Art in the Public Sphere: Master of Public Art Studies Program at USC

Art in the Public Sphere: Master of Public Art Studies Program at USC

USC Roski School of Art and Design

December 5, 2008
Art in the Public Sphere: Master of Public Art Studies Program at USC
Master of Public Art Studies Program

Applications may be submitted after this date on a space available basis.

For more information on the Public Art Studies program at USC, please contact us at [email protected] or visit our website at

University of Southern California
Roski School of Fine Arts
Watt Hall 104 University Park Campus
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0292
Telephone: 213 743 8540 | Fax: 213 743 4563

Ruth Weisberg, Dean

Under the new leadership of curator, critic, and art historian Joshua Decter, in conjunction with a faculty of curators, scholars, and organizers, the Public Art Studies graduate program at the University of Southern California Roski School of Fine Arts functions as a hub for critically rethinking the role of art in the public sphere and analyzing art’s complex engagements with social space. Students in the program focus upon many theoretical and practical problems facing artists, curators, critics, theorists, architects, and other cultural producers, in order to:

• re-imagine the public sphere in terms of the challenges of city-space and the urban condition;

• evaluate processes of social collaboration, networks of participation, and relational aesthetics;

• identify strategies of location-driven, site-specific, and situational engagement;

• debate concepts and realities of community-based practice;

• interrogate the role of the curator—and curatorial practice—in city-based exhibition projects; and

• situate public art vis-à-vis broader art histories.

The two-year Master of Public Art Studies (MPAS) program welcomes students from a range of academic backgrounds and professional interests, and offers a unique context for the study of key historical notions of public space and the public sphere, and the influence of these ideas upon the work of contemporary artists, theorists, and architects who seek to reconsider the public realm as a space of possibility.

Immersed in a cross-disciplinary curriculum comprised of seminars, directed research, practicum opportunities, and guest lectures, students have the opportunity to participate in the development of a hybrid cultural discourse—and adventurous modes of curatorial organizing—that draws from aspects of art history and criticism, exhibition history, urban theory, architectural history and theory, social science, geography, and urban planning.

The program examines how public and private space is fundamentally interconnected on conceptual and experiential levels, and how the most compelling art projects and exhibition initiatives seek to critically and dynamically re-script lived environments within city-spaces, challenging our assumptions about control, openness, access, and social interaction. As an example of a new curatorial practicum framework, students recently collaborated with the Tijuana/Los Angeles-based art collective, Bulbo, to reactivate a 1970 Allan Kaprow Happening in various public spaces around Los Angeles, in conjunction with the “Allan Kaprow—Art as Life” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.

The program prepares students for careers in curatorial practice, the administration/organization of art projects in the public sphere, art writing, as well as opportunities within academia; and encourages them to imagine—as agents of change—new forms of cultural-political citizenship in relation to the renewed democratic potential of the public sphere. Fellowships and scholarships are available on a competitive basis.

Joshua Decter, Director of the Public Art Studies program and Assistant Professor.

Decter was a curatorial interlocutor for the inSite_05 San Diego/Tijuana “Interventions” exhibition, and organized the conference, “The Situational Drive: Complexities of Public Sphere Engagement,” in collaboration with inSite San Diego/Tijuana and Creative Time, New York, presented at The Cooper Union, NY, in 2007. He most recently served on the graduate faculty at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College. Decter has contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues and books, including publications for the 28th Bienal of São Paulo, Brazil (2008), and the 2008 California Biennial.

Full-time Faculty: Rhea Anastas, Visiting Assistant Professor, USC Master of Public Art Studies Program. From 2001–2008 she was Visiting Assistant Professor, The Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College. Anastas co-edited Dan Graham: Works 1965–2000 (2001) and Witness to Her Art: Art and Writings by Adrian Piper, Mona Hatoum, Cady Noland, Jenny Holzer, Kara Walker, Daniela Rossell and Eau de Cologne (2006), and was a co-founder of Orchard Gallery, New York.

Adjunct Faculty: Lauri Firstenberg: Director/Curator, LAXART ; Carol Stakenas: Executive Director, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE ); Anne Bray: Curator, Executive Director, LA Freewaves; Rita Gonzalez: Assistant Curator, LACMA; Karen Moss: Curator, Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs, Orange County Museum of Art; Donna Conwell: Curator-Producer, Writer, Art Historian; Janet Owen Driggs: Writer, Artist, Curator; Christina Ulke: Artist, Co-Editor/Co-Publisher, Journal of Aesthetics and Protest; Susan Gray: Cultural Arts Planner, CRA/LA

Guest speakers and seminar leaders in the 2007–2008 academic year included: Edgar Arceneaux, Bulbo, Sam Durant, Michael Krichman, Rick Lowe, Rochelle Steiner, Allan McCollum, Teddy Cruz, Miwon Kwon, Nato Thompson, Hou Hanru, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Grant Kester, Tirdad Zolghadr

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