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MA in Art History

The Master's Degree in Art History

The MA in Art History and Visual Studies is a competitive two-year program of study that prepares students to be broadly knowledgeable about the fields of art, art history, and visual studies, to develop a specific scholarly focus, and to acquire research and communication skills. The University of Utah offers a focused graduate degree path with a rigorously interdisciplinary emphasis, which draws on a variety of contemporary and critical theories of art. With an MA degree in Art History, students should be prepared for a range of careers in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors, or to undertake further graduate study in an academic or professional program.

Director of Art History Graduate Studies: Professor Jessen Kelly

The Art History Program welcomes applicants with an outstanding scholastic record. We expect that you will have a BA degree in Art History or a cognate discipline suitable to the study of art history and visual culture and a sincere commitment to the demands of graduate study. For questions about the MA Program in Art History, please contact the Director of Art History MA Graduate Studies, Professor Jessen Kelly, at


The University of Utah uses an online graduate application process through "ApplyYourself." Please begin your application here. Questions regarding the application procedure may be directed to the Graduate Assistant, Sandie Crook at In addition to basic information required of all applicants to the Graduate School at the University of Utah, the Art History MA Program requires the following supplementary materials of its applicants. The online application system will prompt you to upload them at the appropriate time:

  1. Statement of Purpose: You should use your statement to describe your background, interests and goals in the study of art history. You should also identify a faculty member/s in the Art History Program who you feel will be best suited to mentor you in your area of interest within art history.
  2. Curriculum vitae (résumé) listing your educational background and experience.
  3. Academic writing sample (e.g. an undergraduate research paper) demonstrating your analytical writing skills.
  4. [sent separately by your evaluators] Two letters of recommendation by professors or instructors who are familiar with your academic work and can speak to your ability to succeed in a rigorous academic program. Please note that Apply Yourself will ask you to enter the names and email addresses of your recommenders, and will send them an online evaluation form. This form will not be sent out until you complete the "recommenders" portion of your application. We suggest that students enter their recommenders into the Apply Yourself system as soon as possible, and independently notify their recommenders of the February deadline.

The Art History MA Program does not require GRE scores as any part of the application. The Department of Art and Art History offers some scholarship assistance to incoming students. There are also opportunities for students to serve as graduate assistants or teaching assistants during the two-year residential program. Graduate students in good standing are eligible to apply for a graduate research fellowship for their second year. You may consult the Graduate School website for further information on this and other financial aid resources. Please see also the Financial Aid Office. Transfer credit of graduate work in art history from other accredited institutions (maximum six semester credit hours, subject to Graduate School conditions) may qualify for acceptance by the Art History program. You should address your petition to the Director of MA Graduate Studies.

The Department of Art & Art History offers financial aid for incoming and second-year students in the form of teaching assistantships, fellowships, research and conference travel grants, and summer language study. The teaching assistantships provide students with both a stipend and at least 50% off of in-state tuition. Assistantships are dependent upon departmental needs and are made on either a semester or annual basis. Other sources of graduate funding include the Top Off Award / Diversity Recruitment Bonus from the Diversity Office and Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships in Asian Studies and Latin American Studies. The University of Utah Graduate School has additional opportunities here.

After acceptance into the program, you should speak with the Director of MA Graduate Studies to plan your first semester of coursework. All art history faculty members are available for consultation about the academic program, and we encourage you to meet with each of us to discover areas of mutual interest. We look forward to working with you as you navigate the more intense academic environment of the graduate experience.


The MA degree in Art History is comprised of a minimum of 30 credit hours. This must include 24 credit hours of graduate-level coursework in art history or related disciplines (8 courses at 3 credit hours per course) plus 6 credit hours of Thesis Research (3 credit hours per semester after advancing to candidacy). Remedial courses in art history or foreign language instruction fall outside the 30-hour requirement. All coursework used to fulfill the MA degree requirement must be numbered at the 5000-level and above. Students in their first year normally enroll in 3 graduate courses per semester (9 credit hours).

