The PhD in Arts of the Americas emphasizes the cross-cultural circulation of visual culture in the Americas from ancient to contemporary times. Our program encourages students to think across subfields (e.g., Pre-Columbian Art, Colonial Latin American Art, Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art, Native North American Art, Modern and Contemporary American Art, etc.) and to situate American visual culture in the fluid circuits of cross-cultural exchange, as well as global intellectual and trade networks. This interdisciplinary approach brings art history into dialogue with anthropology, history, ethnic studies, women and gender studies, religious studies, and other disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Our accelerated PhD program is ideal for students who already have an MA in art history or an equivalent degree, including professionals in the art field seeking an opportunity to advance in their career by earning a PhD.

CU Boulder is uniquely situated as a center for studies in the arts of the Americas due to resources on campus, as well as those in the Boulder–Denver region. On campus, the Center for Native American and Indigenous Studies (CNAIS), the Latin American Studies Center (LASC), and the Center of the American West provide resources, support and a network of scholars and students who are dedicated to interdisciplinary and cultural studies of the Americas. The CU Art Museum and CU Museum of Natural History have rich material resources of the highest caliber to support the new degree program. In addition, a number of academic units on CU Boulder's campus currently provide relevant courses for students in our proposed PhD program, including anthropology, film studies, French and Italian, history, music, sociology, Spanish and Portuguese, ethnic studies, and the program in museum studies. Locally, the Denver Art Museum is a leading, internationally recognized research institution and a major resource for the study and exhibition of the arts of the Americas. Other important regional resources include the Clyfford Still Museum, the Denver Public Library, History Colorado, the Kirkland Museum and the Museo de las Americas.


The PhD program requires 30 hours of coursework at the 5000 level or above.

Furthermore, distribution requirements (of 12 credit hours) must be met during MA or PhD work as follows:

Distribution Requirements
ARTH 6929Seminar: Methods/Theories of Art History3
Course with significant pre-1900 content (choose at least one)3
Two courses in student's interdisciplinary field of concentration (described below)6
Total Credit Hours12

The remaining 18 credit hours of coursework are elective graduate courses in AAH. Courses taken toward degree requirements may not be taken pass/fail. The department may require students with gaps in their academic preparation to take additional courses. Lastly, all students must complete 30 hours of dissertation credits.

Interdisciplinary Concentration

All PhD students will develop an interdisciplinary area of concentration, which will consist of at least 6 credits that provide a coherent complement to their primary field of study and which will be designed by students in close consultation with their advisors and approved by the director of graduate studies for art history. Some examples of interdisciplinary concentrations might include (but are not limited to): critical thought, philosophy, comparative culture studies, gender studies, film studies, history, anthropology, geography, religious studies and environmental studies.

Foreign Language Requirement

In addition to demonstrating a high level of proficiency in their primary research area, students earning the PhD must demonstrate moderate proficiency in an additional foreign language by fulfilling one of the following requirements either before or after enrolling at CU Boulder:
  • Completing a fourth-semester (second-semester sophomore) college language course with a grade of B or better.
  • Completing a proficiency exam administered at CU.
  • Presenting other evidence of moderate proficiency to the director of graduate studies for art history.

Students should consult with the director of graduate studies for art history at the beginning of their first semester to discuss procedures. This requirement must be fulfilled before the student can advance to candidacy.

Graduate Program Guidelines

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam equips students to demonstrate critical historiographical knowledge of major, minor and interdisciplinary fields, and to situate their research interests within these fields. Qualifying examinations should be taken no later than the first semester after the completion of all coursework requirements and any grades of Incomplete must be completed before scheduling the Qualifying Exam. One year before the qualifying exams are taken, the student meets with the major and minor advisors as well as the Director of Graduate Studies. With their guidance, the student will then form an Examination Committee, which will be composed of the major and minor advisors as well as an advisor from the student’s interdisciplinary field of concentration (usually a faculty member from another department at CU). 

Reading lists: Students will compose reading lists for the major, minor and interdisciplinary fields to be reviewed and approved by each advisor. The reading lists should include the “staple” readings in each field, other important sources that navigate through the major issues in the field, as well as a body of scholarship that pertains to the student’s focus of study. Reading lists should include roughly 50 titles (books and articles) for the major field, 30 for the minor field, 30 for the interdisciplinary field and one paragraph (up to 300 words) providing a rationale for the selection of this content. The PhD Reading List and Prospectus Approval Form must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least one month before the exam.

Prospectus: For the written portion of the exam, students will write a double-spaced, 20-25 page prospectus (not including the necessary notes, illustrations and bibliography) outlining the major themes and issues of the proposed dissertation. The Prospectus should consist of three parts: 1) the topic, argument, methodology and statement of scholarly contribution; 2) a description of method and of existing relevant scholarship; and 3) a brief chapter-by-chapter summary. The bibliography should contain full citations of all works referenced in the Prospectus and all of these titles should appear on one of the student's Reading Lists.

Students must submit a final draft of their Prospectus to all committee members two weeks prior to the date of the Oral Exam.

Oral Exam: If the examination committee finds the reading lists and prospectus acceptable, then the student will proceed to take a one-hour oral examination with all of the examination committee members present. The oral exam will consist of a one-hour question-and-answer period on the student’s prospectus and reading lists, their knowledge of the major, minor and interdisciplinary fields, and their close-reading abilities. All committee members must be present in person or via teleconference for the oral exam. A positive vote from at least two of the committee members is required to pass. 

At least two weeks before the date of the oral exam a Doctoral Examination Report Form must be submitted by the Graduate Program Coordinator to the Graduate School for approval. Please see the Graduate Program Coordinator for assistance with this process.

