Master of Fine Arts in Criticism & Curatorial Practice


Program Description

Criticism & Curatorial Practice

Offering graduate students an exceptional opportunity to explore and experiment with contemporary art, media, and design through engagement with history, theory, and criticism within curatorial practice.

The Master of Fine Arts in Criticism & Curatorial Practice program offers graduate students an exceptional opportunity to explore and experiment with contemporary art, media, and design through engagement with history, theory, and criticism within curatorial practice.

OCAD University’s distinctive program focuses uniquely on the practices of curating and criticism, leading to the Master of Fine Arts degree. Our graduate faculty and adjunct faculty include practicing curators and critics who bring deep intellectual and professional expertise to the studies of criticism and curatorial practice.

OCAD University’s reputation for excellence entices internationally renowned authorities to its annual Artist-in-Residence program and assists students to establish programmatic internships in Canada and abroad.

The MFA in Criticism & Curatorial Practice is a full-time, 60-credit program normally completed within two academic years or five sequential semesters. With the Program Director’s approval, some part-time students may be admitted with a more flexible completion schedule.

The program comprises the following:

  • Five core seminars (critical theory, research methods, issues in exhibitions, critical writing, and issues in criticism and curatorial studies)
  • Two core practice and issues-based studio/seminars
  • An institutionally embedded theory and practice-based course, "Inside Curatorial Practice", which including a collaborative group exhibition
  • Two elective seminars or studios
  • Individual research
  • Summer internship or study abroad
  • Thesis: curatorial exhibition and critical essay, or criticism thesis

Students entering the program will have an honors-equivalent four-year bachelor’s degree in studio art or design, or art history/visual culture, or a related discipline, and several years of practical experience. They will be interested in augmenting their existing knowledge base through a program of study that facilitates exploration of and experimentation with the full range of contemporary art and/or designs curatorial and critical practices, and that provides the historical, theoretical and critical armature required.

Key features

  • Partnerships, internships, and events at organizations such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Textile Museum, C Magazine, the Toronto Alliance of Art Critics, and various Toronto artist-run centers.
  • The Summer Internship, which is an approximately four-week placement with a gallery, museum, art publication, or other relevant cultural institution in Canada or abroad. The internship allows students to integrate the knowledge gleaned from first-year seminars with the practices of curating and criticism.
  • The annual Artist-in-Residence program, which brings internationally renowned artists, designers, curators, and critics to OCAD U for a one-week residency during which they conduct seminars, attend studio critiques, and give a public lecture/presentation.


The objectives of the MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice are to:

  • Ensure that students acquire advanced research skills for visual and academic investigations in the areas of art, media, and design practice and critical theory.
  • Contribute to new knowledge in the areas of art, media, and design research methodologies in criticism and curatorial practices.
  • Promote the development of practices that facilitate sustainability, social responsibility, and diverse social and cultural perspectives.
  • Develop and advance curatorial and critical practices in design.
  • Promote contemporary art, media, and design practices within public contexts.
  • Contribute to the development of the field of Canadian art, media, and design criticism.
  • Contribute to the development of the field of curatorial practice in private and public galleries and museums and to independent curatorial practices.

Admission Requirements

Applications for the 2020-2021 academic year are open! Apply now through the Graduate Application Portal. 

Due to study permit processing timelines, May 8th will be our application deadline for international applicants. Applications will remain open until all spaces are filled. Applicants are encouraged to submit their application as soon as possible, as our graduate programs fill quickly.

General application requirements

In addition to general graduate studies application requirements, found below, that are applicable to all programs, individual programs may have unique application requirements that you can consult.

  • Transcripts
  • Reference letters
  • Application fee
  • English language competency

Program-specific application requirements

Application for admission into the MFA in Criticism & Curatorial Practice at OCAD U is a highly competitive process. Applicants must hold a BA, BFA, BDes, or comparable honors degree/certification with an average of 75 percent (B+) or better during the last two years of study, or must demonstrate exceptional experience/expertise as a practicing artist, designer, critic or curator. All applicants must demonstrate creative and conceptual competence at a high level.

