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Visual and Material Studies (VMS, formerly Visual and Critical Studies) is a cross-disciplinary department bringing together faculty from the related fields of Art and Architectural History, Film, and the Language Arts.

Since its creation in the 1980s, VMS faculty have developed curricular offerings to complement artists’ practices by focusing on the social contextualization of material culture. Course offerings expose students to varied histories, aesthetic theories, and methodological approaches, thereby encouraging in-depth analysis of a broad range of visual works. In these classes students explore the relationships between makers of art, spatial constructs, audience, and the contexts in which visual culture circulates.

VMS course offerings span introductory as well as more focused, seminar style, in-depth approaches to evaluating visual practices across the humanities and social sciences. VMS faculty’s expertise underscores a pluralistic approach to placing images, objects, and sites within global perspectives that explore alternative literacies, post-colonial visual practices as well as issues of race, identity, and gender materialized in the visual arts.

Sample Courses

VMS 001 - Introductory Seminar to Visual and Material Studies
Introductory interdisciplinary seminar on visual culture and theory required for all BFA students.

VMS 020 - Interpreting Art
This class follows Smithson in exploring the apparatus of art criticism: the theories, philosophies and critical approaches that have been applied to art’s examination in the past 50 years.

VMS 0108 - A History of Photography Through Ideas I & II  
This course will address different artistic, cultural, political and social premises and investigate any intersections with photography over the past two hundred years.

VMS 0105 - Cinematic Cities  
This course explores cinematic representation and relationship to cities throughout cinematic history. 

VMS 0122 - Reassessing Museums
This course examines the constantly changing role of the museum and their complicated social, political, and cultural agendas.

Dr. Hilary Binda

Faculty Profile: Hilary Binda

The founding director of the Tufts Prison Initiative, Dr. Binda has dedicated herself to the intersection of education, writing, visual studies, and true criminal justice.