Independent
Study Program

The Independent Study Program (ISP) consists of three interrelated parts: Studio Program, Critical Studies Program, and Curatorial Program. The ISP provides a setting within which students pursuing art practice, curatorial work, art historical scholarship, and critical writing engage in ongoing discussions and debates that examine the historical, social, and intellectual conditions of artistic production. The program encourages the theoretical and critical study of the practices, institutions, and discourses that constitute the field of culture.

Each year fifteen students are selected to participate in the Studio Program, four in the Curatorial Program, and six in the Critical Studies Program. Curatorial and critical studies students are designated as Helena Rubinstein Fellows in recognition of the substantial support provided to the program by the Helena Rubinstein Foundation. The program begins in early September and concludes at the end of the following May. Many of the participants are enrolled at universities and art schools and receive academic credit for their participation, while others have recently completed their formal studies.

Explore the ISP 40th anniversary book


Apply to the ISP

All applicants must include:

  • A clear indication of which program you are applying for (studio, critical, or curatorial). Please do not apply to more than one program at a time
  • A resume or C.V. including name, address, and telephone number (school and/or permanent)
  • A school you are currently attending or have attended, degree program, and expected date of graduation (may be included in your C.V.)
  • Two letters of recommendation. Applicants will submit recommenders’ contact information in the application and the recommenders will be notified by email about how to upload their letters of recommendation
  • A statement discussing your work, educational experience, and intellectual interests (no more than 1500 words)

There are no submission fees and no tuition.

The 2024 application is now closed.

In addition to the general application, all Studio Program applicants must also submit examples of recent work with brief descriptions of media and scale. Please do not submit more than 15 examples. 

If submitting film or video examples, please include these as links (hosted on a website, Vimeo, YouTube or other platform). Film and video submissions should not exceed 30 minutes. If linking to a longer program, please indicate timestamps or sections to be viewed.  

In addition to the general application, all Critical Studies applicants must also include:

  • Writing sample (no more than 15 pages)
  • An individual research project proposal (no more than 4 pages)

In addition to the general application, all Curatorial Program applicants must also include:

  • Writing sample (no more than 15 pages)
  • An exhibition proposal (no more than 2 pages)

Those eligible for participation in the ISP include graduate students, candidates for advanced postgraduate degrees, undergraduates with a demonstrated capacity for advanced scholarship, or those who have recently completed formal academic study. The ISP welcomes international applications and can provide a J-1 cultural visa if needed.

The ISP provides studios or workspaces for all participants in a facility that includes areas to gather and share meals. The curriculum of the program is designed around weekly seminars with visiting artists, scholars and members of faculty as well as film screenings and readings. 

Participants are expected to attend all seminars and events, as well as work in assigned studios or workspaces at the facility. If you are accepted into the ISP, you are expected to be an active participant in the community of practitioners gathered at the program. There are no remote options for seminars, visits, or events, unless pandemic conditions and/or health concerns require alternative planning. 

Credit may be granted by the students’ home universities for work done in the ISP. Most cooperating schools grant twelve to sixteen credits for participation in the program. Students need to make the necessary arrangements to receive credit.

The 2024 application is now closed.

If you have further inquiries, please email: laura_busby@whitney.org

There is no tuition to study at the ISP.

After a preliminary review of applications by a five person committee chaired by the director, arrangements will be made to interview final candidates.


Staff

ISP Director Gregg Bordowitz is a committed teacher who, among many other accomplishments, spent thirty years as a visiting faculty member with the ISP. For twenty-five years, Bordowitz taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), acting first as a professor and then chair of the Film, Video, New Media, and Animation department. From 2013 to 2023, he served as the inaugural director of SAIC’s Low-Residency Master of Fine Arts program. An ISP alumnus from the 1985/86 class, Bordowitz succeeded founding ISP director Ron Clark, who retired in June 2023. Clark’s leadership and vision over five decades supported generations of artists, curators, and critics and made the ISP one of the most respected and coveted programs in the world.

Bordowitz is also a renowned filmmaker, writer, and activist whose work has been exhibited at the Whitney, New Museum, Artists Space, The Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Tate Modern, among others. His work was the subject of a traveling retrospective spanning thirty years of activity—Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well—first organized by the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, in 2018. In the 1980s, Bordowitz focused his creative practice on responding to the AIDS crisis. He organized and documented numerous protests against government inaction and advocated for health education and harm reduction as a member of the groundbreaking AIDS activist group ACT UP. He also served as a founding member of the 1980s video/film collectives Testing the Limits and Diva TV.

