Undergraduate THAD concentration

Emphasizing history and theory as tools for critical thinking and critical making, the concentration in Theory and History of Art and Design (THAD) offers individual courses and customizable tracks that enrich and challenge students’ understanding of global practices across the art and design disciplines. Concentrators also have the opportunity to engage in collaborative learning experiences through semester-long fellowships at the RISD Museum. Whether in classrooms, studios or at the museum, the THAD concentration prepares students to bridge practice, history and theory.

Undergraduate concentration requirements

  1. Global Modernisms (THAD—H101)

    History of Architecture and Design (THAD—H102)

  2. Choose 1 THAD course in this topic area

  3. Choose 5 THAD courses, at least one of which must be a seminar

Graduate THAD concentration

The Theory and History of Art and Design graduate concentration offers the opportunity to augment an MFA with a 15-credit art history concentration. Knowledge of the histories and theories of art and visual culture is increasingly demanded of artists and designers, and the THAD department has designed the concentration in recognition of this phenomenon and the fact that MFA, MLA, MAT and MID recipients often enter teaching careers in which they are expected to teach history and theory as well as studio classes.

The concentration offers a structured curriculum in the history, theory and criticism of Western art, as well as that of cultures throughout the world. These studies are enriched by ready access to the collections of the RISD Museum and the experience of its curatorial staff. Through the concentration, you may choose to focus on the history and theory of your particular studio discipline or any other area that interests you.

Any Liberal Arts graduate degree requirements and certain graduate courses offered within the individual programs may be incorporated in the credits necessary to complete the concentration. All master’s degree candidates are eligible to add this concentration to their program of study.

Graduate concentration requirements

  1. Choose 2 THAD courses in this topic area

  2. To be selected based on a study plan discussed and developed with the THAD concentration coordinator. At least 6 credits of the 9 to be taken as THAD seminars.

Museum Fellows Program

In conjunction with the RISD Museum of Art, THAD allows selected concentrators to participate in the Museum Fellows program, which offers a firsthand look at the profession of museum curatorship, along with a rare level of access to the museum’s diverse collections.

Museum Fellows complete a semester-long apprenticeship with a specific curatorial department at the RISD Museum. The positions carry course credit, require significant time commitments and involve serious engagement in the real work of curators and conservators.

The Museum Fellows program enables both undergraduate and graduate students to experience the behind-the-scenes workings of a significant art museum while also learning the finer points of handling sensitive and valuable art objects.

Learning outcomes

Through written and spoken communication, concentrators are able to demonstrate:

  • knowledge of the world visual traditions from prehistory, classical, modern and contemporary eras
  • understanding of influences in global art history, such as religion, landscape, environment, interiors, body, ornament, technology and identity
  • the ability to identify and use art historians’ methodologies for interpreting works of art from various times and places
  • the agility to translate insights from art historical studies to one’s own creative work
  • the use of analytical tools needed for interpreting and navigating the complexities of our world, as engaged through images and visual literacy
  • the capability to generate written art/design criticism and history at a level sufficiently high to engage the interest of an accomplished art historian
  • familiarity with and use of research methods appropriate for entering an MA or PhD program