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Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

PhD Program in Visual Art: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory

Portland, ME


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Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

IDSVA offers a world-class low-residency PhD in art theory and philosophy to visual artists and creative scholars.

IDSVA’s pioneering curriculum—fusing distance learning with intensive residencies—allows working art professionals to pursue rigorous advanced scholarship without having to interrupt or abandon their teaching careers, art practice, or other professional responsibilities.

The IDSVA course of study is made up of three interrelated academic programs: Seminars, Topological Studies, and Independent Studies. Each of these programs focuses on the historical relation between art and ideas. During this three-year course of study, students attend one summer residency (three weeks long) and one winter residency (one week long) each year, scheduled during traditional school breaks. Virtual fall and spring seminars reinforce the residency experience through a shared language based in Continental philosophy.

During the summer and winter residencies, students travel internationally from one historic site to another. Each site is looked at as a key intersection between art and ideas. Residency intensives are held at Spannocchia Castle in Tuscany, the Venice Biennale, Paris, Athens, Berlin, and New York City.  A residency in Barcelona, and Madrid will be added in 2019, and Mexico City and Casablanca will both be added in 2020.

The IDSVA Visiting Faculty brings together major philosophers, artists, and scholars from around the world. These internationally renowned educators join students at residency sites and lead seminar discussions about the site's historical, aesthetic, and ideological significance.

Another key part of the course of study is the Independent Studies program. Independent studies are conducted under the direction of an expert in the given field of inquiry. Topics range from questions in hermeneutics and phenomenology to contemporary Chinese art, African tribal philosophy, and Caribbean Shamanism. Students present their Independent Studies as conference papers to faculty and peers. Through these presentations the Independent Studies open the seminar and topological studies programs to unlimited diversity and position IDSVA students to develop ideas for the dissertation. These presentations also prepare students for academic conferences and publications.

Online coursework and independent studies are pursued through fall and spring semester and include online seminar videoconferences, one-on-one faculty/student conferences, study group discussion and collaboration, and written research conducted through IDSVA’s virtual library.

IDSVA students and alumni make substantial contributions to their fields of interest.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Aesthetics
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Art theory

Earning Your Degree

Distance learning programs available? Yes

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Doctoral Degrees Comp Exam Required
Thesis Required
Dissertation defense



Application Fee - Domestic
applications accepted?
Applications processed
on a rolling basis?

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Doctoral Degree Requirements Curriculum vitae, writing sample, portfolio, interview

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Financial award applicants must submit: FAFSA
Types of financial support available Scholarship and/or loans


Focus of faculty research: Visual culture, cultural studies, feminism, contemporary art
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year: 0

Location & Contact

Address 130 Neal Street
Portland, ME  04102
United States

Phone: 207-879-8757