“My engagement with the ISP, as a participant and then faculty for over thirty years, shapes my ongoing education as an artist and a teacher. Study is a way of life. Teaching is the art of learning. The teacher teaches learning, as learning teaches the students and teaches the teacher to teach. This is an ongoing process of continually renewing amazement.”

ISP Associate Director Sara Nadal-Melsió is a Catalan writer, curator, and teacher committed to collaborative thinking, alternative literacies, and collective learning practices. She has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, SOMA in Mexico City, and New York University, and has been a writer-in-residence at the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia. Her essays have appeared in various academic journals, edited volumes, and museum catalogues. Nadal-Melsió is the co-author of Alrededor de/ Around and the editor of two special issues on cinema, The Invisible Tradition: Avant-Garde Catalan Cinema under Late Francoism and The Militant Image: Temporal Disturbances of the Political Imagination. To accompany a survey exhibition on Allora & Calzadilla that she co-curated at the Fundació Tápies in Barcelona, Nadal-Melsió wrote the book essay To Be All Ears, To Be in the World: Acoustic Relation in Allora & Calzadilla and edited a companion volume on the Puerto Rican crisis, A Modest Proposal: Puerto Rico’s Crucible. She is the co-author of Politically Red (MIT, 2023), and her book Europe and the Wolf: Political Variations on a Musical Concept is forthcoming from Zone Books.

“My role as the Associate Director is to help shape the intellectual content of the program, maintaining and enhancing its pedagogical, artistic, and scholarly range. To this end, I lead a series of theory seminars and coordinate weekly presentations with visiting artists and scholars. I meet regularly with participants in the Studio, Critical Studies, and Curatorial programs and oversee capstone events—a curatorial exhibition, a studio exhibition, and the critical studies symposium. I also act as liaison with universities, art schools, and other academic and cultural institutions, as well as various departments of the Whitney Museum, including Curatorial, Communications, Education, and Publications.”

Laura Busby (she/her) was named Manager of the ISP in 2023. Previously, she served as Coordinator in the director’s office at the Whitney Museum from 2021 to 2023. As Coordinator, she supported then-Director Adam Weinberg with the renovation efforts to transform Roy Lichtenstein’s previous home and studio and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation into a permanent home for the ISP.

As a member of the ISP team, Busby works closely with the Director and Associate Director, Whitney Museum staff, and ISP interns, and has broad responsibility for all administrative aspects of the ISP. Busby received her undergraduate degree in art history from the University of British Columbia in Canada and earned her MA in visual arts administration from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.


What's New

A New Home at the Roy Lichtenstein Studio
The Whitney Museum of American Art has transformed artist Roy Lichtenstein’s Greenwich Village studio into a permanent home for the ISP.

Learn More


Programs

Studio Program

Elaine G. Weitzen Studio Program Fellows:

S. Emsaki
Kimi Hanauer
sadé powell
Albert Samreth
Shobun Baile
Mae Howard
Alison Nguyen
Elliot Reed
Omolola Ajao
José de Sancristóbal Higareda
Daniel Ramos
Tarah Douglas
Kearra Gopee
Emily Velez Nelms
Jennifer Teresa Villanueva

Critical Studies Program

Critical Studies participants engage in individual scholarly research and critical writing projects through tutorials with a professional art historian, critic, or cultural theorist. The program’s faculty arranges tutorials and provides additional advice and guidance. A symposium is held in May at the Whitney, at which the Critical Studies students present papers.

Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Program Fellows:

Alex Fialho
Sarah Richter
Blake Oetting
Geelia Ronkina
Anamaría Garzón Mantilla
Olivia McCall

Curatorial Program

Curatorial students collaborate to produce an exhibition. Exhibition Supervisor Margaret Liu Clinton and curators at the Whitney work with students to develop proposals for the exhibition. Once a proposal has been approved by the Museum’s curators, the students proceed to select artworks, arrange loans, and design and oversee the installation of the exhibition. The students write essays for and participate in the production of a catalogue accompanying their exhibition.

Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Program Fellows:

Ella den Elzen
Alper Turan
Gervais Marsh
Carlota Ortiz Monasterio


Course Structure

Faculty
The faculty of the ISP is available to meet individually with all members of the program to discuss their work or more general practical, theoretical, or historical questions. The program’s regular and visiting faculty members are Mary Kelly, Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, Laura Mulvey, Isaac Julien, Gregg Bordowitz, Andrea Fraser, Chantal Mouffe, Alex Alberro, Nora Alter, Cassandra Guan, and Soyoung Yoon.

Seminars
Each week during the year, a professional artist, theorist, or historian conducts a seminar at the program. Members of all three components of the program participate in these seminars, which focus on the work of the seminar leader. In addition, all members of the program participate in a weekly reading seminar in social and cultural theory led by members of the program’s visiting faculty. This seminar provides an occasion for the group to collectively study and discuss contemporary critical theory. There is a particular emphasis on the methodologies of critical cultural studies and social art history.

Alex Alberro
Nora Alter
Emily Apter
Carol Armstrong
Homi Bhabha
Gregg Bordowitz
Benjamin Buchloh
Matthew Buckingham
Judith Butler
Jonathan Crary
Thomas Crow
Rosalyn Deutsche
Mark Dion
Silvia Federici
Hal Foster
Andrea Fraser 
LaToya Ruby Frazier
Coco Fusco
Jennifer González
Isabelle Graw
Renée Green
Cassandra Guan
Hans Haacke
David Harvey
Sharon Hayes
Thomas Hirschhorn
Jenny Holzer
Chrissie Iles
Alfredo Jaar
Emily Jacir
Gareth James
Isaac Julien
Geeta Kapur
Mary Kelly
Silvia Kolbowski
Miwon Kwon
Louise Lawler
Park McArthur
Tom McDonough
Kobena Mercer
Chantal Mouffe
Laura Mulvey
Mark Nash
Molly Nesbit
Christiane Paul
Adrian Piper
Yvonne Rainer
Martha Rosler
Andrew Ross
Gayatri Spivak
Hito Steyerl
Anthony Vidler
Fred Wilson
Yes Men
Soyoung Yoon



Exhibitions

Not Everything is Given
May 9–24, 2024

Curated by Ella den Elzen, Alper Turan, Gervais Marsh, and Carlota Ortiz Monasterio, the 2023–2024 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program.

At Odds With
May 9–24, 2024

At Odds With presents recent work by the 2023–24 Independent Study Program Studio Program participants. 

Curated by KJ Abudu, Zachary B. Feldman, Emily Small, and Johanna Thorell, the 2022–2023 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program.

in/stasis
May 20–29, 2022

Curated by Daría Sól Andrews, Sally Eaves Hughes, and Klaudia Ofwona Draber, the 2021–22 Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program.

Curated by Weiyi Chang, Sofia Jamal, Colleen O’Connor, and Patricio Orellana, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2019–20.

Curated by Nia Nottage, Gwyneth Shanks, and Simon Wu, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2018–19.

Curated by Elisa R. Linn, Joseph Lubitz, Ellen Pavey, and Manabu Yahagi, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2017–18.

Curated by Magdalyn Asimakis, Jared Quinton and Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program,  2016–17. 

Curated by Daniella Rose King, Viktor Neumann, Samuele Piazza, and Kari Rittenbach, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2015–16.

Curated by Alexander Fleming, Anya Komar, and Blair Murphy, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2014–15.

Curated by Maria Teresa Annarumma, Molly Everett, Joo Yun Lee, and Kristine Jærn Pilgaard, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2013–14.

Curated by Nina Horisaki-Christens, Andrea Neustein, Victoria Rogers, and Jason Waite, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Independent Study Program, 2012–13.

Curated by Anik Fournier, Michelle Lim, Amanda Parmer and Robert Wuilfe, Whitney Independent Study Program Curatorial Fellows, 2009–2010.

Curated by denisse andrade, Liz Park, Tim Saltarelli, and Kristina Scepanski, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program, 2011–12.

Curated by Jennifer Burris, Sofía Olascoaga, Sadia Shirazi, and Gaia Tedone, Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellows of the Whitney Independent Study Program, 2010–11.


Event Archive

77 events

Generous support for the Independent Study Program is provided by endowments created by Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo, the Dorothea L. Leonhardt Foundation, the Elaine Graham Weitzen Foundation for Fine Art, and the Helena Rubinstein Foundation.

Significant support is provided by The Capital Group Charitable Foundation and Margaret Morgan and Wesley Phoa.

Additional support is provided by an endowment created by George S. Harris.