Advancement to Candidacy

Upon passing the oral exam and pending approval by the Graduate School, the student will advance to PhD Candidacy (D Status). This will allow the student to apply for dissertation fellowships and other internal funding. An unsuccessful qualifying exam may be retaken only once and must be retaken within six months. “Retaken” means that the second exam covers the same material and includes the same committee members as the first.

Following the successful completion of the Qualifying Exam, a Candidacy Application for an Advanced Degree must be endorsed by the Director of Graduate Studies and sent to the Graduate School for approval. The Graduate Program Coordinator will submit this application to the Graduate School on the student’s behalf; please consult the Graduate Program Coordinator for more information. 

Forming a Dissertation Committee

The dissertation, which should be a work of viable scholarship, typically takes the form of a monograph. The dissertation is written in close consultation with the Dissertation Committee and Director of Graduate Studies. 

The Dissertation Committee consists of five members: at least two Art History faculty members as well as a faculty member from another department of the student's choice. This committee is often but not always drawn from members of the student's Comprehensive Examination Committee. The dissertation should be between 250 and 350 pages long, the length of a scholarly monograph. 

Grant Opportunities

The student is encouraged to apply for grants as soon as s/he advances to candidacy. General fellowship information is available on the Graduate School website. The Latin American Studies Center also provides a small amount of grants for graduate students.

Grants vary in the documents that they require. These may include transcripts, curricula vitae, proposals, budgets, itineraries, autobiographies, statements of progress and letters of reference. No application will ask for all of these, but the list is a fair representation of what the student may be called upon to provide.

The following list identifies grants and fellowships relevant to art history. This will be extremely helpful, but student should not expect it to include every grant for which they should consider applying. Additional resources are available on the websites of other departments and centers, the College Art Association and more.

Fellowships & funding for art history graduate students
Internal Funding
  • Graduate School Student Travel Grant
  • Graduate School Dissertation Completion Fellowship
  • Arts and Humanities Dissertation Fellowship
  • Latin American Studies Center: small grants for graduate students
External Funding: Fall1
  • American Association of University Women Dissertation Fellowship (ABD, DW)
  • American Association of University Women International Fellowship (INTL, MULTI)
  • Smithsonian Institution Fellowship (ABD, INTL)
  • CASVA Predoctoral Fellowship (ABD, INTL, ABROAD, SOME MULTI)
  • CLIR/Mellon Fellowship for Dissertation Research in Original Sources (ABD, ABROAD, INTL)
  • DADD Year-Long Research Grants in Germany (ABROAD, INTL)
  • Dedalus Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (ABD, INTL, N)
  • Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fellowship (MULTI, N)
  • Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship (MULTI)
  • Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship (ABD, DW)
  • Fulbright US student Fellowship (ABROAD)
  • Getty Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship (DW, ABD, INTL)
  • Graham Foundation Carter Manny Award (ABD, ABROAD, INTL, N)
  • Kress History of Art Institutional Fellowships (ABD, ABROAD, INTL, N)
  • Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship (ABD, DW, INTL)
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art Junior Fellowships (ABD, INTL)
  • Smithsonian Fellowship at the Archives of American Art (ABD, INTL)
  • SSRC International Dissertation Research Fellowship (ABD, ABROAD, INTL)
External Funding: Spring
  • Joan and Stanford Alexander Award (ABD, INTL)
  • Mellon-CES Dissertation Completion Fellowships in European Studies (ABD, INTL)
  • Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (ABD, ABROAD)
  • Kress Fellowship for Language Study in European Art History (INTL, LANG)
  • Schiff Foundation Fellowship (INTL, N)
Other Resources

Dissertation Defense 

The dissertation defense should take place in the spring semester of the fifth year. Before the start of the spring semester, the student should schedule the dissertation defense (an oral examination and discussion lasting about 90 minutes). The student should deliver copies of the dissertation to their committee members at least one month prior to their defense date. The student must also file a Doctoral Examination Report and a Doctoral Defense Leaflet with the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to their defense. Consult the Graduate Program Coordinator for assistance with this process. 

All doctoral graduation requirements and forms, including deadlines, can be found on the Graduate School's Graduation Requirements webpage. A satisfactory vote from at least three committee members is required to pass the defense. If unsuccessful, the defense may be retaken only once after completion of changes or additions determined by the committee and must be retaken within six months. “Retaken” means that the second exam covers the same material and includes the same committee members as the first. 

Doctoral Checklist for Graduation

The Doctoral Checklist for Graduation includes the Graduate School’s requirements for the doctoral degree. The major department should be consulted about specific additional requirements. 

Recommended Plan of Study

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
Fall SemesterCredit Hours
ARTH 6929 Seminar: Methods/Theories of Art History 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
 Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
*foreign language requirement must be met  
 Credit Hours9
Year Two
Fall Semester
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
*1 comprehensive exam  
*1 exam paper  
 Credit Hours9
Spring Semester
Graduate art history seminar (any ARTH 5000/6000 level course) 3
Dissertation hours 5
 Credit Hours8
Year Three
Fall Semester
Dissertation hours 5
 Credit Hours5
Spring Semester
Dissertation hours 5
 Credit Hours5
Year Four
Fall Semester
Dissertation hours 5
 Credit Hours5
Spring Semester
Dissertation hours 5
 Credit Hours5
Year Five
Fall Semester
Dissertation hours 5
*Dissertation defense  
 Credit Hours5
 Total Credit Hours60

Learning Outcomes

Graduates from this PhD program will be professionally equipped to make lasting contributions to the emerging dynamic that builds understanding among different sectors of society. One of the unique aspects of the program is its commitment to public education, and the other is its in-depth training in the arts of the Americas conceived as a scholarly field of study culturally, historically and intellectually encompassing the western hemisphere.