Visual Arts

Program of Study

The Program in Visual Arts allows undergraduates to explore visual art and media while developing their creative skills under the aegis of a liberal arts education. Courses are offered in drawing, filmmaking, graphic design, media, painting, photography, and sculpture. Studio courses emphasize direct, hands-on art making under the guidance of practicing visual arts professionals.

Most courses in the program are open to all students at Princeton. A few courses are by application only, and a few are reserved for Certificate and Practice of Art students only. Most courses are letter graded (not pass/D/fail) and may be taken in fulfillment of the distribution requirement in Literature and Arts. Summer courses and study abroad are accepted for Practice of Art students, Certificate students, and students who have previously completed at least one VIS course. AP credit is not accepted.

For students interested in pursuing a thesis in studio arts or film production, there are two pathways. The first is Practice of Art, a concentration offered by the Department of Art and Archaeology and administered by the Program in Visual Arts. The second option is a Visual Arts Certificate earned in addition to a student’s departmental concentration.

Admission to both Practice of Art in Art and Archaeology and the Visual Arts Certificate program is selective. During the first week following spring break, sophomores submit an application and a portfolio of creative work to the Lewis Center for the Arts administrative office. By early April, the admissions committee will notify those students accepted into the program. For specific prerequisites, please see the individual areas below.

Apply for the Visual Arts Certificate & Practice of Art Track »

The Practice of Art, Visual Arts

Practice of Art is an intensive studio concentration in the visual arts that culminates in a creative senior thesis. For program requirements, see the Practice of Art description under the Department of Art and Archaeology.

Apply for the Practice of Art Track »

The Visual Arts Certificate

A Certificate in Visual Arts will be awarded to students who successfully complete a substantial program of studio work in art or film production and a minimal supplement of seminars and Art History courses, while concentrating in another academic department. Students interested in a Certificate in Visual Arts should submit a portfolio in the spring term of the sophomore year. Students must have completed at least one visual arts studio or film production course before being admitted to the program. One course in Art and Archaeology is also highly recommended.

Apply for the Visual Arts Certificate »

Course Requirements

A total of seven courses, including two required seminars, from the Program in Visual Arts and the Department of Art and Archaeology, as follows:

a) Three visual arts studio courses or film production courses, in at least two different media, and at least one 300- or 400-level course. For film students, screenwriting courses are accepted as a different media from film production courses.

b) VIS 392 Artist and Studio is a fall seminar required for all junior year Practice of Art and Certificate students. Concentrating on the traditions, challenges, and rewards of studio practice through readings, discussions, studio critiques, and a culminating exhibition of artist’s books, VIS 392 provides students with historical context as well as contemporary theory of how best to engage in a meaningful studio practice. In conjunction with the seminar, each Junior receives their own art studio. Please note that film students are required to take VIS 419 (The Film Seminar) in the spring of their junior year as one of the two required film seminars. They may take VIS 392 as their second required seminar or find another film-related seminar on campus that qualifies, with prior approval from film faculty.

c) VIS 416 Exhibition Issues and Methods is a fall seminar required for all senior year Practice of Art and Certificate students. This course provides a formal structure for students to study, present, and discuss various issues and strategies for exhibiting art as they prepare for their Spring Thesis Exhibition. Throughout the course there will be presentations from visiting artists as well as field trips to professional artist’s studios, galleries, and museums. Please note that film students are not required to take VIS 416.

d) One Art and Archaeology course in the modern period (19th century to the present). Please note that film students, can substitute a film history/analysis course offered on campus, with prior approval from a film faculty member in consultation with the Visual Arts Director’s office.

e) As one of the 7 required courses, a student can matriculate either an additional VIS studio course or any ART course. Please note that film students can substitute a film production course, film history course, or relevant Global Seminar.

View Visual Arts Courses »

Junior Independent Work

Fall: Students will be assigned one advisor in the Fall and a different adviser for the Spring, both chosen from the Program in Visual Arts faculty. During their junior year, each student is assigned a studio work space in the Room 401 loft of 185 Nassau. In lieu of writing a fall paper, students will conceive and produce a 32-page artist’s book for their Fall independent work. The independent work is done in consultation with each student’s advisor.

Spring: Students prepare independent work in their studios, in consultation with their Spring semester advisor, culminating in an exhibition as part of the Spring Junior Group Thesis Show.

Please note that film students work with one adviser throughout their junior year to create a junior film.

Senior Independent Work

Students are assigned a primary and secondary advisor from the Visual Arts Faculty that they will work with for the entire year. Students are assigned semiprivate studios on the second floor of 185 Nassau. Each student’s independent study culminates with a thesis show that is exhibited at one of the Lewis Center galleries.

Please note that film students also have two advisors with whom they work with throughout the fall and spring to produce a senior thesis film.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in visual arts upon graduation.




I might want to pursue a Visual Arts certificate at the Lewis Center for the Arts. What should I do in my first four semesters?

  • Plan to take at least 2 studio courses in Visual Arts and 1 course in Art & Archaeology.
  • Look into whether majoring in Art & Archaeology (Practice of Art) might be right for you.
  • Come to a VIS Info Session, held twice a year, for program details.
  • VIS Certificate Requirements: 7 courses, plus substantial independent work during senior year.


Review a list of FAQs about Lewis Center courses and certificate programs »

Check out a helpful visual guide about pursuing a certificate in a program in the Lewis Center for the Arts »