Critical Studies

Critical Studies Program

Critical Studies Program

Unique Academic Program at Cranbrook Academy of Art

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).



“Art and Design and the Anthropocene: What Happens When People Stop Being Polite and Start Getting Real About Climate Change”

Our Fall Critical Studies and Humanities Fellow is Heather Davis, a writer and researcher based in Montreal. Her current book project, Plastic: The Afterlife of Oil, under contract with Duke University Press, examines the intimate manifestation of our cultural fixation with and dependency upon oil through the materiality of plastic. Davis has held postdoctoral fellowships and visiting appointments at Duke University, Penn State, UCLA, NYU and the California Institute for the Arts. She is the editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Open Humanities Press, 2015) and Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (MAWA and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017). She has written widely for art and academic publications including Third Text, Camera Obscura, PhiloSOPHIA, Take On India, Camera Austria and numerous book chapters and exhibition catalogues. She is also the co-curator of Plastic Entanglements: Aesthetics, Materials, Politics which will be on view at Penn State in January 2018 and then will travel to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, Smith College Museum of Art and the Chazen Museum of Art.

While at Cranbrook, Davis will focus on the uncomfortable inheritances of living in the Anthropocene, examining the ways in which how we think about the world literally produces the geologic and biologic conditions in which we find ourselves. In particular, she will explore the legacies of plastic and white supremacy in producing what has come to be known as the Anthropocene.





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