Arts Politics (MA)

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Program Description

This Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Arts Politics combines an administrative home within Tisch with key partnerships across schools to offer a spectrum of interdisciplinary courses. The curriculum examines, in an activist key, the relation between art and society and the role of the artist in civic life. Art is treated as providing a particular lens through which the social world can be understood and as a medium of cultural intervention in political processes. The M.A. combines a suite of core courses with relevant electives drawn from across the University. Students within the program attend classes with those who have related arts interests in other University programs. The program provides students with the opportunity to come together to critically reflect on the discourses and practical strategies that issue from the ability of art to intervene in and transform the social world. Arts politics considers art as both a way of knowing and as a kind of action, as an invitation to claim artistic citizenship, and as a means to democratize the public sphere.

Arts politics attends to both formal and informal political processes that bear on the production, dissemination, and reception of the arts. It integrates approaches from the humanities, social sciences, and the arts themselves. It studies governmental and policy processes, the institutional ecology, and political economy of the arts. It employs perspectives that understand how to decode cultural meanings, how social movements are formed, and how to read the esthetic dimension of contemporary politics. Through official patronage and censorship, celebration and loathing, and affirmation and critique of prevailing values, art has long been imbricated and implicated in the political. Yet arts politics is never fixed; its historical and cross-cultural variation helps to understand what possibilities exist for civically engaged artists working in the present.

In the United States, cultural policy is typically seen as being weakly developed, and the skills artists use to get their work into the world often rest on tacit knowledge. Art is rarely bestowed with official status or sanction, which can make its social or political impact all the more challenging to discern. Given the often subtle ways in which art interacts with and acts upon the social world, its political value and efficacy can be difficult to assess. Alternatively, when art itself is grasped epistemologically, as a way of knowing the world, a distinctive array of art’s social effects become legible. The M.A. in arts politics program provides a critical and analytic setting in which artists and others with a social commitment to the arts can develop the means for an appraisal of the political implications and social significance of their work.


All graduate applicants to the Tisch School of the Arts are required to submit the General Graduate Application, as well as a department-specific portfolio or creative supplement. Each of these can be submitted online.

See Graduate Admissions for admission requirements and instructions specific to this program.

For international applicants, see International Applicant RequirementsApplicants with international credentials should be sure to check to see if their credentials are equivalent to an American Bachelor’s degree before applying.