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Emphasis in Art + Social Practice

Social Practice


Area Emphasis in Art + Social Practice

As part of the MFA Fine Arts program, Otis College offers an area of emphasis focused on the field of Social Practice, the only program of its kind in a Southern California art school or university. Encompassing a range of practices and interdisciplinary media, participating students will experience both individual art production in the studio and to work in various community or public contexts. The core curriculum includes Graduate Studio and Critiques augmented by specialized courses in Collaborative Projects, Topics in Social Practice Art, and Public Realm Seminars.

The area of emphasis also features professional practice courses such as Field Methodologies and Field Internships, providing unique opportunities to work outside Otis College with well-known artists, activists, critics, and curators from around the world. 

Each student’s individualized learning plan includes electives in studio art courses, critical theory, and independent studies. Students can take classes in other graduate programs––Writing, Fine Arts, and Graphic Design––and in other departments across the College. The full range of Otis College shops, faculty, courses, and library is available for students' production.

Program alumni have worked with artists including Kim Abeles, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Suzanne Lacy, Rick Lowe, Mary Miss, and on projects organized with Creative Time, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Liverpool Biennial, Transforma at Prospect I, and the Venice Biennale.  

Faculty who provide rigorous one-on-one studio visits and group critiques include: Andrea Bowers, Patrisse Cullors, Dana Duff, Bill Kelley Jr., Janaya Khan, Karen Moss, Renée Petropoulos, Consuelo Velasco Montoya, Anuradha Vikram, Sue Bell Yank and Mario Ybarra Jr.  Recent guests and visitors include: Edgar Arceneaux, Nao Bustamante, Mel Chin, Sara Daleiden, Fallen Fruit, Future Farmers, Grupo Etcetera, Micol Hebron, Pablo Helguera, Dolores Huerta, Gronk, Fritz Haeg, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Olga Koumoundoros, L.A. Urban Rangers, Kori Newkirk, S.A. Bachman, Martha Rosler, Bonnie Sherk, Sally Tallant, Mierle Ukeles, and Stephen Wright.

Full list of Public Practice Faculty. 


Social Practice Area Emphasis Courses

Collaborative Projects (required)

A two-semester field-based collaborative project is undertaken with a partner organization or artists in Los Angeles or beyond. Topics include formation of community relationships, collaborative process, critique, and production. Students will work together with their instructor to determine a topic and location, do research, find partners, and design their project.

AHCS576 Special Topics in Art History (recommended for SPAE)

This two-semester course sequence focuses on the history of modern and contemporary art. Starting in the 1880s with the advent of Modernism, students in the first semester investigate the movements and artists active up to the late 1950s and Abstract Expressionism. The second semester starts in the 1960s with the development of Conceptualism and POP Art and proceeds to the present. Projects around the utilization of historic precedents are a part of this course.

Special Topics in Social Practice Art (required)

This two-semester course focuses on the production of art in the public sphere from the 1960s to the present, with an emphasis on contemporary social practice. The first class is a series of thematic lectures and discussion to provide an historical framework from public art in the 1960s to social practice in the 2000s.  The second semester, students will delve into more in-depth examination of recent case studies of social practice projects.

Public Realm Seminar

Study of theories related to public practice and critical writing in visual arts and closely related interdisciplinary topics including anthropology, civic policy, environmentalism, urbanism, etc. Specific topics will vary each semester. Coursework includes assigned readings, class discussions, and a written paper. This course may be repeated for credit or may be substituted as approved by the Chair.

Field Methodologies for Artists

Seminar on research and other career/professional methodologies for artists. This seminar will feature discussions, readings, presentations by visitors and field trips.

Field Internship

Students will select an internship with a professional artist working in social practice. This seminar provides an opportunity to reflect on learning and share with other students through presentations. Field internship credits above the required 2 units, up to a total of 10 units, may be taken as electives.

Social Practice Elective

These electives, related to either the practice and/or theory of social practice, will be developed by existing faculty, the new Social Practice Area Emphasis Head and visiting artists.