- News & Events
- News archive
- Summer 2022
- Spring 2022
- FACTS AND FALSEHOODS IN THE TIME OF COVID-19
- Celebrating Black History Month across the Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology
- SFU professor shares experience living and teaching in war-torn Ukraine
- SFU artists and researchers showcase art installation on Surrey’s ‘UrbanScreen’
- Leadership and Agile Production Management micro-credential established in partnership with DigiBC
- Leading with heart: Meet Staff Achievement Award winner Corbin Saleken
- HOW GOOGLE’S SEARCH ENGINE SUPPORTS CONSPIRACY THEORISTS AND HATE FIGURES
- SFU staffer’s commitment to local arts community nets staff achievement award
- Fall 2021
- Summer 2021
- Spring 2021
- Fall 2020
- Summer 2020
- Spring 2020
- Fall 2019
- Summer 2019
- Spring 2019
- Fall 2018
- Summer 2018
- Spring 2018
- Fall 2017
- Spring 2017
- Fall 2016
- Summer 2016
- Spring 2016
- Fall 2015
- Summer 2015
- Spring 2015
- Fall 2014
- Summer 2014
- Spring 2014
- Fall 2013
- News archive
- 2022 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2021 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- Cancelled: 2020 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2019 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2018 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2017 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2016 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2015 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2014 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- 2013 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- FCAT Research and Teaching Forum
- 2022 FCAT Undergraduate Conference
- Featured Student
- Featured alumnus
- Future students
- Current students
- Get involved
- Support FCAT
- Dean's External Advisory Board
- Work at FCAT
- FCAT Excellence Awards
- FCAT Connects
- FCAT research funding lifecycle
- FCAT research grants and awards calendar
- Institutes, centres, labs and projects
- Quick links and resources
- Return to campus
SFU establishes first interdisciplinary and practice-based PhD in contemporary arts in Western Canada
School for the Contemporary Arts, Art & Design, Performance & Culture
By Tessa Perkins Deneault
The highest academic degree traditionally available to artists was the Master of Fine Arts. In recent years, PhD programs in the fine and performing arts have expanded scholarly work in these areas and provided an environment in which contemporary artists and art scholars can set their work within an academic context.
This fall, SFU welcomes its first cohort of six PhD students into the School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA). The program is the first of its kind in Western Canada.
“The program supports professional practice and also the need for us professionals to have graduate degrees at the PhD level,” says Joni Low. “As a curator and writer, I’ve been drawn to many artists that have studied at SFU, and I realized there must be something exciting going on there and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The research-intensive program supports both scholarly and practice-based research, meaning scholars in fields such as performance studies, visual culture, media arts, sound studies, film studies, curation, and art history will produce a written thesis and study alongside practicing artists whose artistic work forms the basis of their research, culminating in a major original artwork or public presentation.
“To have that artistic, creative component within research allows it to expand and deepen in ways that I think are unique to the arts,” explains Josephine Lee, an interdisciplinary artist who works in sculpture, installation and performance. “Having a PhD programme that allows students to gain mentorship, network, and have the space and time to be able to delve into their research is a gift.”
The incoming students were attracted to the program for a variety of reasons, but one common theme is the interdisciplinarity of the program and the SCA.
“I was looking for something that was more transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary, and other institutions didn't seem to have the same level of cross pollination that I had experienced, and really enjoyed, in my master's program,” says Lee. “When I took a closer look at SFU, everyone seems to work together in this great interdisciplinary way and that really attracted me.”
Dave Biddle, who works in video and performance, completed his MFA at SFU and had first-hand experience of the school’s interdisciplinary nature.
“The idea of interdisciplinarity makes for good discussions, and research creation is a way of including interdisciplinarity at the PhD level in order to consider creation and different modes of thinking through different media,” he says.
Having completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the SCA, Simon Overstall was familiar with the school, and had been collaborating with a faculty member on their music projects.
“To do a PhD level degree with the opportunity to focus on making art, as opposed to solely written output, was definitely important to my decision,” he says. “The program is interdisciplinary and very contemporary in terms of having less focus on traditional styles or forms.”
Coming to SFU from Uganda, Edward Sembatya is founder and director of Dance Theatre Uganda (CLPGU) Ltd. His research focuses on socio-historical knowledge, narratives and practices that are embedded in traditional or Indigenous dances from East Africa and new contemporary dance practices. He was looking for a PhD program that would allow him to pursue his academic interests while continuing to work as a practicing artist.
“The PhD program opens doors for new knowledge perspectives in the university, so it becomes the centre of knowledge collection from different parts of the world. I consider myself as an addition to the versatility and diverse artistic culture at SFU,” says Sembatya. “I’m interested to see how I can reenact my traditional dances so that they can be embodied by a non-practitioner body (white, Asian, or Black diasporic bodies).”
Also part of the incoming cohort is Niusha Hatefinia whose research interests include film and media studies, film-philosophy, and Iranian cinema. A number of other PhD studentsare currently studying within the school under special arrangement.
The program’s unique design and focus places creative and critical work in conversation while fostering an environment in which the conditions for how knowledge is produced in the contemporary arts become the impetus for further research.
To learn more about our School for the Contemporary Arts PhD Program, click here.