Visual Arts

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Meet Ruth Skinner, PhD candidate in Visual Arts

“The Visual Arts Department has an incredible faculty of artists and researchers who are engaged and available both within the University community and in London’s art community at large. The graduate program itself blends academic research alongside studio art practice, resulting in a mix of art historians, curators, and studio artists. This kind of community is highly conducive to dialogue, as well as experimental research.”

Supervisor: Dr. Joy James

Where did you complete your undergraduate degree?
I have undergraduate degrees in Literature (Memorial University) and Fine Art (Emily Carr University), and an MA in Art History from Western.

What’s the best advice you could give to someone considering applying to your graduate program?
Connect with the people who are here to get a good sense of how your work and research can operate within and benefit from the community.

Why did you come to Western for your graduate degree?
I was interested in working with one specific instructor here, and I had heard good things about the Visual Arts Department’s mix of studio and art history streams.

What is your “dream” career?
A cobbled-together mix of academic-based research and teaching alongside work in the community at large (arts publishing, writing, curating, public projects, etc.)

Have you worked as a teaching assistant or research assistant? If so, how did this benefit your academic career?
I’ve had consistent TAships throughout my MA and PhD program. It’s an invaluable on-the-ground experience that teaches you vital communicative, pedagogical, and critical skills.

Do you engage in volunteer activities?
I’m on the Board of Directors at Forest City Gallery.

Where is “home” for you?
Newfoundland, but London’s a great home-away-from-home.

What’s your favourite book?
Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida.

What do you do in your spare time?
It involves some combination of a hot drink, chair, book, and/or internet.

Program Websites

Program Contact

Graduate Program Coordinator (

Department of Visual Arts

Western University
John Labatt Visual Arts Centre
London, Ontario N6A 5B7

t. 519-661-2111 ext. 83440
f. 519-661-2020

The Ph.D. in Art and Visual Culture provides advanced training in art history, visual culture, and creative practices in contemporary art and new media. The program prepares its graduates for professional careers in galleries, museums and other art world contexts; for university teaching and research; and for arts administration in the private and public sectors. The program is unique in that it emphasizes the interrelationship between art historical/visual culture scholarship and studio practice by fostering academic and creative research beside and in connection with each other.

The Own Your Future doctoral professional development program creates career-ready graduates with the Power Skills necessary to excel in their studies and achieve their future goals. Assess your own strengths and opportunities for growth and focus on what you want to get out of your time here at Western. To learn more, visit

Program Length

  • 12 Terms (4 years)

Program Design

  • Full-time study
  • Thesis-based, adapted project-based, or project-based

Funding Information

Applicants (domestic and international) are encouraged to apply for the following scholarships:

Admission Requirements

  • An MA degree in art history, visual culture or curatorial studies or an MFA or MVA with an average of at least 80% (A-).

Students with equivalent qualifications in relevant visual fields such as film or media studies will also be considered if they can demonstrate significant professional experience and accomplishments in the field.

Additional Requirements

  • Students must submit samples of their work. In the case of art history students, this will likely be a sample term paper, thesis chapter or publication. In the case of studio students, this would consist of photographic, video or digital documentation of their studio practice as well as a writing sample.

English Language Proficiency

Applicants whose first language is not English must furnish evidence of their proficiency in the use of the English language:

  • The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Minimum acceptable score is 86 with no individual score below 20 for the internet version. However, because our programs require students to have a higher level of English language ability due to the expectations and requirements of the program, we recommend a minimum overall score between 90 and 92 and a minimum of 23 on the speaking component. [Western's TOEFL ID is 0984].

Application Deadline

  • January 15 - Acceptance notification in March