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Ph.D. Art Practice (VA77)


The PhD Art History, Theory and Criticism program features a concentration in Art Practice (VA77). While fundamentally an Art History program, the PhD in Art Practice is designed for artists engaged in advanced research who wish to pursue their work in an environment geared to doctoral study, and to produce studio, media, performance or public facing work alongside a written dissertation. UC San Diego's Visual Arts department brings practitioners, theorists and historians together to encourage innovative work at the boundaries of disciplines, discourses, and methodologies. The program is particularly well-suited to established artists with a research-based practice who are seeking the opportunity to reflect on that practice, and to develop new work in conjunction with a community of ambitious artists, historians and theorists. It is strongly recommended that applicants apply for entry into the program at least 3 years after the completion of their undergraduate degree.

To Apply:
Application Opens: September 6th, 2023 for the Fall 2024 application cycle
Application Deadline: December 6th, 2023 for the Fall 2024 application cycle

Interdisciplinary Specializations

Students within the PhD program who are interested in the opportunity to undertake specialized research may apply to participate in an interdisciplinary specialization. Students accepted into a specialization program would be expected to complete coursework in addition to those required for their PhD program. The department offers interdisciplinary specializations with the following campus programs.


Application Requirements

All applicants must satisfy the following to be considered for admissions to our department:


Completion of a four-year Bachelors degree or equivalent: 

  • 3.0 GPA minimum or 'B' average
  • Submission of unofficial transcripts required 

English Language Proficiency:

  • Demonstrated English language proficiency is required of all international applicants whose native language is not English. Non-native English language speakers may either display proficiency by meeting the minimum speaking scores listed below or can be exempt from the test scores requirement if they received a degree from an institution which provides instruction solely in English. Please refer to the following link for more information regarding the degree from an institution exemption: English Language Proficiency.
  • The minimum speaking score on each exam:
    • TOEFL iBT speaking scores of 26-30
    • IELTS speaking scores of 8-9
    • PTE speaking scores of 84-90

Letters of Recommendation:

  • Minimum of 3 recommendations required
  • Letters of recommendation should come from individuals, preferably previous professors, who can best explain why you are prepared and would be successful in rigorous academic studies at the graduate level.

Statement of Purpose:

  • 750-1000 word limit, not to exceed 3 pages
  • Focus your Statement of Purpose on the reasons you are interested in attending this graduate program. You can include the research you hope to pursue within our program and give the Admissions Committee a sense of who you are and what you hope to accomplish. The statement should be well organized, concise, and completely free of grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.



  • Writing Sample
  • Research Statement, 2000 word limit
  • Artist Statement, 1000 word limit
  • Still images and time-based work (as appropriate)
  • Optional- link to personal website or VIMEO page

Portfolio Requirements

Writing Sample (4000-8000 words):

Examples include: senior honors thesis, MA thesis, or other research or critical paper, preferably in
art or media history.

Research Statement (2000 words maximum):

The Research Statement should explain the research that you wish to pursue within our program. There may be some overlap between the Research Statement and Statement of Purpose however these should be viewed as two distinct prompts that will give the Admissions Committee a greater sense of who you are and what you would accomplish at UC San Diego.

Artist Statement (1000 words maximum):

The Artist Statement should aim to explain, justify, extend, and/or contextualize your body of work, while placing your work in relationship to art history, theory, and the contemporary world. The Artist statement will be read by the Admissions Committee and current graduate students within the program, while the Statement of Purpose is reviewed by the Admissions Committee only. For this reason, applicants may upload their Statement of Purpose with the Artist Statement and include in the portfolio.

Portfolio of Work (maximum of 20 still images and 12 minutes of time-based work, as appropriate):

The samples of your artwork should best showcase your research abilities and current/recent projects. You may create your Visual Arts Portfolio in a number of different formats. Our program is cross-disciplinary and it is not unusual for an applicant to have several different artistic mediums within their portfolio. The admissions committee is interested in seeing your most accomplished, recent work, rather than a chronology of work done over the span of your career. A good gauge would be to include work you've done within the last two years.

  1. Still Images in Digital Format (REQUIRED FOR ALL APPLICANTS)
         - Submitted in an acceptable format listed (jpg, jpeg, etc.)
         - File sizes may not exceed 5MB per file 
         - Images must be correctly rotated for viewing
         - After uploading an image, applicants should edit details to provide the title, date,
         dimensions and medium for each artwork. Applicants submitting images documenting
         installation, performance, and project-based work should also include brief descriptions.
         - Maximum of 12 minutes total time-based content
         - After uploading a file, applicants should edit details to provide the title, date, duration of
         the work, medium and a brief description. 
  3. Optional: applicants may also submit a link to their personal website, VIMEO, etc.

File Names for Portfolio Items:

Please name your files, with your Last Name, First Initial underscore and the document type. So if my name was Terry Triton, I would have the following File Names:

TritonT_Writing Sample
TritonT_Research Statement
TritonT_Artist Statement
TritonT_Project title 1
TritonT_Project title 2

Graduate Student Research

Check out our annual Research Colloquium. PhD students who have recently advanced to candidacy present their research to the local community. Please explore the recent work completed within the department, in addition to the Faculty and Graduate Student personal pages. 

2022 Research Colloquium

2021 Research Colloquium

2020 Research Colloquium