Practice of Art Independent Work Guide

Director of Undergraduate Studies

Professor Basile Baudez

[email protected]

Undergraduate Coordinator

Jonathan Finnerty

[email protected]

Director of the Program in Visual Arts

Jeff Whetstone

[email protected]


Employing an interdisciplinary and multi-media approach, the Program in Visual Arts encourages concentrators to weave different art-making modalities and media into their overall practice. Practice of Art majors explore the traditions, thought processes, and methods of making visual art in connection with a liberal arts education. Studio courses are offered in painting, drawing, printmaking, graphic design, media, sculpture, photography, film and video production. Students also study art history and theory.

The independent work for Practice of Art juniors and seniors is divided each year between a writing portfolio and an exhibition or a film.

The Process


All VIS Juniors and Seniors are assigned studio space.

All Senior and Junior Practice of Art majors must complete the Art Safety Training Session as well as sign the Studio Agreement Form before occupying their studios.

Junior studios are located on the 4th floor of 185 Nassau Street. The Junior studios are semi-private spaces that allow 24/7 access and consist of two shared film/video editing suites, one animation suite, and 17 individual art studios. Studios are assigned before the fall semester starts and are open to students on the second week of the semester.

Senior studios are shared, private rooms located on the first and second floors of 185 Nassau Street. They are assigned before the fall semester starts and open to students the second week of the semester. Senior studios comprise two film editing suites, one animation suite, and seven art media studios. VIS staff make every effort to assign studios appropriate to a student’s chosen media. All senior studios allow 24/7 access.

The Art Safety Training takes place in the first week of the fall semester. The session is informative and gives students overviews of what materials and processes are allowable in studio spaces. The Art Safety Training Session is mandatory. Completion of the session allows the student to occupy their studio and use the VIS labs and shops at 185 Nassau St.

Junior Independent Work

The Junior Independent Work consists of a writing portfolio and studio work culminating in the Spring Junior Group Thesis Show or a Junior Film.

It begins in the context of the Junior seminar. It continues into the spring in partnership with two faculty advisers, one from VIS and one from ART. ART advisers are selected in December in consultation with the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Writing portfolio

All Practice of Art juniors assemble a writing portfolio consisting of multiple short essays amounting to approximately ten pages (2,500 words). The essays reflect on the making process and discuss the relation of the work to the student’s broader studies, especially in art history. The portfolio includes an appended bibliography.

ART advisers work with Practice of Art students in the spring semester to establish a plan for the written portfolio best suited to the student’s goals in developing their artistic practice. Portfolio entries are submitted to both ART and VIS advisers (for mutual information); they are graded only by ART advisers. The deadline for full portfolio submission to ART and VIS advisers is the end of April.

Junior Portfolio writing might include:

  • An account of the formation of the concept for a work and reflection on the project’s primary aims.
  • Writing that may take flexible forms to generate ideas for work or form a statement on finished work/work-in-progress.
  • Critical analysis of works seen in classes or exhibits, etc. that the student has learned from and/or wishes to explore further.
  • Critical analysis of work made by the student that relates it to other work (by the student or by someone else).
  • Responses to reading (takeaways from an article or book; questions prompted by a reading; analysis of an argument; reflections on the relevance of a reading to a studio project).
  • Research reports on topics integral to a studio project (e.g., gathering information to support part of the work, exploring related work by other artists).


Students prepare independent work over the course of the year, culminating in an exhibition as part of the Spring Junior Group Thesis Show. Film students work throughout their junior year to create a junior film. The Junior Thesis show will culminate in a series of group critiques led by the students’ VIS advisers.

Senior Independent Work

The Senior Independent Work consists of a writing portfolio and a major studio project completed by the end of the spring term, done in consultation with the student’s advisers (1 from VIS; 1 from ART).

Writing Portfolio

The final writing portfolio consists of multiple short essays of approximately 20 pages (5,000 words). The essays reflect on the making process and discuss the relation of the work to the student’s broader studies, especially in art history. The portfolio includes an appended bibliography. Practice of Art students should work with their ART adviser to determine the nature and schedule of portfolio submissions throughout the year. It is recommended that much of the writing be completed in the fall as part of the developing conceptualization for the thesis work. Based on the work to date, the adviser will submit a fall semester Senior Thesis Progress Report to the Department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies. This form will be provided to the Practice of Art’s adviser by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. At least two portfolio entries should be completed by then.