In your first semester, you will enroll in ARTH 6800 Critical Theory and Methodology of Art History (meets with ARTH 4000 Good Looking), a class that investigates differing approaches to and perspectives on the study of art history and visual culture, as well as ARTH 6810 Visual Intersections, an interdisciplinary graduate seminar, addressing selected problems, issues, and methods of interpreting and writing about images and objects. You will also enroll in the ARTH 6000-level course that meets with the Art History Seminar (varies by semester: ARTH 6830, 6840, 6860, 6850, 6870, or 6880). Towards the end of the first semester and by no later than Spring Break, you should form the Supervisory Committee that advises you on the remainder of your coursework and MA research.

In your second semester, you will again enroll in ARTH 6810 Visual Intersections and the ARTH 6000-level course that meets with the Art History Seminar. You may select your third course from any graduate-level course in art history or a related discipline, with the approval of your advisor. By June 15th (if not sooner) you must notify your advisor of which paper completed during your first year you will be revising and submitting to your supervisory committee as your qualifying paper. Your qualifying paper must initially be approved by your advisor and should be submitted to your committee by August 1. After your qualifying paper has been approved by your entire committee, you will be advanced to candidacy. At this same time, you should discuss with your advisor possible topics for your MA research. Your advisor will determine whether the topic is suitable to pursue as an MA Project or an MA Thesis. Working in consultation with your advisor, you should submit a prospectus of your MA research to your committee no later than September 15.

In your second year (third and fourth semesters), you will enroll in a combination of graduate-level courses, directed study credit hours, and a total of 6 credit hours of Project/Thesis Research (ARTH 6970). Please note that after advancing to candidacy, you must enroll in a minimum of 3 Project/Thesis Research credit hours per semester. Students receiving a Teaching Assistantship and participating in the Tuition Benefit Program must enroll in a minimum of 9 credit hours.

At the end of your fourth semester, you will defend your MA research in a public oral examination. A "B" average must be maintained to satisfy the MA requirements, and Credit/No Credit is not an option for any coursework in art history.

Students are encouraged to check their degree progress periodically, using the Electronic Graduate Record File. Please bring any questions or concerns regarding degree progress to the Director of MA Graduate Studies.



ARTH 6810 Visual Intersections (Theme 1)

ARTH 6810 Visual Intersections (Theme 2)

ARTH 6970 Project/Thesis Research

ARTH 6970 Project/Thesis Research

ARTH 6030 - 6080 Art History Seminar(Theme 1)

ARTH 6030 - 6080 Art History Seminar(Theme 2)

6000-level Course ARTH or a related discipline with the consent of your advisor

6000-level Course ARTH or a related discipline with the consent of your advisor

ARTH 6800 Critical Theory/ Methods

6000-level CourseARTH or a related discipline with the consent of your advisor

Towards the END of your first semester and by no later than Spring Break you must form your supervisory committee At the BEGINNING of your second semester you must meet with your committee chair to review progress and plan courses By September 15 of your third semester you must submit your project or thesis prospectus to your committee By the END of your fourth semester you must defend and submit your final project or thesis.
By June 15, you must let your committee chair know which paper you will submitting as your qualifying paper
By the END of your second semester you must complete your language proficiency certification


Your committee is crucial to your graduate program. It is responsible for helping you shape an effective course of study, assessing and approving your qualifying paper, reading and approving your MA research, and administering the final MA research defense. The committee serves as your chief advocate to the department, the College of Fine Arts, and the Graduate School. You must form a three-member committee during your second semester in residence before Spring Break. In consultation with your advisor, you should approach prospective committee members best suited to mentor you on your research topic to determine their willingness and availability to serve on your committee. Two of the three (chair and another member) must be selected from University of Utah full-time Art History Program faculty. You are encouraged to consider a faculty member from another department as the third committee member, invited on the basis of special expertise in your declared area of concentration. You will be expected to consult with your Supervisory Committee Chair each semester, regarding your progress through the program. Once all three faculty members have agreed to serve on your Supervisory Committee, you must speak with the Graduate Secretary about filing your proposal for a Supervisory Committee in the Graduate Degree Tracking System. The Dean of the Graduate School gives final approval on all proposed supervisory committees.


In the Art History graduate program, you must show standard proficiency in at least one foreign language approved by your supervisory committee. Standard proficiency assumes a reading-comprehension level expected of a student who has completed one year of college foreign-language instruction or the equivalent. Proficiency certification should take place in the second semester of graduate work. You may consult the Graduate Language Requirements for further information on standard proficiency and proficiency certification.