For consideration by the admissions committee, and in addition to the basic application requirements outlined below, applicants need to complete and submit the following through the Graduate Application Portal:

  • Research Proposal: Applicants should clearly outline their background in their area of concentration and describe their research interest or theme for their graduate work in the program. Appendices including bibliography and examples of visual work may be included if appropriate. It is strongly suggested that applicants identify at least one graduate faculty member they would like to work with during their studies. The proposal must be typed and should not exceed 500 words.
  • CV: Applicants should include an updated copy of their curriculum vitae.

What You’ll Do in the Program

First Year

  • Intro to Curatorial Practices
  • Inside Curatorial Practice Part 1
  • Choose one (0.5) of the following:
    • Contemporary Research Methods OR
    • Critical Theory Seminar OR
    • Art History Methods & Theory
  • Elective**
  • Intro to Criticism and Critical Writing
  • Inside Curatorial Practice Part 2
  • Elective** 
  • Thesis Proposal
  • Choose 1.0 credits from the following options:
    • Placement and/or Study Abroad
    • Independent Study

Second Year

  • Issues in Criticism and Curatorial Studies
  • Individual Research and Reading
  • Thesis Workshop I: Research
  • Elective**
  • Thesis Workshop II: Writing
  • Thesis: Exhibition and Critical Essay OR
  • Thesis: Criticism Thesis 

**Students must take 2.0 total elective credits in order to complete the program. Electives will be listed in fall/winter/fall semesters though students have flexibility in which terms they take them.

How to Apply

Graduate applications for the 2020 academic year are still open for domestic applicants.

Step 1: Review application requirements and program-specific eligibility

This information can be found on the Application Requirements page.

Step 2: Apply online using the Graduate Application Portal

All applicants to Graduate Studies at OCAD University must first complete a graduate application through the Graduate Application Portal. If you are applying to more than one graduate program, you must submit a separate application for each program for which you wish to be considered. 

Application Fee: The application fee is $110 CAD, payable through the Graduate Application Portal. Application fees are non-refundable and charged for each program for which you apply. 

Step 3: Finalize and submit your application

The Graduate Application Portal will allow you to log in and start a graduate application which you can edit as often as required. However, once your application has been submitted, no further changes will be allowed.

Once your application has been successfully submitted through the Graduate Application Portal and your application fee paid, you will receive official emails acknowledging receipt of your application. Any further required steps or actions will be outlined at this time.

Our online application portal is the only method to submit your application. We do not accept paper applications or physical application materials. If you encounter issues while applying, please contact us at

Step 4: Application review process

Only complete applications will be reviewed by our Admissions Committees. Once the program-specific Admissions Committee has reviewed your submitted application, you may be contacted by the Office of Graduate Studies and invited to an interview (where applicable). If you are invited to an interview, it may take place in-person or remotely (e.g. teleconference or Skype). The application review process, including interviews, normally takes up to twelve weeks after the application deadline.

Step 5: Notification of admissions decisions

Once a decision is made regarding your application, you will receive a notification via email asking you to log in to the Graduate Application Portal and check the status of your application. 

Offer of Admission: If you are offered admission to a graduate program, you will have a limited time (normally two weeks) to accept the offer of admission through the Graduate Application Portal. Your offer of admission may be subject to conditions, which must be cleared before you can be permitted to register.

Waiting Lists: If you are placed on a waiting list for admission into a graduate program, you will receive a notification via email when your application status changes. If you are on a waiting list and decide not to attend OCAD University, please contact us to let us know of your decision.

Not Admitted: If you are not selected for admission, you may fall into one of three general categories:

  • Although you meet the minimum program requirements, due to a combination of a highly competitive process and a limited number of spaces, we were unable to admit you.
  • You have not met the minimum program requirements (e.g., GPA, English language requirements, etc.).
  • You were deemed ineligible (e.g., non-relevant degree, lack of academic qualifications).

Please note that applicants meeting the minimum requirements for admission are not guaranteed admission into a graduate program. Furthermore, program admission may be limited to students whose interests are compatible with the specific program mandate, available resources, and faculty expertise.

Last updated Jun 2020

About the School

Founded in 1876, OCAD U is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD U continuously builds on its traditional ... Read More

Founded in 1876, OCAD U is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD U continuously builds on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, members of the OCAD U community are uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology, and quality of life for all Canadians. Read less