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Graduate Programs

Graduate Programs

The Department of Fine Arts offers a comprehensive graduate curriculum leading to a Master of Arts (M.A. in three concentrations), Master of Art in Teaching (M.A.T. in Art Education) and an M.F.A. in Studio Art and Design degree.  The M.A. Degree program has three concentrations in Studio Art, Art History, and Critical and Curatorial Studies. In addition, the department also offers a joint Masters of Arts/ Masters of Public Administration (M.P.A.) in Curatorial Studies and Urban Planning.

For the complete guide to the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) please visit their website (  Download the current Graduate Handbook for information about our M.A. and Ph.D. programs.  All candidates for admission to graduate programs must complete the application online:

For further enquiries, please contact Theresa Berbet, Fine Arts Academic Advisor at 502.852.6147 or by e-mail.

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MA in Art (Creative) and Art History: Concentration in Studio Art

The Masters of Arts in Fine Arts with a concentration in Studio Art provides advanced expertise in studio art. This course of study prepares students for professional activities in their area of concentration. Students in this track may concentrate in one area, or a combination of studio areas. These areas include: ceramics, digital media, drawing, fibers, glass, photography, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.

This course of study is appropriate for students who desire an extended studio experience to elevate and enhance their level of work or build a professional folio. Elementary, middle, and secondary school teachers (P-12) can apply the graduate hours toward Rank II and Rank I Equivalency programs.

Core Curriculum (16 hours)

  • 3 hours: Art History 541: Modern Perspectives in the Visual Arts (to be taken in the first year; offered Fall only)
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600-level elective in Art History.
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600-level Fine Arts elective outside the chosen track. [Note: 'Outside the chosen track' means outside the track of concentration, i.e.: Studio majors must take a course in Art History or Curatorial Studies.]
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600-level elective outside the Department of Fine Arts.
  • 3 hours: Thesis Guidance (A final grade for Thesis Guidance is given upon completion of the thesis and its submission to the Graduate School)
  • 1 hour: Graduate Seminar


Beyond the core curriculum, the concentration in Studio Arts requires 15 hours of 500 and 600 level courses in Studio Art (12 hours must be at the 600-level).

Thesis Advisor

By the end of the first year, each student should have a major professor to serve as mentor and thesis advisor. The professor should be familiar with the studio area or areas of the student's intended work and be willing to accept this responsibility. The advisor serves as mentor in guiding the student through his/her course of study in the program.


The studio art thesis consists of an exhibition of creative work and a written paper. The exhibition is scheduled for the final semester of study to complete the program. Most thesis exhibitions are held in the university galleries, but these exhibitions can also be mounted in facilities off campus.

Thesis Guidance

Thesis Guidance (ART 645) is taken in the final semester of the Master's program. This 3 hour course facilitates the preparation of the thesis exhibition and the written thesis. A grade for this course is deferred until the thesis committee has approved and signed the written thesis document.

The written thesis document clearly articulates the intention of the body of work. The components of the body of work should include:

Concept: the rationale for, and content of, a body of work;

Craft: the execution and conscious choice of process and materials, with a clear understanding of material language; and finally,

Aesthetic: The organization and presentation of the body of work in a manner most appropriate to the stated thesis.

The paper is to be completed, in final draft, and submitted to the thesis committee at least one week before the oral examination. The thesis document must meet specific formal guidelines. Information on these guidelines can be found on the graduate school website (

Oral Examination

The oral exam is scheduled during the thesis exhibition.  In consultation with the advisor, the student selects a thesis reading committee that consists of the thesis advisor (major professor) and two other professors who are members of the graduate faculty.  One of these professors must be from outside the Department of Fine Arts. [Note: Please refer to the Graduate Catalog for specific and detailed information about the M.A. graduate program and the program requirements.]

Thesis Exhibition Requirements

  1. The exhibition must take place during the student's final semester of study.
  2. The student must be authorized by the Department of Fine Arts.
  3. The exhibition must be accompanied by a catalog containing a prefatory statement written by the student, a properly documented list of works in the exhibition, photographic reproductions of the works in one of the following forms: black and white photographs, color photographs, slides in plastic sleeves, or CD-ROM (to be bound into the thesis). [Note: Please see current guidelines in Graduate Catalog.]
  4. The exhibition must include a catalog, which is to be submitted in conformity with the regulations governing the form and presentation of a written M.A. thesis.