Before beginning MA research and in order to be advanced to candidacy by the Dean of the Graduate School, you must submit a qualifying paper to your supervisory committee. The qualifying paper must demonstrate competency in graduate level art historical research and critical writing necessary for MA research. All incompletes and failing grades must be rectified before the paper is submitted. Approval of your qualifying paper will permit you to apply for candidacy; if your paper is not approved by your committee, you may resubmit it with revisions one time. It is not possible to submit a qualifying paper a third time. If a revised qualifying paper does not demonstrate competency for graduate level art historical research, then you will be dismissed from the program.


Once your supervisory committee has approved your qualifying paper, you must speak with the Graduate Assistant about filing your official Program of StudyReport of Comprehensive Examination (Qualifying Paper), and Application for Candidacy in the Graduate Records Tracking System. Each of these records will be forwarded to your Supervisory Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. You will be admitted to candidacy for the Master's Degree when these items have been approved by the Graduate School. At that time, you may contact the Director of MA Graduate Studies about thesis hour registration. Please note that students must be admitted to candidacy at least one semester prior to graduation.


After advancing to candidacy, you must present a brief (3-5 page) prospectus to your Supervisory Committee for approval. The function of the prospectus is to identify the MA research topic, outline the scope of the project, and specify the research to be undertaken. A preliminary bibliography should accompany your prospectus.


The Art History and Visual Studies Program offers a limited number of Etta Keith Eskridge Travel Awards for graduate student research. The awards are intended for students whose research and MA thesis projects will directly benefit by research-related travel. The Eskridge Travel Award is intended to help subsidize, not cover, the full costs of a research trip. The maximum award amounts are $500 for domestic travel and $800 for international travel. Awards will be made on the basis of the quality of the proposal and the availability of funds. Graduate students enrolled in the MA program in Art History and Visual Studies are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to students who have completed their qualifying paper and been admitted to candidacy with a well-defined project or thesis plan. The proposed travel schedule should not interfere with either regular coursework or teaching responsibilities. The art history faculty will review proposals for the Eskridge Award three times per year. Deadlines for complete proposals are September 15February 1, and April 15. Please contact the Director of Graduate Studies for application instructions. Graduate Student Travel Assistance is also available from the Graduate School, to students who will present MA research at a professional conference. Application is made through the Graduate School, and up to $400 may be granted, to be matched by department funding for a total budget of up to $800. Please note that both the Chair of your Supervisory Committee and the Chair of the Art and Art History Department will need to provide a signature in support of your application.


The MA candidate must write a thesis, or complete a project, on an approved, specialized topic appropriate to the field of Art History and will enroll in ARTH 6970 Project/Thesis Research (minimum 6 semester hours).

The MA Thesis demonstrates independent research and the use of scholarly methods of historical and critical interpretation. The thesis must adhere to the guidelines in the Graduate School's A Handbook for Theses and Dissertations. We encourage you to use it in the preparation of all your drafts. The handbook also contains a description of the procedure to submit the thesis to the Graduate School. Please make sure that you have scheduled sufficient time to obtain permission letters to reproduce images of works of art under copyright protection. Please note that the thesis office calendar requires six weeks to ascertain that a defended, committee-approved thesis meets formal scholarly standards. At the time of delivery of the final draft of your thesis to the thesis editor, official photographs and letters of permission for the images must be in hand. You will not graduate until this process is completed. Following a successful defense and after all requested changes have been made to the thesis, your committee will sign the Supervisory Committee Approval of Thesis form, and the Chair of your Supervisory Committee along with the Chair of Art and Art History will sign the Final Reading Approval form, to be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies for signature.

The MA Project is comprised of research and a written report on a specialized topic appropriate to the field of Art History. The format and focus of the MA Project is worked out in consultation with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee and may include such things as the production of a museological object file, an exhibition prospectus, a pedagogical dossier with sample syllabi and literature reviews, primary archival research, or other professional scholarly studies as deemed appropriate by the art history faculty. Following a successful defense and after all requested changes have been made to the project, your committee will sign the Supervisory Committee Approval of Thesis form, and the Chair of your Supervisory Committee along with the Chair of Art and Art History will sign the Final Reading Approval form, to be submitted to the Director of Art History Graduate Studies for signature. A digital record of your MA Project will be presented to the Marriott Library for housing in the institutional repository and digital archive of the University of Utah. The Marriott’s digital asset management system allows content to be accessed on a limited basis, through campus IP or CIS login. Students also have the option of depositing their Project to USpace, an institutional repository of the University of Utah. This open-access archive gives greater visibility to your Project, ensuring that even individuals that don't have access to the University database can still access your work.

