very global processes it often seeks to critique.
The Global Pre-Modern track offers a variety of courses in the pre-modern art of Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Africa, South and Central America, and China. Arts of important periods, including those of the Renaissance, the Baroque, the Neoclassic, and Ancient Art, are potential timeframes on which students could focus. Courses in this track will emphasize the fluid exchange of ideas and images that long predated modernity.
Museum and Curatorial Studies
Given the ideological significance of spaces and strategies of display, the Museum and Curatorial Studies track offers students a framework in which to examine historic and contemporary curatorial practices, and to investigate the history of exhibition and display in a variety of institutional frameworks and contexts: from the house museum to the global biennial. Students choosing this track may complement their coursework by applying for a RISD Museum fellowship.
Photography and Screen Cultures
The Photography and Screen Cultures track is focused on the global history and theory of photography and the moving image. The track offers students a variety of courses in the history and philosophy of photography, video, film, animation and cinema, and considers the centrality of the moving image to modern and contemporary art and performance.
Queer and Gender Studies
The Queer and Gender Studies track enables students to study the relatively recent debates in the studies of sexuality, gender, and queer theory in art history. The track also offers a variety of courses to those students who are interested in focusing on feminist theories of art and design.
Race, Ethnicity, and Representation
The Race, Ethnicity, and Representation track invites students to examine a range of critical debates on race and ethnicity, focusing on how these issues materialize in works of art, architecture and design in both visible and invisible ways. Courses encourage students to challenge the representation of race and ethnicity in art since Antiquity and to study the ways through which art history as a discipline has been transformed by the critical voices in the field of race and ethnicity, both in the academy and on the street.
Theory and Criticism
The Theory and Criticism track is focused on the history and practice of writing about art and design. Now, as never before, artists and designers are writers and critics, whose approach to contemporary and historical art and design both participates in and differs from the norms of art history. Students will not only explore a range of critical and creative writing practices, but also analyze the theoretical positions and philosophical frameworks at stake in these divergent approaches. This writing intensive track both prepares students for the practice of researching and writing about art and design, and it offers the option to explore theoretical debates in Marxism, Feminism, Postcolonialism, Gender and Sexuality, Affect, and Race.