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MA in Art (Creative) and Art History: Concentration in Art History

Core Curriculum (16 hours)

  • 3 hours: Art History 541: Modern Perspectives in the Visual Arts (to be taken in the first year) (offered fall only)
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600-level elective in Art History
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600-level elective outside the Department of Fine Arts
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600 Fine Arts elective outside the chosen track [Note: “outside the chosen track” means outside the track of concentration, i.e., Art History majors must take a course in Curatorial Studies or Studio Art.]
  • 3 hours: Art History 645 and 646:Thesis Guidance
  • 1 hour: Art History 600: Graduate Seminar


Beyond the core curriculum, the concentration in Art History requires:

  • Fulfillment of a language requirement during the first year in the program
  • 5 hours: 500 and 600-level courses in Art History with a minimum of one course in each of the following areas:
    • Ancient or Medieval
    • Renaissance or Baroque
    • Modern or Contemporary
    • Asian or Non-Western
    • Independent Study: ARTH 643 or 644 (students are permitted one independent study course)
  • A minimum of 12 hours (exclusive of Thesis Guidance) must be at the 600-level, of which at least 9 hours must be in Art History
  • Thesis

Language Requirement

Reading knowledge of one foreign language is required for the completion of the Master’s degree in the Art History track. This requirement should be met during the first year in the program, but must be met before enrolling for Thesis Guidance (ARTH 645 or 646). Language proficiency is demonstrated in one of two ways: 1) Passing a proficiency examination administered by the Art History Program, scheduled in the fall and spring semesters (contact the Director of Graduate Studies to schedule an exam). The proficiency exam consists of a one hour translation, for which students may use a dictionary. Students are required to demonstrate intermediate-level facility in the language. 2) Completing the intermediate level language course at the University of Louisville with a grade of B or better.

General Outline of Academic Schedule in the M.A. Program in Art History

Year 1: Semester 1

  • Take ARTH 541 Modern Perspectives in the Visual Arts (offered fall only)
  • Take 6 additional credit hours

Year 1: Semester 2

  • Take ARTH 600: Graduate Seminar (1 cr)
  • Take 9 additional credit hours
  • Complete language requirement
  • Identify thesis advisor

Year 2: Semester 1

  • Take 6-9 credit hours
  • Compile full thesis committee
  • Determine thesis topic
  • Submit prospectus to committee

Year 2: Semester 2

  • Register for Thesis Guidance (3 cr)
  • Research and write thesis
  • Submit appropriate thesis defense paperwork to Department and SIGS
  • Defend and graduate

Satisfactory Progress toward the M.A. Degree

Each year the Art History faculty will review all Art History graduate students to assess their progress in the program. To remain in good standing in the M.A. program, students must: maintain regular enrollment in graduate courses; complete and pass courses within the time limits of the semester in which the course is taken; and maintain an overall minimum GPA of 3.0. Students enrolled full-time are expected to follow the schedule of progress outlined in the previous section; those enrolled part-time are expected to complete coursework within five semesters of admission, and to finish the thesis within two semesters following the completion of coursework. SIGS mandates that all requirements for the M.A. degree be completed within six years of enrollment.

Writing a Master’s Thesis

The Master’s thesis is a formal research paper on a specific art historical topic that includes scholarly notes and bibliography. It should demonstrate a sound familiarity with relevant sources, skill in analysis and interpretation, and the ability to present the results in a well-organized and cogent manner. A topic is selected in the student’s chosen area of concentration in consultation with the thesis advisor, and the thesis is prepared under his/her supervision. Its content, approach, and presentation are to be developed with the advisor’s approval and support. The thesis must be defended in an oral examination administered by the thesis advisor and reading committee.

Choosing a Thesis Advisor and a Thesis Topic

Working closely with the thesis advisor is an essential key to writing a successful thesis. His/her suggestions and counsel should be sought concerning research, writing, format, schedule, progress, and all other matters. Master’s students are responsible for formally requesting to work with a specific thesis advisor, who must have mentor status within the graduate faculty. The faculty member must agree to act as advisor to the specific project the student is proposing, and it is assumed that the advisor’s area of specialization will correspond to the proposed project.

There are a number of ways in which students may choose a thesis topic, including the following: 1) an M.A. thesis is often based on a seminar paper that has shown particular promise. In this case, normally the thesis advisor is the faculty member who assigned the paper; 2) students may ask a faculty member with whom coursework has been taken to suggest a thesis topic and act as the thesis advisor; 3) students who are interested in a specific topic may go to the faculty member with a corresponding expertise and request that he/she serve as the thesis advisor. It is up to the student and the thesis advisor to see that all required procedures are followed.

