The MA Program

The MA Curatorial Practices and the Public Sphere is an intensive Master's-level program in the practice and history of curating studied through the lens of critical theory and the history of art. With a focus on the research and exhibition of contemporary art, as well as attending to art historical curating and broader conceptions of curating such as performance art programming, instructors with international careers lead students in asking social questions about the exhibition of art (broadly construed) in relation to its publics. Over two years of full-time academic study, students explore modes of curatorial practice in a curriculum combining seminars and professional training. Courses are led by USC Roski's internationally acclaimed faculty, which includes renowned artists, scholars, critics and curators.

MA Program Outcomes can be found here.

View Critical Studies/MA faculty here.

View the MA Handbook, which includes a sample course of study here.

Application instructions here.


MA Info Sessions

We encourage potential applicants to attend one of our regularly scheduled Info Sessions in the fall. These informative "open house" events feature an overview of the program and application requirements, along with a tour of the facilities and the MFA Art studios. They are scheduled for Friday, October 12, 2018; Thursday, November 1, 2018; and Friday, December 7, 2018. RSVP here to confirm your attendance. Prospective students are also encouraged to attend our weekly Roski Talks during the fall and spring semesters.

Program Highlights

The MA Curatorial Practices and the Public Sphere aims to bring students to a high level of understanding of the history and theory of curatorial practices, with attention paid to questions of how curating activates art in relation to a range of publics. The seminars and the Roski Talks/Graduate Lecture Series address theories and histories of art and performance, and focus on theories of social practice, the public sphere, what constitutes art’s publics, and how curatorial practice can address and engage various different kinds of audience.

The curriculum of the MA is designed to give students extensive experience in devising a final curatorial project through the three-course long Practicum course sequence, and to achieve the noted intellectual and professional goals through seminars in theory and history of art. Some of the course also focus on aiding students in developing a range of research and writing skills, culminating in a written thesis mentored by a faculty member and thesis committee.

A further aim of the program—through the Roski Talks/Graduate Lecture Series as well as a fieldtrip course (Art and Curatorial Visits) and the internship requirement—is to introduce students to curators, artists, and scholars working across the range of Los Angeles art, performance, and curatorial venues and beyond. Students complete a field internship, working directly in a curatorial environment for course credit. Click here for a list of recent MA internships. The course Art and Curatorial Visits, gives MA students the opportunity to visit curatorial departments at museums and galleries, public art venues, artists' studios, and related art institutions across Los Angeles, meeting key players and observing professional work environments.

Throughout the program, MA students work closely with art, design, and other USC faculty across the university, as well as fellow MFA students. To this end, the MA includes two core courses taken with the MFA cohort, including a seminar entitled History and Theory of Art and Exhibitions, a deep history of the role of the artist, views about the public sphere, and art institutions, including curatorial and museum practices; and Making and Curating Art: Praxis and Pedagogy, a course on the history of the art school and art teaching as well as on histories and theories of curatorial studies, focusing on influential moments such as the Bauhaus in the 1930s and CalArts in the 1970s, as well as leading students through practical issues such as the making of a syllabus, the composition of an artist's statement, and teaching strategies. Other courses (notably those of the Practicum series) emphasize direct practical experience leading towards the realization of art exhibitions but also performance art programming and other hybrid modes of arts curating.

Thesis and Curatorial Practicum

Students research and write a thesis and develop a curatorial project with a public interface component as capstones to their degree. The thesis is produced with the close guidance of faculty (a supervisor and two additional members). In the thesis, students develop individual, original research on topics relating or complementary to their curatorial projects.

The curatorial project is developed through the curatorial practicum course series, a three-term laboratory of studying the history of curating, and of exhibition making and arts programming emphasizing the presentation of work in a final exhibition or program and the creation of an interface (such as a catalogue or website) with the public. In the practicum series, students examine case studies of curatorial practices around the world and then work either individually or collaboratively to conceptualize, research, and organize a curatorial project either in the MFA gallery or in an alternative venue (actual or virtual). As a culmination of this project, they then produce a catalogue, website, or other cultural interface between the curatorial projects and the public.

Visiting Artists

The Visiting Artist and Scholar Seminar (VASS) is linked to USC Roski School's annual Roski Talks lecture series, which features in-depth public presentations by prominent artists, designers, writers and curators throughout the academic year. Presentations typically include a group discussion that allows students, faculty and the public to raise questions or problems and explore ideas. First year students in the MFA and MA programs also attend a closed-session seminar with the visitor and a USC Roski faculty member, engaging in intensive dialogue on issues posed by the lecture/discussion and previously assigned readings. View the current visiting lecture schedule here.

MA/MPL Dual Degree


MA Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere / Master of Planning


The MA Art and Curatorial Practices in the Public Sphere/Master of Planning dual-degree program, offered by the USC Roski School of Art and Design and the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, provides an unusually rich opportunity for students interested in developing a new knowledge base to become a successful professional working in the arena of organizing art projects in urban public space, planning, and community development. Los Angeles and the facilities at USC provide a unique learning laboratory to educate a more competitive professional with a better understanding of both the administration of public art and issues of urban planning.


Macomber Travel Grant Prize 

The 2019–2020

Awarded to one outstanding 1st year MA graduate student in the USC Roski School of Art and Design. Selected through a competitive process, the $7,500 prize will support proposed projects involving research-based travel and a public presentation of the research project.

Application Requirements (open only to current Roski MA students):



​The MA program provides a comprehensive education in curatorial theory, history, and practice that enables our alumni to pursue a broad range of exciting and impressive professional opportunities after graduation. From gallery- and museum-based curatorial work, educational positions, to alternative modes of arts programming and engagement, the MA program’s graduates pursue innovative means of bringing arts programming into the public sphere.

We welcome our alumni to keep up with what’s going on here at USC Roski and to keep us abreast of what you are doing. To stay in touch, sign up for our monthly newsletter, Like our Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to let us know about your exciting projects, exhibitions, and professional achievements by emailing

Click here for a selection of the positions our MA alumni (listed by graduation year) have been or are currently employed in.