IDSVA Topological Studies Program

Students travel internationally from one historic site to another as part of the Topological Studies program during the three-year course of study. The residencies are to be experienced as successive historical strata that set up a three-level (topological) critique. Each site is looked at as a key intersection between art and ideas, considered in terms of, 1) historically designated period; 2) contemporary situation as an extended moment in the site’s historical development; and 3) topological relation of each site to one another (inter-textual critique).

COVID-19 Residency Update

IDSVA plans to resume in-person residencies in 2022.
Learn more about our Covid-19 updates.

Residency Sites

The description below refers to the existing Topological program as we have conducted it through 2019. Future programming may not include all listed sites.

Residencies last from one to four weeks. First-year students usually start their four-week summer residency in Rome, continue on to Spannocchia Castle (Tuscany), and conclude in either Venice or Paris. In the winter, students travel to either New York City or Mexico City for one week. Second- and third-year residencies vary between one and three weeks (check out the Academic Calendar for details.)

Deb Willis speaking to students in Rome in 2018


Students experience the art and architecture testifying the city’s development as kingdom, republic, and empire of the Ancient Western world, as well as its subsequent role as the center of religious power through the Vatican Museum collections.

Sites visited include: Pantheon, Roman Forum, Palatino, Colosseum, Capitol Hill and Michelangelo Square, MACRO (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma), Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Church.

Low-residency Ph.D. program visit to Spannocchia

Spannocchia Castle, Tuscany

A medieval estate and 1100-acre working farm, Castello di Spannocchia blends feudal traditions with a vision for an ecologically sustainable future. While living and studying at Spannocchia, students conduct fieldwork in Siena and Florence, which represent early middle-class capitalism based on an aristocratic/agrarian economy, and the center of Renaissance culture, respectively.

Sites visited include: Palazzo Pubblico, Santa Maria della Scala Museum, Siena Cathedral, Uffizi, Accademia, Abbey of San Galgano.

Art Philosophy student at the Venice Biennale in 2013


The city’s history is considered as an early version of globalized markets, particularly as the Renaissance gives way to Baroque ideas and aesthetics. This critique is set against the current role of the city as capital of the global art scene during the Venice Biennale, which is the focus of students’ activities. In 2015, 2017, and 2019, IDSVA took part in the Biennale Sessions with lectures delivered by distinguished scholars.

Sites visited include: Venice Biennale (including off-site pavilions), Palazzo Fortuny, Fondazione Prada, Guggenheim Museum, Punta della Dogana.

Street art in Athens during Ph.D. Residency


The rich heritage of classic Greek culture stands at the crossroads with the city’s Byzantine and Ottoman past, and the contemporary art scene.

Sites visited include:
Acropolis Museum, Ancient Agora and Museum, Ancient Delphi and Museum, Cycladic Art Museum, Documenta, Delphi, along with studio visits and gallery tours.

IDSVA student in 2008 at the Pompidoeu


Modernism emerges full-blown in the mid-19th-century Haussmannization of boulevards, public gardens, and architecture, and students trace the cultural/aesthetic contours of these developments by exploring the city’s streets, cafés, and museums.

Sites visited include: Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou, Musée national de l’Orangerie, Musée national Picasso, Musée Rodin, Musée du quai Branly.

IDSVA Ph.D. students in front of the Judd Foundation in 2017

New York City

As arguably the capital of 20th-century art and still one of the liveliest sites for the production and display of art and culture in the world, New York City offers students the opportunity to breathe the post-industrial urban experience.

Sites visited include: Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum, MoMA (Museum of Modern Art), MoMA PS1, New Museum, Studio Museum Harlem, Museo del Barrio, International Center for Photography, Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), Brooklyn Museum, Neue Galerie, Jewish Museum, Judd Foundation, Dia: Beacon, Chelsea galleries, artist studios.

Mexico City Cathedral in 2020

Mexico City

Pre-colonial Mayan and Aztec cultures come alive in contemporary art, architecture, customs, and traditions. These still powerful aesthetic impulses inform our approach to the Mexican Revolution, the Muralist Movement (Orozco, Siqueiros, Rivera), Kahlo’s painting, Trotsky’s anti-Stalinist theories of art, and the contemporary after-effects of Spanish Colonialism.

Sites visited include: Museo de Antropología, Museo Tamayo, Museo Casa de Leon Trotsky, Museo Frida Kahlo (Casa Azul), Museo Anahuacalli, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s Museo Casa Estudio, Templo Mayor, and Palacio Nacional, artist studios.

Low-Residency Ph.D. program in Marrakesh


Scheduled to start in May 2022 for 3rd year students.

IDSVA Student, Margaret Coleman

"IDSVA is an immersive experience into a community of people truly excited to engage thoughtfully with one another, and to support one another, creatively and intellectually. It's given me a new level of confidence in articulating the relevance of what I do."

Margaret Coleman, Cohort '15
Executive Director at T.W. Wood Gallery and founding member of Art Shape Mammoth

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