Practice of Art Major senior thesis exhibitions are one-person shows that take place in the Hagan, Hurley, or Lucas galleries and run from one to two weeks in a series beginning in late February extending through reading period. Practice of Art students making a film thesis are scheduled in the Senior Film Screenings that take place in late April in the James Stewart Theater. Scheduling for all Senior Thesis Exhibitions and Senior Film Screenings will take place in the fall semester. By the end of the second week of the fall term of the senior year, students will have been matched with advisers from VIS and ART. Students are encouraged to confer with faculty about advising and submit their Practice of Art Thesis Advising forms as early as the spring of their junior year; if the project is still too much in development, the forms may be submitted in August before the senior year for a Director of Undergraduate Studies match.

Standards and Evaluation

Junior Independent Work

The grade for Junior Independent Work is a weighted average of the studio grade from the VIS adviser and of the portfolio grade from the ART adviser.

Senior Independent Work

Writing Portfolio evaluation

The Practice of Art thesis portfolio is read and graded by both ART and primary VIS advisers, and both prepare a grade and summary comments following the Advisers’ Critique. The final grade for the thesis is the average of the two readers’ grades (except when their grades are more than ten points apart, in which case the department assigns a third person to evaluate the work, and the final grade is the average of the three grades).

Advisers’ evaluations of the written portfolio consider:

How the writing contributes to and reflects upon the student’s studio work and artistic process.

How the writing positions the thesis work in relation to the student’s broader studies.

Whether the written work represents a substantive and serious endeavor.

Whether individual writings are appropriate length for their respective purposes and meet the overall requirement of approximately 20 pages (5,000 words).

Exhibition VIS Critique and Advisers’ Critique

During a Practice of Art student’s thesis exhibition, there will be two critiques.

The first critique will be with members of the VIS faculty and a student cohort. The VIS critique is moderated by the primary adviser. Each student artist invites two student colleagues to be respondents to the work, and to provide short introductions to the exhibition. These two student respondents will have made studio visits with the artist at least a week prior to the critique.

VIS critiques are guided by four central questions:

  1. “Why does the work look the way it does?” (This question is meant to address how the form of the work is connected to its content.)
  2. “What are your references?” (This question allows discussion of historical and contemporary art and culture related to the work.)
  3. “Where are you in the work?” (How and if personal narratives have influenced the exhibition.)
  4. “What question would you ask your work?” (Encourages self-critique and analysis of one’s own artistic production)

The above questions are intended to support open discussion during the VIS Critique.

Exhibition Advisers’ Critique

The graded Practice of Art Advisers’ Critique meet for approximately 45 minutes (and no longer than an hour) in the student’s exhibition. During the Critique, the ART adviser and the VIS adviser engage the student in analytic discussion of their work. Advisers’ Critiques discuss the student’s exhibited work and its relationship to the studio process (note that extended discussion of how the work relates to other artists and the student’s studies in art history is a focus of the Practice of Art Comps).

The Critique is adviser-led and question-led, as students give formal statements on their work at the VIS Critique and in the Comprehensive Exam, and often in their Portfolios as well; but students are expected to speak substantively to the formal and conceptual choices they make in their work. The Critique is expected to be a productive discussion that recognizes strengths of the exhibition, identifies less effective points, and explores aspects in which the work would benefit from further development. The Critique offers robust response to the thesis work and supports students’ continuing practice in its focus on areas for growth.

Grading of the Practice of Art Thesis

Each grade is weighted at 80% for the exhibition and two Critiques, and 20% for the writing portfolio. The comments and combined grade are given to the student at the senior Comprehensive Exam.

Assessment of the thesis exhibition and Advisers’ Critique is guided by the following criteria:

CONCEPT – How is the subject matter of the work realized? Do the concepts offer challenges or questions? If so, how fully does the work address them? How does the exhibition function? How effectively has the student conceptualized the exhibition?

PROCESS – Are the techniques employed well suited to the concept of the work, and vice versa? Where a student employs a particular technique, do they achieve the desired effect? Have you seen the work develop over the course of the year? Has the student reflected on points of challenge and sought productive approaches? Has the student sought to build on extant skills? Develop new skills? Deepen familiar concepts and/or explore new ones?

ACCOUNT – How does the Critique discussion communicate the student’s current thinking about their work? Does it aid or deepen your understanding of the exhibition?

