Critical Studies

Critical Studies Program

Critical Studies Program

Cranbrook is a small, graduate-only institution with a unique academic program that complements our 10 studio departments. Both our studios and our Academy-wide programs are free from conventional classes and traditional grades. This allows us to be specialized and flexible — responsive to student and faculty interests. Our academic program is both rigorous and yet approachable. The program takes the form of lectures, discussions, workshops, student-initiated symposia, critiques with visiting curators, dinners with guest thinkers and debates in the studio kitchens. Our Academy-wide academic programs are open to all students at the Academy —regardless of their primary studio department — and are designed to foster inter-departmental exchange.

Our Critical Studies program is the central piece of our academic program. Each semester, we bring a visiting Critical Studies Fellow to be in residence at the Academy. Selected for their perspectives on contemporary theory and culture studies, the visiting Fellows present public lectures, conduct student discussion groups and serve as an active presence in studio critiques and reviews. The visiting fellows are chosen each year to reflect the most current intellectual discourse within contemporary architecture, art, and design.

Flor Widmar (Ceramics '17) with Fall 2016 Critical Studies Fellow Alpesh. Photo by Sarah Blanchette (Photography '17).

Flor Widmar (Ceramics ’17) with Fall 2016 Critical Studies Fellow Alpesh Patel. Photo by Sarah Blanchette (Photography ’17).

FALL 2016 CRITICAL STUDIES FELLOW: Alpesh Kantilal Patel

Alpesh Kantilal Patel is an Assistant Professor in Contemporary Art and Theory and Director of the MFA program in the Visual Arts at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami. His art criticism, curating, and art historical scholarship reflects his queer, anti-racist, and transnational approach to contemporary art. He is publishing the monograph, Productive Failure: Writing Transnational South Asian Art Histories in 2017.

While at Cranbrook, Patel will focus on how globalization tends to overlook how images function within specific sites and times. His lectures will scale down the global to the local and the regional/transregional to examine the production, circulation, and consumption of contemporary art and design.

Patel has contributed to journals and helped edit books on queer and haptic Brown Atlantic, agonistic museum viewing practices, and failed decolonial “spicticles.” He is a frequent contributor to Hyperallergic, Artforum, Art in America, and frieze. As a curator, he helped establish FIU’s Miami Beach Urban Studios where he organized WOMEN我們 and solo exhibitions of Mounir Fatmi and Tom Scicluna. In 2007, he produced the exhibition Mixing It Up: Queering Curry Mile and Currying Canal Street in Manchester, England.

“Alpesh Patel will help our students situate their work both theoretically, nationally and globally, as well as in the context of contemporary identity politics,” said Sarah Turner, Dean of Cranbrook Academy of Art. “Dr. Patel exemplifies the spirit of the Critical Studies Fellowship, bringing not only engaging and committed scholarship to our students, but also an open and generous spirit. He will be ready to share his work, but at the same time, allow himself to be influenced by the work of our students.”


Kristi McGuire is an artist-educator, writer and editor based in Chicago. Since 2011, she has taught in the Department of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has also served as the Web and New Media Editor for the University of Chicago Press for the past 10 years. Her research and teaching focuses on production-based studios of radical cultural inscription, the relationship between historical grief work and conspiracy theory, contemporary art’s fetish of the 1990s, and critical theory’s affective legacies.

She is the coeditor of “Theorizing Visual Studies” (Routledge, 2012) and her writing has appeared in publications such as the Believer, Chicago Review, the Chicago School of Media Theory, and Daily Serving, where it has manifested in the form of performance texts, poems, catalogue essays, introductions to edited collections, art criticism, emendations, and other types of marginalia.

In her practice, she manipulates written forms to render the visible or “natural” world strange, thereby calling attention to the seemingly intimate ways that we encounter (and engender) capital in our daily lives. In her collaborative editorial practice, which often focuses on the labor a text “performs,” she has worked with independent art publishers and institutions such as Soberscove Press, DOMINICA, Sternberg Press, the Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, along with an array of artists, scholars, and institutions.

At Cranbrook, McGuire’s fellowship will focus on the relationship between neoliberalism and contemporary art, as well as the poetics of political economy, or the consequences of transforming speech into capital.

“Kristi McGuire will bring an exciting level of energy and agility in thinking to the fellowship program” says Turner. “Her ideas reach across studies of economy and labor practices while also situating contemporary art practices across many modes – writing, performance, studio practice and social engagement. This approach is an excellent fit for our students, who themselves move quickly across a variety of forms of expression.”