Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art


The Whitney Museum of American Art‘s Independent Study Program (ISP) consists of three interrelated parts: Studio Program, Curatorial Program, and Critical Studies Program. The ISP provides a setting within which students pursuing art practice, curatorial work, art historical scholarship, and critical writing engage in ongoing discussions and debates that examine the historical, social, and intellectual conditions of artistic production. The program encourages the theoretical and critical study of the practices, institutions, and discourses that constitute the field of culture.

Each year fifteen students are selected to participate in the Studio Program, four in the Curatorial Program and six in the Critical Studies Program. The program begins in early September and concludes at the end of the following May. Many of the participants are enrolled at universities and art schools and receive academic credit for their participation, while others have recently completed their formal studies.

Studio Program

The participants in the Studio Program are engaged in a variety of art practices with an emphasis on installation work, film and video, photography, performance, and various forms of interdisciplinary practice. The program provides studio space and facilities in our loft in downtown Manhattan. The Studio Program exhibition is held in May.

Curatorial Program

Curatorial students collaborate to produce an exhibition. Working closely with the program’s faculty and curators at the Whitney, the students develop proposals for the exhibition. Once a proposal has been approved by the Museum’s curators, the students proceed to select artworks, arrange loans, and design and oversee the installation of the exhibition. The students write essays for and participate in the production of a catalogue accompanying their exhibition.

Critical Studies Program

Critical Studies participants engage in individual scholarly research and critical writing projects through tutorials with a professional art historian, critic, or cultural theorist. The program’s faculty arranges tutorials and provides additional advice and guidance. A symposium is held in May at the Whitney, at which the Critical Studies students present papers.


The faculty of the ISP is available to meet individually with all members of the program to discuss their work or more general practical, theoretical, or historical questions. The program’s regular and visiting faculty members are Ron Clark, Mary Kelly, Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, Laura Mulvey, Isaac Julien, Gregg Bordowitz, Andrea Fraser, Chantal Mouffe, Alex Alberro, Jennifer Gonzalez, Okwui Enwezor and Sarah Lookofsky.


Each week during the year, a professional artist, theorist, or historian conducts a seminar at the program. Members of all three components of the program participate in these seminars, which focus on the work of the seminar leader. In addition, all members of the program participate in a weekly reading seminar in social and cultural theory led by Ron Clark and members of the program’s visiting faculty. This seminar provides an occasion for the group to collectively study and discuss contemporary critical theory. There is a particular emphasis on the methodologies of critical cultural studies and social art history.

Recent Seminar Leaders and Tutors

Vito Acconci, Alex Alberro, Emily Apter, Carol Armstrong, Homi Bhabha, Gregg Bordowitz, Benjamin Buchloh, Matthew Buckingham, Judith Butler, Jonathan Crary, Thomas Crow, Rosalyn Deutsche, Mark Dion, Okwui Enwezor, Harun Farocki, Hal Foster, Andrea Fraser, Coco Fusco, Jennifer González, Isabelle Graw, Renée Green, Hans Haacke, Jenny Holzer, Chrissie Iles, Alfredo Jaar, Gareth James, Isaac Julien, Robin Kelley, Mary Kelly, Silvia Kolbowski, Miwon Kwon, Louise Lawler, Tom McDonough, Kobena Mercer, Chantal Mouffe, Laura Mulvey, Mark Nash, Molly Nesbit, Christiane Paul, Adrian Piper, Yvonne Rainer, Martha Rosler, Andrew Ross, Allan Sekula, Gayatri Spivak, Anthony Vidler, Fred Wilson, Peter Wollen

Support for The Independent Study Program is provided by Margaret Morgan and Wesley Phoa, The Capital Group Charitable Foundation, the Whitney Contemporaries through their annual Art Party benefit, the Easton Foundation, the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Edward and Sally Van Lier Foundation, and an anonymous donor.

Endowment support is provided by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, the Helena Rubinstein Foundation, and George S. Harris.

The Independent Study Program is an equal opportunity education program. The Program does not discriminate because of age, sex, religion, race, color, national origin, disability, marital status, veteran status, sexual orientation, or any other factor prohibited by law.



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