The UC San Diego Department of Visual Arts is one of the country’s leading centers for study and research in art and art history. Founded in 1967 on the principle that the production, critical analysis and history of art are inter-related activities, it has long been recognized for its distinctive combination of faculty – artist and critics, theorists and scholars. With the introduction of our new undergraduate program in Speculative Design and the peer-reviewed, digital publication FIELD: A Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism, the range of our research activities is extended further beyond the library, class-room, studio, gallery, museum, and performance space into science and engineering laboratories, the city, the region and the public sphere.

The department offers five undergraduate majors, eight minors and two graduate degrees, which together represent the expanded range of art in the contemporary world. Undergraduate majors have the option of engaging with art as writers and scholars by studying Art History, Theory and Criticism, of investigating the expressive production of objects and materials in Studio, of learning about both traditional and new lenses-based techniques and time-based practices in Media, of exploring the artistic potential of programming and digital media in the Interdisciplinary Computing in the Art and Music (ICAM), and of delving into collaborative inter-disciplinary processes in Speculative Design. In addition to sharing an academic home in the Visual Arts Department, the five majors are linked by culture of collaboration among our students. Over the past few years, advanced art history students have worked with their counterparts in the practice majors to curate exhibitions and presentations of student produced art on campus at several venues. Our majors also have the opportunities to put their classroom learning to practical effect by applying for research and production grants offered to undergraduate students, and participating in internship programs at the San Diego Museum of Art and the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park. 

At the graduate level, we are one of the few departments in the United States and indeed the world to offer terminal degrees for both artists and scholars. Our MFA program has long been one of the top ranked in the United States. Faculty and alumni are often featured in important group and solo exhibitions at such leading events and institutions as the Whitney Biennial and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and are also a force in emerging alternative venues and online sites. MFA students have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty at the Arthur C. Clark Center for the Imagination and ten other research initiatives and to present their work in campus galleries and at open studios and other university events. Every year, our MFA students also garner places in exhibitions at local and regional galleries and museums and participate in public art events in Southern California and Tijuana. For me as an art historian, the success of the PhD program is a matter of special pride. Since its establishment in 2002, our graduates, who have a higher than average rate of completion, have gone on to post-doctoral fellowships at leading research institutions, curatorial posts at important museums, and tenure track positions at colleges and research universities. While here, they are active in presenting papers at scholarly conferences, curating exhibitions on and off campus, and organizing an annual conference during open studios weekend. 

I was fortunate to join the department, while many of the founders and early faculty were still here. Without the contributions of former colleagues such as Allan Kaprow, David and Eleanor Antin, Helen and Newton Harrison, Harold Cohen, Manny Farber, Standish Lawder, Claudio Fenner-Lopez, Jerome Rothenberg, Italo Scanga, Patricia Paterson, Steve Fagin, Louis Hock, Fred Lonidier, Ernie Silva, Phel Steinmetz, Kim MacConnell, Faith Ringgold, Haim Steinbach, Lesley Stern, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and, in art history, Jehanne Teilhet-Fisk, Mary Vidal and Susan Smith, we would not be where we are today. As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of the department, I would like to thank all the faculty and students who have been so instrumental to its success and to think that they too are pleased at how well its founding principle has served us through the years and still opens the way to innovation.

Jack M. Greenstein
Professor and Chair