Visual Studies Emphasis - B.F.A.

Degree Information

Format: Face-to-face

Credits: ~126

The Visual Studies area emphasizes real-world skills to equip you for future employment and work as a practicing artist. You will acquire skills including digital imaging, curating, exhibition and project organization/management and video and sound production. The curriculum is structured to allow Visual Studies majors to gain concentrated experience in other areas of the department. Visual Studies alumni exhibit their work, curate exhibits in galleries, museums and other public venues and are active participants in the community.

Degree Options

Students interested in a Visual Studies education may pursue a B.F.A. in Studio Art with this emphasis, or pursue a B.A./B.S. degree in Art Education with this emphasis as well.



BFA in Studio Art, Visual Studies Emphasis

The B.F.A. in Studio Art is designed for students interested in a professional career in art. Aside from Visual Studies, seven other Emphasis Areas are available to choose from in the B.F.A. degree.

BA/BS in Art Education and K-12 certification

Students may also pursue a BA or BS Degree in Art Education in which they can choose to take Visual Studies courses. 


This emphasis area incorporates interdisciplinary approaches and stresses the role of digital media and context as primary considerations for the production and analysis of visual works. Using an integrated approach, the program equips majors with an essential array of technical, conceptual, political, and social capacities needed for effective cultural work. The emphasis also encourages interaction with the local community and facilitates students working collectively and interpretively with the civic environment. 

Studio Art (Visual Studies) - B.F.A. Advising Guide 2022-23Transitional Advising Guide to New and Previous Studio Art BFA DegreeVisual Studies - Learning Plan (New)Visual Studies - Degree Checklist (Previous)Visual Studies - Detailed 4-year plan (Previous)Visual Studies - Learning Plan (Previous)Visual Studies - Course Plan (Previous)Visual Studies - Alternate Studio Elective Form (Previous)

Image studio explores the creation, use, and presentation of images and the theoretical discourse specific to such practices within a studio context. The studio incorporates uses of current image creation and presentation technologies. May be repeated once for credit. 

Credits: 3

Space Studio addresses the creation of site-specific works based in the primary form and experience of space typically referred to as installations. It includes studio considerations of space, site, installation, public art, presentational practices, and the related theoretical discourse within a studio context. May be repeated once for credit. 

Credits: 3

Time Studio explores temporal and presentational practices and the theoretical discourse specific to such practices within a studio context. Time-based works include time and change as central elements. This includes ephemeral and kinetic objects, performance, sound works, and works incorporating moving images. May be repeated once for credit. 

Credits: 3

Visual art methods are used to study, form, and present art in a specific public context. Includes the development of a project site, individual and collaborative work, and service learning. Studio operates "in public" presenting lectures, visual displays, and public gatherings. Part of the Identity Issue. May be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisite: Junior standing.

Credits: 3

This course involves the creation of art exhibitions, events, and projects as a studio practice. It explores the presentational and critical aspects of curatorial work and the theoretical discourse specific to such practice within a studio context. May be repeated once for credit. Part of the Information, Innovation, or Technology Issue. May be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisite: Junior standing.

Credits: 3

Interactive Studio addresses the study and creation of art works in which the audience is involved in an interactive exchange. Media explored include interactive situations, community collaborations, social/political interactions, and current electronic interactive interfaces. May be repeated once for credit. Part of the Information, Innovation, or Technology Issue.

Prerequisite: Junior standing.

Credits: 3

For studio artists and designers about to enter graduate school or professional design studios. Includes a required three-day field trip to Chicago, information concerning resume preparation, exhibitions, interviewing, portfolios, design agencies, galleries, museums, and analysis of the professional literature through written assignments. Students will learn how the professional art world works. Offered fall semester. Prerequisites: Art major and senior standing.

Credits: 3

This course is the final work toward the B.F.A. Senior Exhibition and must be taken in the semester in which students hang their degree shows. Students will work closely with their major professor in their emphasis area, and may have an additional course assigned from their Junior Review. Students must seek the advice of their major professor for the selection of works for their exhibition. They may also seek advice of any other faculty members with whom they have worked or from whom they would like additional feedback. Offered fall and winter semesters.

Credits: 6


Max Spitzer
Visiting Professor


Paul Wittenbraker
Visual Studies Area Coordinator


Students' Works

“"I chose to attend Grand Valley originally because it wasn't only an art school. I thought I wanted to do art, but I also wanted to be able to take lots of different classes in completely different disciplines."”



The visual studies program incorporates work inside and outside the traditional classroom setting. The primary lab studio includes work spaces as well as critique areas for discussion and production. There are also ample technological resources for students work in video, sound, curatorial, and digital image-based media. Community-based workspaces and installations facilitate students working collectively and interpretively with their civic environment.

Visual Studies Facilities

Alumni Outcomes

Graduates of the Studio Art – Visual Studies program possess knowledge, experience, and unique skills that are highly desirable and transferable, enabling them to seek employment in career fields both within and outside of the fine arts. Art degrees can lead to future work opportunities in a gallery, non-profit cultural organization, or museum.

Visual Studies Emphasis Graduates Work As...

  • Freelance artist/ entrepreneur
  • Time-based artist
  • Performance Artist
  • Gallery owner/assistant/ director/ curator
  • Exhibition planner/ coordinator
  • Community-based artist
  • Prop designer/ fabricator
  • Studio Technician
  • Web developer
  • Educator
  • etc...

Where GVSU Alumni Have Worked / Been Accepted to Graduate Degrees...

  • Oxbow School of Art
  • The Scott Group
  • Pillar Technology
  • Xibitz Architectural Design and Fabrication
  • Division Avenue Arts Collective
  • Dwelling Place
  • University of Iowa

Professional Networking

Visual Studies emphasis students are encouraged to pursue professional connections from the start of the program, engaging in exhibition work, art fellowships, on-campus employment, among other options.

GVSU Career Center

The Career Center offers a wide variety of events to help you successfully land after graduating from GVSU! 

Career Center Website

Schedule A VMA Tour


Interested in visiting VMA? Schedule your student lead tour today! 

Tours are available during open VMA Office hours:
Monday -Friday 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
(Closed on Public Holidays)
VMA Main Office: (616) 331-3486
[email protected]

Request Information


For questions about the Visual Studies area, please contact:

Paul Wittenbraker
Visual Studies Coordinator
1117 Calder Arts Center
(616) 331-3578
[email protected]



Page last modified December 3, 2023