A photo of art history books arranged on a shelf

Master of Arts in Contemporary Art Theory (MA)

Master of Arts in Contemporary Art Theory


Stream 1: Coursework only (24 course credits; 8 months)


Stream 2: Coursework (15 course credits; 12 months)  + M.R.P. (major research paper of approx. 50 pages)

  • Coursework + research paper (12 months) 
  • Full-time enrolment
  • In-person courses
  • Internship experience

Grasp the interconnection of media, visual art, and current affairs

This one-year master’s program (offered in two streams and in French and English) connects contemporary visual arts to urgent issues, such as decolonization, environmental crises, gender and representation, as well as capitalist disparity viewed through critical theory, feminism, materialism, and formalism. The program emphasizes the role of art institutions in the dissemination of art and culture, and provides links to the contemporary art world. Graduates of the program move on to work as curators, researchers, academics, community liaison officers, archivists, writers, or design specialists.

Learn to speak the industry’s language: internship and classes with MFA students

The Department will assist you in setting up a 12-week, part-time internship with a renowned art institution in the nation’s capital, such as the National Gallery of Canada, the Ottawa Art Gallery, or the City of Ottawa Public Art Program, during which you will acquire behind-the-scenes experience in the heritage and culture industry. Through shared classes with MFA students, you will gain experience working with practicing artists and exploring their perspectives.

Immerse yourself in an environment that hosts major cultural institutions

The Ottawa-Gatineau region boasts seven major national museums, several smaller museums, and dozens of galleries. The relationships between the Department and these art institutions will foster your interactions with curators and collections, and help you build your network.

Research Fields

Environmental and Curatorial

Celina Jeffery’s SSHRC funded interdisciplinary work on art and environmental humanities has an international reach (India, UK, USA, Australia, Mexico and Mauritius) and her approach of the subject through curatorial research and exhibition making is in tune with the global trend towards an expansive development of museum exhibitions as experience. She is also the co-founder and lead editor of an online journal of art criticism and theory and frequently uses digital humanities as a platform for her curatorial projects.

Jaanika Peerna, Sublime Ooze

Digital and Information

Jakub Zdebik’s philosophical research into the concept of the diagram provides a basis for the current development of digital humanities in academia. From the perspective of the aesthetic of the diagram, he explores digital, network and internet art. His current research in the relation between art and information has yielded a curated exhibitions in the United States and Canada, a colloquium of international breadth on the topic of art and information as well as several books and articles.

art as information

Global and International

Though all four art history professors have an international breadth to their research, Andrea Fitzpatrick’s research in Middle-Eastern art, methodologies, global perspectives, visual studies, and human rights, demonstrates an urgent current topicality. Her expertise in theories of gender and her affiliation with the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies at the University of Ottawa demonstrate the inter-disciplinarity of the Destination 2020 Plan. She also curated an important exhibition at artist-run centres in Ottawa and Toronto which brought together prestigious Iranian artists.

Sadegh Tirafkan
Marianne Brown

“During my Master’s of Arts in Contemporary Art Theory, I was particularly interested in personal and political identity-based representations, narratives, and counter-narratives in contemporary art....”

Marianne Brown

How to Apply

1) OUAC Application

Submit an admission application to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) and pay the application fees to OUAC. 

Important: the supporting documents cannot be uploaded via that platform.

2) Upload of Documents in uoZone

Once the University of Ottawa receives your admission application from OUAC, you will be given access to uoZone, a portal into which you will be able to upload your CV, letter of intent (see the information below) and transcripts (post-secondary education).

Minimum Requirements

Honours BA in Art History, or an equivalent, with a minimum A- (80%).   Applicants who do not have an honours degree in Art History may in suitable cases be recommended by the Visual Arts Department for admission to a qualifying program. Such applicants are usually honours graduates in another subject field.

Your complete admission package must include

  • 2 Recommendation letter(s): It is highly recommended that you contact your referee prior to submitting your application to confirm their email address and their availability to complete your letter of recommendation.
  • Transcript
  • Proof of proficiency in your program's language of instruction, in the case of applicants whose first language is neither English nor French
  • Resume (must include chronological academic history)
  • Letter of Intent
Patrons in the art gallery

The Department of Visual Arts

The Department of Visual Arts offers four undergraduate and two graduate programs that respond to your various interests and needs: a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA), a Major in Visual Arts, a Major and a Minor in History and Theory of Art, a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) as well as a Master of Contemporary Art Theory.
Learn more about the department.

Contact us

Department of Visual Arts

100 Laurier Avenue E.
Room 110
Ottawa ON Canada K1N 6N5

Tel.: 613-562-5868
Fax: 613-562-5137
[email protected]

Office hours

Monday to Friday
From 8:15 a.m. to 12 p.m.
From 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
June to August: 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.