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.


Laura McGough is a media arts curator, practitioner and educator.  Over the course of the past twenty-five years, she has organized exhibitions, screenings, performances and streaming content for arts organizations in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia. Her writings on the visual arts, technology, and performance have appeared in publications such as Sculpture, New Arts Examiner, Experimenta and Digital Creativity, and she has served on the editorial boards of Performance Research and FUSE (Canada). In 1997, she co-founded the new media collective NOMADS and through this initiative organized a number of early Web-based art projects including Audiophfile, a six-part sound art series, and MASSAGE, an early multi-media Internet journal.

From 2000-2003, McGough was employed as the Multidisciplinary Specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts where her portfolio included a range of cross-disciplinary technology-based arts projects. She has sat on numerous local, regional, and national grants panels at funding agencies including the Ford Foundation, the President’s Council on the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Ontario Writers Reserve Fund and has received grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Canada Council and the British Council to support varied curatorial research projects. McGough received an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from New York University and is completing a PhD in the Department of Media Study at the University at Buffalo.

While at Cranbrook, McGough’s fellowship will focus on participatory media and the political aesthetics of feedback.