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.

Why IDSVA?

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.


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“My experience with IDSVA is one that is larger than words. It has been an all-encompassing, full-bodied, full-minded experience. It has taken me beyond anything I thought I could do as a human being.”

Dr. Kalia Brooks, IDSVA PhD ’16


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

The IDSVA experience is centered on Global Learning. IDSVA students see and feel and touch the ever-changing and deeply intertwined relations between the history of ideas and the history of visual culture.

IDSVA Students at Vaggelis Choursoglu’s Studio in Athens, 2019

IDSVA Students at Vaggelis Choursoglu’s Studio in Athens, 2019

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

Howard Caygill with IDSVA students in Berlin, 2016

Howard Caygill with IDSVA students in Berlin, 2016

Franco “Bifo” Berardi at Spannocchia, 2017

Franco “Bifo” Berardi at Spannocchia, 2017

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.

IDSVA Students with Franco “Bifo” Berardi continuing the conversation outside the classroom. Spannocchia, 2016

IDSVA Students with Franco “Bifo” Berardi continuing the conversation outside the classroom. Spannocchia, 2016

IDSVA Students in Aix-en-Provence, 2016

IDSVA Students in Aix-en-Provence, 2016

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

Workshop at Spannocchia, 2019

Workshop at Spannocchia, 2019

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.

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.

IDSVA Director, Simonetta Moro, and student at Dia: Beacon, 2018

IDSVA Director, Simonetta Moro, and student at Dia: Beacon, 2018

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