Approval of the Thesis Topic

A topic must be formally approved before the commencement of the thesis. To obtain approval, a proposal or prospectus must be prepared; the advisor supervises its preparation and must sanction it before it is submitted to the student’s thesis committee members. The prospectus must be typed and double-spaced, and should include:

  1. Abstract = summary of project
  2. Statement of problem = the primary question or questions being asked/investigated and an explanation of why this question/ these questions are worth asking (their significance and merits)
  3. Relevant scholarly literature or historiographic review = a concise review of the primary authors or sources that are drawn upon in the work; a discussion of the most significant historical, scholarly, artistic, and/or theoretical precedents for the study and the precise ways in which they inform or relate to what the topic investigates
  4. Methodology = explanation of the ways in which the particular approach – e.g., theoretical, comparative, iconographic, semiotic, feminist, interdisciplinary, etc. – addresses and answers the primary question(s) under consideration in the thesis.
  5. Required research = a summary of the research already undertaken and/or future research (archaeological, archival, primary, scholarly, etc.) that is necessary to answer the questions under investigation and for the project to be completed
  6. Contribution to field = an assessment of how the thesis project will contribute to the broader discourse on the topic: Who would be interested in this study? Why? What are the most significant things others might learn from it?
  7. Outline of the thesis = the ordering of the thesis sections/chapters, their titles, and a brief summary of the material that each will contain
  8. Bibliography

Thesis Committee

Before thesis research commences, the thesis advisor, along with the student’s input, will form a thesis committee. The committee includes: 1) the thesis advisor (who acts as chair of the committee); 2) another member of the department faculty; and 3) a faculty member in a closely related field from another department or institution. Committee members must be formally solicited to act as readers and must agree to serve in that capacity; all committee members, including the thesis advisor, must be appointed to the graduate faculty. As soon as the committee is established, the Thesis and Dissertation Advisory Committee Appointment Form (available at must be completed: the student should fill out the top portion of the form, obtain signatures of all committee members, and then submit the form to the Art History DGS. If one of the committee members is from outside the University, the thesis advisor must submit a Graduate Faculty appointment request letter to the Chair of the Department for his/her signature, along with a copy of the committee member’s abbreviated CV, to be forwarded to SIGS for approval.

Thesis Development and Completion

Students should obtain a copy of SIGS’ Guidelines for the Preparation and Processing of Theses, available on-line at
To avoid the necessity of time-consuming changes in format at the completion of the thesis, these guidelines should be consulted at the outset. In addition, a style manual (sanctioned by the thesis advisor) such as The Chicago Manual of Style is extremely useful in dealing with footnotes, bibliography, and any other questions of style and citation format not specifically addressed by SIGS guidelines. A final draft of the thesis, approved by the thesis advisor, must be given to each of the committee members at least two weeks before the scheduled oral defense. The student must complete the Thesis/ Dissertation Final Oral Examination Schedule Form and return it to his/her advisor or the DGS (available on-line at This form must be submitted to SIGS a minimum of three weeks prior to the scheduled defense.

Application for Degree

Degrees are awarded in August, December, and May. Candidates who expect to receive degrees on a particular award date must submit their completed application for degree form through ULink on or before the dates specified in the University calendar. See for the thesis submission deadlines and instructions on submitting the application for degree form (a link to the application for degree may be found on ULink under the Academic Resources section of the student services tab).

Thesis Defense

The final oral examination (thesis defense) is conducted by the thesis committee. Any member of the graduate faculty of the University and other guests may attend the defense, but only the members of the committee have a voice in approving the thesis. The examination covers the materials presented in the thesis but may include other matters pertinent to the candidate’s thesis topic. Recommendation for the degree is determined by a simple majority of the committee members. The recommendation is made to the Assistant Dean of Graduate Education and the Dean of SIGS at least two weeks prior to graduation. In the event of an unfavorable vote, the committee may refuse the candidate’s award of the Master’s degree, or it may recommend another examination with or without additional work.

Thesis Submission

The thesis must be completed according to SIGS requirements outlined in the Guidelines for the Preparation and Processing of Theses. One unbound copy of the approved thesis, signed by the committee members, must be submitted to SIGS (see the Commencement schedule for due date). All images referenced in the thesis must be attached in digital form. Students also need to print and sign the non-exclusive license available on-line at collections/etd/about.php. The license allows the University Libraries to mount the thesis on their server. This signed license form and an electronic copy of the complete thesis (including images) must be submitted to Gail Gilbert in the Art Library.