Faculty award a grade for their assessments per the definitions in the Undergraduate Announcement:

Grade Designations
Grade Qualification
A+ Exceptional; significantly exceeds the highest expectations for undergraduate work.
Outstanding; meets the highest standards for the assignment or course.
A- Excellent; meets very high standards for the assignment or course.
B+ Very good; meets high standards for the assignment or course.
B Good; meets most of the standards for the assignment or course.
B- More than adequate; shows some reasonable command of the material.
C+ Acceptable; meets basic standards for the assignment or course.
C Acceptable; meets some of the basic standards for the assignment or course.
C- Acceptable, while falling short of meeting basic standards in several ways.
D Minimally acceptable; lowest passing grade.
F Failing; very poor performance.





Departmental Research Support

Budgets are provided for the purchase of materials and supplies, and do not include the purchase of equipment or food. Food may be purchased to feed film crew when filming away from campus.

Practice of Art seniors are allotted $1,000 for the school year.

Practice of Art juniors are allotted $600 for the school year.

Most supplies are purchased by staff, but students are also permitted to purchase some items and get reimbursed. The Mandatory Art Safety training informs students what materials are allowable for purchase and what materials are not allowed in their studios.

Princeton University Faculty

The Practice of Art advisers, VIS and ART, will be the most important and involved interlocutors during the process of completing the independent work. But the student should also make use of the expertise of other members of the VIS community and the History of Art as well as the expertise of faculty and other members of departments across campus. Their research will be more strategic and productive and their thinking will be richer and more nuanced if they discuss their work with a range of artists and scholars with relevant but varying expertise, perspectives, and approaches. Students should check departmental websites for professors’ posted office hours, or write to ask for an appointment.

The Writing Center

Located in Lauritzen Hall, the Writing Center offers free one-on-one conferences with experienced fellow writers trained to consult on assignments in any discipline. The Writing Center also holds regular conferences seven days a week, and drop-in hours Sunday through Thursday evenings. Since the Writing Center does not discuss grammar, the Department suggests that students read the appropriate manuals (see the “Department Style Sheet” on the Art & Archaeology website). Students are encouraged to consult with Julie Angarone when formatting their written portfolios.

Collections on Campus

Practice of Art students benefit from a wide and varied number of objects and books collections on campus. They should take full advantage of the wealth of this material for their practice and thinking.

Marquand Library

Established in 1908, Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology is one of the oldest and most extensive art libraries in America. It serves the Princeton University Community and scholars from around the world. The non-circulating collection of some 500,000 volumes covers Western and Eastern art from antiquity to the present, including rare book holdings. Marquand supports research in the fine, decorative, and media arts, photography, architecture, and archaeology.

During the renovation of Marquand's permanent space in the Princeton University Art Museum, the library is housed on C Floor of Firestone Library.

Visual Resources Collection

The Visual Resources Collection (Green Hall, second floor) administers the collections of digital images, slides, and photographic prints to support the departmental teaching curriculum and to provide resources for study and research. Digital images are available in ARTstor and several university-specific archives that are accessible to the Princeton University community for teaching, research and study purposes. The Visual Resources staff are extremely knowledgeable in the processes of locating images.

Photographic prints and materials from the Princeton-sponsored archaeological expeditions can be consulted as well.

Index of Medieval Art

The Index of Medieval Art was founded in 1917 by Charles Rufus Morey, then chairman of the Department of Art & Archaeology. Located in Green Hall, second floor, it is a unique repository of considerable use especially for students of Western art history. It offers, in text and image formats, over 28,000 subjects in medieval art from the Early Christian period to the middle of sixteenth century. The Index is currently available in both manual and electronic formats, with approximately one third of the holdings available on the electronic database. The Index also offers a small non-circulating library as well as several electronic publications not available elsewhere on campus.

Princeton University Art Museum

The permanent collections of the Art Museum range from ancient to contemporary art and concentrate geographically on the Mediterranean regions, Western Europe, China, the United States, and Latin America. There is an outstanding collection of Greek and Roman antiquities, including ceramics, marbles, bronzes, and Roman mosaics from Princeton University’s excavations at Antioch. Medieval Europe is represented by sculpture, metalwork, painting and stained glass. The collection of Western European paintings includes important examples from the early Renaissance through the nineteenth century, and there is a growing collection of twentieth-century and contemporary art. Significant loans amplify the collection in many areas. Among the greatest strengths of the Museum are its collections of Chinese art, with important holdings in bronzes, tomb figures, painting, calligraphy, and pre-Columbian art, with remarkable examples of the art of the Olmec and Maya. The Museum also has important collections of old master prints and drawings and a comprehensive collection of original photographs. African art is represented, as well as Northwest Coast Indigenous art, the latter on loan to the Museum from the Department of Geology.

