Curatorial Placement

Curatorial Placement (ARTH 5190 3.0)

York University Faculty of Fine Arts / Department of Visual Arts


The York Curatorial Placement is an independent study and practicum carried out at a museum, gallery, archive, cultural organization or institution, auction house, commercial gallery, art magazine, or other site. The placement is developed with the Faculty Supervisor and conducted under the guidance of an On-site Supervisor. The on-site experience offers practical insight into professional curatorial, art historical and critical practices, and will help you establish valuable professional contacts. Your placement requires not only on-site engagement but a scholarly analysis of the activity undertaken and a critical understanding of the work that is done.

While planning your Curatorial Placement, keep your graduate research interests in mind and the critical issues you plan to address in your MRP, thesis or dissertation. Placements that fall outside this focus may still provide invaluable learning opportunities and contribute to your wider graduate research experience.

Just as curatorial practice takes many forms and requires multiple skills, your choice of a placement may take shape in unexpected ways, more varied and challenging than a traditional installation of “fine art” in a gallery space. Most important is your careful consideration of personal learning objectives: What will be the subject of your scholarly research? What is your ideal career? What kind of professional network would you like to develop?

While your York Faculty Supervisor will know of opportunities, and will help generate ideas for placements based on your interests, it is vital that you play an active role in getting the experience you most value. Your planning cannot be rushed. It will take more than a month’s lead time to secure a site, to establish an On-site Supervisor, and to draft a placement proposal. The Graduate Director must ultimately approve your proposal for you to proceed (please see the Placement Contract).

For students enrolled in the Diploma in Curatorial Studies in Visual Culture offered in conjunction with the M.A. or PhD in Art History, an on-site placement is required and is equal to a 3-credit course. A maximum of one 3-credit placement may be taken. The Placement is available for graduate students in Art History enrolled in the Diploma in Curatorial Studies in Visual Culture. The Diploma in Curatorial Studies and Visual Culture is available to M.A. and PhD student from other programmes with approval of the Art History Graduate Program Director.

The average number of working hours for a placement is 80–90 hours.

Components Of The Placement

As the placement serves as a 3-credit course equivalent, it requires not only on-site engagement in a practicum but an analysis of the activity undertaken and a critical understanding of the work that is done.

Meetings with your York Faculty Supervisor

Over the course of your placement your York Faculty Supervisor (usually the Graduate Program Director) will continue to track your progress and make sure your Placement proposal continues to accurately reflect your work. It is mandatory to schedule 2-3 meetings with your York Faculty Supervisor prior and during the course of your placement. Remember, your Faculty Supervisor will track your progress, making sure your Placement proposal continues to accurately reflect your work. Each time you meet, you will review your work in light of your Placement Proposal. Revisions to your proposal may be necessary. Your York Faculty Supervisor may also suggest reading or research related to your placement.

Working with your On-site Supervisor

Be sure to cultivate your “professional” relationship with your On-site Supervisor and facilitate good communication between your York Faculty Supervisor and the On-site Supervisor.

Academic component

Your Placement Proposal must include an academic component to be developed with your York Faculty Supervisor. This component will include:

  1. Placement Log which chronicles a daily account of the work you do and reflects upon your insights and observations during your placement.
  2. On-site Writing Projects: Each proposal will involve different types and amounts of writing, and some On-site Supervisors may not ask for any writing at all. The types of written work produced for your proposal in addition to your Placement Log may include: an exhibition proposal, a catalogue essay, an enhancement strategy with didactic material (text panels, labels), an exhibition review, an assessment of the marketplace/fair market evaluation, a discussion of institutional policy, or an exploration of conservation issues. The options are wide and varied.
  3. Curatorial Placement Report: The academic component is intended to satisfy your larger learning objectives and goals: critical writing, curatorial practice, museology, or art history. Remember that the placement is equal to a 3-credit course and is, therefore, rigorous. Set aside approximately 10 hours of your placement to “digest” your experience in the form of a written report of 8-10 pages. The report should provide a written synthesis of some aspect of the placement that you deem important. Be sure to integrate sources from your bibliography, your placement log and your experience. In this way the placement comprises an opportunity for primary research.


You are given a grade for your Curatorial Placement, as in any other graduate course. Your Faculty Supervisor will assign a grade, in consultation with your On-site Supervisor. The course requirements for Curatorial Placement (ARTH 5190) depends on satisfying the objectives and goals you set in your Placement Proposal and demonstrating an ability to synthesize curatorial theory in relation to an actual site of practice.

At the completion of your Placement, submit your Curatorial Placement Report and Placement Log to your Faculty Supervisor. You are also encouraged to append your on-site writing projects to the report if appropriate. Please submit an additional digital copy of your Curatorial Placement Report, which will be archived in the office of the Graduate Director.

Your enrolment in the Placement (ARTH 5190) must coincide with the term in which you expect to complete your Placement. Late submissions of grades will not be accepted.

Enrolling In The Placement

Your placement can begin only after your Placement Proposal has been approved by your Faculty Supervisor and your On-site Supervisor. The Placement Application (.doc) should accompany your placement proposal.

Getting approval for your Placement Proposal involves the following steps:

  1. Attendance at the Placement Information Session held in September during the Research and Professional Practices Seminar
  2. Arrange a meeting with your York Faculty Supervisor to begin drafting your placement proposal. Together you will work out the details of your placement and who will be your On-site Supervisor. Your Faculty Supervisor will make the initial contact with the proposed On-site Supervisor. The Placement models professional work and is, therefore, a collaboration based on shared needs and interests. Your Placement should be based on a dynamic and mutually beneficial intellectual and professional relationship.
  3. Submit an initial “working draft” of your Placement Proposal to your York Faculty Supervisor for feedback. This proposal should include (1) a clear description of the project, its purpose; (2) a proposed schedule of meetings with your York Faculty Supervisor; (3) a proposed schedule of meetings with your On-site Supervisor (with whom you must work closely). Your proposal must also include a clearly outlined (4) Academic Component, which will ensure your practical experience is matched by intellectual reflection and critique.
  4. Once your Faculty Supervisor has reviewed your Placement Proposal, you will send your revised draft to your On-Site Supervisor.
  5. After the details of your on-site placement have been finalized, formulate a “final draft” of your Placement Proposal including updated details of your work and meeting schedules, tasks, and the central concepts you will be addressing within the Academic Component. Submit this penultimate draft to your Faculty Supervisor who will then pass it directly to the Graduate Director for final approval.
  6. Make sure both members of your Placement Team (Faculty Supervisor and On-site Supervisor) sign the Placement Contract. All signatures must be in place on the Contract in advance of your first day on site. Your placement proposal will be adjudicated by your Placement Team according to its merit as a professional collaboration.
  7. Registration in the course: hand in your approved proposal and the signed contract to:

Dawn Burns - Graduate Program Assistant

Telephone: 416-736-5533 (Voicemail)