Although your committee chair is your principal advisor during MA research, you should keep all committee members regularly informed of your work-in-progress. A copy of your penultimate draft, with photocopies of any images, should be submitted to each committee member one month before a public oral examination date, which is set by the Supervisory Committee chair. As per Graduate School policy, a project or thesis defense is always open to the public; you and your committee chair must notify the Director of MA Studies to ensure that notices are properly posted two weeks before the oral defense date.


By University policy, you must maintain minimum registration (Fall and Spring) of one course per semester until you complete all requirements for the MA in Art History. During your thesis preparation, you must register for at least one course each semester until, and including, the one in which you schedule your thesis defense. You do not have to register for any courses after you have defended your thesis, but will not graduate until all Graduate School requirements are satisfied. If you do not maintain minimum registration or submit an official Graduate Student Request for Leave of Absence for approval by the Graduate School, your Supervisory Committee will be terminated and you will be put on inactive status by the Graduate School. You would need to reapply to the Graduate School Admissions Office to reactivate your file. Graduate Records maintains your permanent file. Please note that teaching and research assistants must register for a minimum of 9 credit hours during each semester in which they are employed, in order to be eligible for the Tuition Benefit Program.


Students who need time off for caregiving can take a period of up to 16 weeks for a Family Leave of absence. Students who experience a medical condition associated with their pregnancy and need accommodations recommended by their medical provider should contact Sherrie Hayashi, Director, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator University of Utah, 135 Park Building 201 South Presidents Circle Salt Lake City, UT 84112, The Title IX Coordinator will work with the student, appropriate faculty, and administration to determine what accommodations are reasonable and effective. The student will be ineligible for financial support during the semester of familial leave. Please talk with the Director of MA Graduate Studies if you wish to apply for Family Leave.


All graduate students are expected to maintain standards of professional and ethical conduct, as specified in Article XI of the Student Code. Gross professional, legal, and/or ethical misconduct constitute grounds for dismissal from the program. Once you have successfully advanced to candidacy, you will be informed in writing of any concerns about or deficiencies in your work or conduct that could jeopardize your good standing or continued enrollment in the program. This notification will include advice as to how you can amend these deficiencies. Failure to effectively amend these deficiencies within 45 days will result in dismissal from the program. In the rare instance of dismissal from the Program (whether for academic reasons or misconduct), the dismissal procedure will be as follows:

  • The Chair of Committee and Director of Graduate Studies will notify the student in writing, stating the reasons for dismissal, indicating a formal termination date at least 15 days after the date of the letter. A copy of the letter will be sent to the Department Chair.
  • If the student is serving as a T.A., faculty will determine whether it is possible or advisable to continue with T.A. duties following dismissal. If appropriate, the Department will continue the current T.A support until the end of the termination semester, contingent on conscientious execution of T.A. duties.
  • Student will vacate the graduate student office space in good condition, return all keys and any departmental equipment to the Department Office room 161 at the end of the termination semester.


Our program is designed to be completed in two years. The Graduate School requires that all work for the master's degree be completed within four consecutive calendar years. The Graduate School Catalogue contains additional information on the successful and timely completion of your degree requirements. The Graduate School website includes calendars of deadlines for students wishing to graduate in a specific semester. See the Master's Program Calendar. See the Thesis Calendar. Do not hesitate to contact the Director of MA Graduate Studies with any questions or concerns.

With your degree in Art History, you will be well suited to a career in either the public or private sector. Some students also pursue advanced graduate degrees. The discipline is valued for its humanistic focus on cultural/historical awareness, critical thought, and communication skills. Your preparation in visual analysis and interpretation will certainly be appealing to museums, art galleries, libraries, historical societies, arts councils, publishers, auction houses, and educational facilities. You can also take your knowledge and skills into a marketplace that seeks expertise in relating ideas and values to visual images. There are exciting possibilities in the areas of business, medicine, law, and communications. Opportunities for job placement may be explored further at Career Services (350 SSB, 801-581-6186). See also the list of career choices for art historians for more options.

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