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 has resumed in-person residencies. Everyone attending the residency must have an up-to-date Covid-19 vaccine record. Any student who is not vaccinated, or uncomfortable with attending due to Covid, has the option to make up the residency with alternate programming (arranged in consultation with the Director of the School), or in person at a later date. We are not offering vaccine exemptions for in-person attendance. See here for Covid-19 relief funds reporting.

Residency Sites

Students take two residencies per year during the three-year course of study. Each residency lasts from one to three weeks. First-year students usually start their three-week summer residency in Rome, and continue on to Spannocchia Castle in Tuscany. In the winter, students travel to either New York City or Mexico City for one week. Second- and third-year summer residencies vary between one and two weeks (check out the Academic Calendar for details). Future residency locations are subject to change.

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-Columbian indigenous 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 Colonization.

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.

Madrid and Marrakech

The new residency location in Marrakech is part of an ongoing diversification program, the purpose of which is to move beyond the Eurocentric contours of the original program, both in terms of the course curricula and the residency locations. While the Madrid residency will open up considerations of Spanish colonialism, not only as regards Mexico, but also as per the rest of the Americas as well as the Caribbean Basin, Morocco opens up discussions regarding the period of Muslim dominance in Spain as well as consideration of African history and culture.

In Madrid, students visit the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofia, and other local cultural institutions; In Marrakech, students visit the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Medersa Ben Yousef, Museé Yves Saint Laurent, Jardin Majorelle, Berber Museum, Palais el Badii, Tiskiwin Museum, and Le Jardin Secret. A trip to the historic Tinmal Mosque in the Atlas mountains, as well as lectures from local scholars and artists complete the residency.

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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