Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts

PhD in Visual Arts: Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory


795 Congress Street

Portland, ME 04102

United States



Program Information

Degrees Offered:

Ph.D. in Visual Arts: Concentrations in Philosophy, Aesthetics, and Art Theory

Format: Hybrid

Program Description:

The IDSVA course of study is made up of three interrelated academic programs: Seminars, Topological Studies, and Independent Studies. Each of these programs focuses on the historical relation between art and ideas. Over the three-year course of study, the programs overlap and intersect. 

  • The seminars serve as the backbone of the course of study through a shared language based in Continental Philosophy. 
  • Topological Studies bring together a global understanding of the trans-historical relations between art and ideas and the places in which they intersect. Residency intensives are held at Spannocchia Castle in Tuscany, the Venice Biennale, Paris, Athens, Berlin, and New York City.  A residency in Barcelona, and Madrid will be added in 2019, and Mexico City and Casablanca will both be added in 2020. 
  • Independent Studies are conducted under the direction of an expert in the given field of inquiry. Topics range from questions in hermeneutics and phenomenology to contemporary Chinese art, African tribal philosophy, and Caribbean Shamanism. Students present their Independent Studies as conference papers to faculty and peers. Through these presentations the Independent Studies open the seminar and topological studies programs to unlimited diversity and position IDSVA students to develop ideas for the dissertation. These presentations also prepare students for academic conferences and publications. 

IDSVA students work directly with internationally renowned artists and thinkers. Online coursework and independent studies are pursued through fall and spring semester and include online seminar videoconferences, one-on-one faculty/student conferences, study group discussion and collaboration, and written research conducted through IDSVA’s virtual library. 

The Course of Study is 60 credits over three years. At the end of the third year, candidates are required to pass the oral and written qualifying exams, and receive permission to start writing the dissertation. The dissertation is typically submitted within two years following completion of the Course of Study. The PhD degree is granted upon successful defense of the dissertation. Total time to complete the degree is about five years.


The Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Eligibility Requirements:

Applicants must hold an MFA, M.Arch., or a master’s level degree in a related field. Criteria for evaluation will include undergraduate and graduate transcripts from accredited institutions of higher learning. The minimum grade point average in both cases is 3.0. A working knowledge of art history, critical theory, and philosophy should be demonstrated in the graduate transcripts.

International Student Requirements:

IDSVA cannot accept applications from international students at this time, as the Institution is not able to issue I-20s appropriate for participation in this program. Prospective international students who have established other means of US Residency are welcome to apply.

Facts & Figures

Financial Aid: Yes

International Financial Aid: Yes

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