Why IDSVA? The PhD for The Working Art Professional

IDSVA fuses distance learning with intensive residencies, allows working artists to pursue advanced scholarship without disrupting their profession.


First year student in Venice, 2015

First year student in Venice, 2015

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.

During the three-year course of study, students attend one summer residency (3 weeks long) and one winter residency (one week long) each year, scheduled during traditional school breaks.

Delivered through virtual mediation, rigorous fall and spring semesters reinforce the summer residency experience. Seminars span the history of ideas and visual culture with a general focus on Continental Philosophy. Independent Studies allow students to pursue individualized research projects under the tutelage of leaders in their field of interest.

The Course of Study is 60 credits over three years, and the dissertation is written over two years. Total time to complete the degree is about five years.

Residency & fieldwork sites include Rome, Spannocchia Castle (Tuscany), Siena, Florence, Venice, Berlin, Paris, Athens, NYC, and Colby College.

As part of IDSVA’s one-of-a-kind Topological Studies Program, IDSVA students engage in Global Travel. The purpose of Topological Studies is to help students grasp the relation between the history of ideas and the history of art and visual culture as a concrete interaction between time and place, especially as that interaction takes shape vis-à-vis Ancient, Medieval, Neoclassical, Baroque, Modern, Postmodern, and contemporary modes of thought and artistic practice. 

Students in Berlin, 2015

Students in Berlin, 2015

The IDSVA Visiting Faculty brings together the world's leading philosophers, artists, and scholars.

These internationally renowned educators join students at residency sites and lead seminar discussions about the site's historical, aesthetic, and ideological significance.  

Visiting Faculty Sylvére Lotringer in Instanbul, 2014

Visiting Faculty Sylvére Lotringer in Instanbul, 2014

More and more artists are coming to realize the importance of theory and philosophy in today’s art world.

There is a strong sense among today’s artists and educators that training beyond the MFA and similar degrees would benefit many artists, architects, curators, and creative scholars, especially those who grapple with issues surrounding contemporary media and culture.

What may be most surprising about IDSVA is the sense of community students and faculty share, despite the fact that IDSVA is largely a distance-learning program. This close-knit kind of so-called “digitally mediated education” results from IDSVA’s special blending of intensive residencies and digital education.

Aside from the practicality of skill sets, credentials, and jobs, the “why now” and “why IDSVA” question has to be addressed historically.

There is little debate that we are now living in a globalized world. What does that mean as regards our education systems? What are we doing to change those systems—most of them still based on old paradigms? What are we doing to prepare our students for a future that has long since arrived? One ventures to say that offering a PhD in studio practice or a PhD in theory and philosophy for visual artists is not in itself an adequate answer. As a matter of social responsibility, authentically new PhD programs—and institutions—will reflect our new reality. For IDSVA, the question is, if we are training our students to see the PhD in philosophy and theory as a transformative crossing toward their shared desire to become artist-philosophers, what responsibilities must they anticipate, what responsibilities must we prepare them for? One of those responsibilities, as we see it, is the responsibility of leadership. It follows, therefore, that IDSVA has to demonstrate its ability to lead as an institution.

Students in Berlin, 2015

Students in Berlin, 2015

In other words, if the medium is the message, then we have to design our structure, our systems and programs, our course of study and syllabi, toward the future.

As a decentralized and indeed deterritorialized institution, IDSVA offers a low-residency, distance-learning PhD program that allows working professionals to keep their faculty posts and curatorial positions and allows them to maintain their family and community obligations. This is to say that IDSVA students learn from wherever they live and work, travel the world to learn from different cultures and histories and from leading scholars and artists who live and work around the world. At home and in their travels, IDSVA students complete a rigorous course of study centered on the ever-increasing importance of interdisciplinary knowledge. They pursue this experiential education and write a dissertation as members of the world’s first PhD program in philosophy designed especially for visual artists. These are IDSVA’s main themes as an institutional medium. The message IDSVA delivers, we hope, is a vision of the future.

And if our students see themselves as participants in history as opposed to observers of history—and most of them do—that is because they are part of an institution that is shaping the future: the future of global education, the future of philosophy and art, the future of life.

IDSVA: The World-Class Low-Residency PhD in Visual Arts