All Princeton students can make appointments to see original works of art not on display by contacting the curators of the respective areas (see the Undergraduate Handbook or the Museum website for contact information). During the Museum's renovation, study rooms exist in Firestone Library for prints and drawings, photographs, and manuscript holdings; objects may be accessible by appointment in the off-site study location on Forrestal Campus. The Museum’s online database catalogs a majority of its holdings. Students can access museum and object files by contacting the museum registrar’s office or a curator.

Tang Center

The P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art was established in 2001 to advance the understanding of East Asian art and culture. A sponsor and facilitator of scholarly exchange, the Tang Center brings together scholars, students, and the general public through interdisciplinary programs, including lectures and symposia, film series, publications, graduate education, museum development and exhibitions. Building on Princeton University’s long history of activity, scholarship, and leadership in the field of East Asian art, the Tang Center supports and encourages continuing inquiry into those issues that help to shape East Asian art.

Firestone Library

Most students know Firestone Library as the place to go for research materials, but many are not aware of its extensive holdings in the visual arts. Manuscripts, prints, photographs, and even some paintings and sculptures are located within the department of Rare Books and Special Collections, which are normally consulted in the reading room located on the C floor. Normally, materials that appear in the on-line catalogue for Firestone Library can be immediately consulted, although it is often helpful to request materials in Rare Books and Special Collections in advance; materials in the Cotsen Library, as well as uncatalogued materials, can be consulted only by prior appointment. Some of the most important collections for Practice of Art majors are the following:

Manuscripts Division

The Manuscripts Division contains 8500 linear feet of materials ranging from 1300 cuneiform tablets to Man Ray photographs. It has the largest collection of Islamic manuscripts in North America (11,000 volumes) as well as very significant collections of Western textual and illuminated manuscripts ranging in date from the 9th to 16th centuries, with special strength in the English, French, Italian, and Byzantine world. Other particular treasures are the photographic albums of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), some 700 items; 900 Middle Eastern photographs by Felix Bonfils; 130 Beardsley drawings; and the Sylvia Beach Collection.

Graphic Arts Collection

The Graphic Arts Collection includes artists’ and private press books, as well as materials for the study of paper and papermaking, printing, calligraphy, printmaking, fine binding, typography, and book design. Of special interest are the Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books; 18th- and 19th- century British artists and illustrators (particularly George and Robert Cruikshank, Thomas Rowlandson, and William Hogarth); and the Charles Rahn Fry Pochoir Collection. The collection includes reference works on the history of the book and printing. Among the primary source materials are over 20,000 drawings, prints, paintings, and photographs related to the history of book illustration, vintage printing presses and type, approximately 350 blocks and plates for printmaking, and 100 linear feet of printed ephemera such as bookplates, trade cards, and postcards.

Cotsen Children’s Library

An unusual collection of illustrated children’s books, manuscripts, original artwork, prints, and educational toys from the 15th century to the present day, the Cotsen Library has over 60,000 items dating from the first primers to the latest anime cartoons. For anyone interested in the history of childhood, popular culture, and the often forgotten involvement of fine artists such as Kandinsky, El Lissitzky, and Edward Steichen in children’s book illustration, this is a treasure trove.

Western Americana Collection

The Western Americana Collection includes prints, photographs, paintings, and illustrated books of the Western territories and states, including amateur albums by explorers and early settlers.

Numismatics Collection

Twenty-five-thousand objects with particular strengths in Greek, Roman, and medieval coins.

Other Princeton Resources for Practice of Art Majors

Seeley G. Mudd Library is home to the Princeton University archives, which contain historic photographs, prints, and portraits relating to Princeton. Other libraries on campus that contain original drawings, prints and photographs include the School of Architecture Library and the East Asian Library and Gest Collection, with over 102,000 early string-bound Chinese books. Films and videos by leading directors are found in the Humanities Resource Center (011 East Pyne).


Below are  A&A specific forms. For all other forms (e.g. course enrollment, summer course approval, etc.) see the Dean of the College Forms Library. The Registrar  has course enrollment forms.

The residential colleges also post forms on their websites.


These are the forms that you will need to submit at various stages of the major. Please refer to the Undergraduate Calendar for the deadlines, and look out for emails from the DUS and/or Undergraduate Coordinator that will alert you when it is time to file them. Please do not submit any forms until you are notified that it is time to do so.

Practice of Art Thesis Adviser

History of Art Senior Thesis Adviser

Senior Thesis/Portfolio Progress Report

Program in Archaeology Application

Declaration of Major

Minor in Art History Application

Junior Independent Work Advising

Internships Funding Application

ART 456 Application