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MA in Art (Creative) and Art History: Concentration in Critical & Curatorial Studies

Core Curriculum (16 hours)

  • 3 hours: Art History 541, Modern Perspectives in the Visual Arts (to be taken the first year; offered Fall only).
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600 level elective in Art History.
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600 level elective outside the Department of Fine Arts.
  • 3 hours: 500 or 600 level Fine Arts elective outside the chosen track ('Outside the chosen track' means outside the track of concentration, i.e.: Curatorial Studies Majors must take a course in Art History or Studio Art.)
  • 3 hours: Thesis Guidance (A final grade for Thesis Guidance is given upon completion of the thesis and its submission to the Graduate School.)
  • 1 hour: Graduate Seminar


Beyond the core curriculum, the concentration in Critical and Curatorial Studies requires 15 hours. [Note: A minimum of 12 hours (exclusive of Thesis Guidance) must be at the 600-level.]

  • 3 hours: Art History 542, Special Topics (content determined with advisor)
  • 3 hours: Art History 547/647, Museum Methods I
  • 3 hours: Art History 648, Curatorial Methods
  • 3 hours: 600-level Public Administration Arts Management Course (PADM 600, 603, 609 or 612)
  • 3 hours: Art History 649, Curatorial Internship
  • Thesis with exhibition or curatorial project


The thesis for Critical and Curatorial Studies is a demonstration of the student's abilities to plan, research, develop, administer, implement and document a professional curatorial project. As such, the thesis is a combination of both the scholarly and the applied and, therefore, it can take a variety of forms, from an exhibition to other kinds of curatorial projects developed to meet the particular student's interests, abilities and experience. This activity can be done in cooperation with the university's galleries, the Speed Art Museum or other appropriate institutions authorized by the department, and should be a culminating experience occurring in the final year of study.

Thesis Advisor

Each student will work with a primary professor who serves as mentor and thesis advisor. This advisor will guide and assist the M.A. candidate in the completion of the program.

Thesis Guidance

In the first year of the program, the student should be exploring possible thesis topics. By the beginning of the second year, the student, with the assistance of the faculty advisor, should identify a thesis project and formulate a proposal to fulfill the thesis requirement. He/she should enroll in ART or ARTH 645 (Thesis Guidance) at this time since the project will require planning and development in order to be ready for presentation in the final semester.

Once the thesis project idea has been formulated, the student will submit a written prospectus or project proposal to the faculty advisor for approval by the full faculty. The project proposal should demonstrate the student's understanding of critical theory and professional practice, show knowledge and skill in analysis, interpretation and presentation, and include proof of the ability to organize, administer and document an intelligent and professional project.

Thesis Project

The thesis exhibition or project should include several components, including an critical essay explaining the project; written materials to implement the project, including correspondence, timeline or schedules and other planning documents such as budgets necessary to organize and administer the project; exhibition or other publication, such as brochures, catalogs, label or other explanatory text to present the project to the public or other targeted audiences; and image (either slide or digital) and written documentation of the project (i.e. reviews, surveys and other responses generated in reaction to the project). This documentation must be submitted in conformity with the regulations governing the form and presentation required by the Graduate School, the guidelines for which are printed in the Graduate Catalog.

After the project has been approved, the student will select a thesis committee consisting of the faculty advisor, and two members of the graduate faculty, including someone from outside the department. There will be an oral defense during the time of the exhibition, or at an appropriate evaluation point if the project is another kind of curatorial project. This exhibition and oral defense should occur in plenty of time for the student to finish and submit the project documentation and application for graduation to the Graduate School.

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MAT in Art Education

The Masters of Arts in Teaching in Art Education program enables graduate students to earn their initial teaching certification for Kentucky. Teacher candidates learn to teach through instruction in pedagogy, child development, special education, technology and diversity.

The program is located in the College of Education and Human Development in the Department of Teaching and Learning.
For further information about this program, visit their website ( or contact:

Barbara Hanger, M.F.A.
Associate Professor, Art Education
Email Barbara Hanger
Phone: 502.852.0879

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The Master of Arts in Fine Art in Art History with a Concentration in Critical & Curatorial Studies/Master of Public Administration joint degree program takes advantage of overlapping interests and synergies that can arise from mutual interests in non-profit management and curatorial studies. Students in the Critical & Curatorial Studies track of the MA program will benefit from the broad managerial focus of the MPA program, while students in the MPA program can enhance their expertise in an important area of non-profit endeavor. Efficiency is attained by allowing students to complete both programs in a more expeditious manner. Taken separately, the two programs require a total of 73 semester hours of work, while the joint program requires a total of 55 hours. Completion of both programs should improve students’ initial job prospects as well as their ability to advance in their chosen field.

Visit the Urban & Public Affairs website to find out more

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