The Master of Arts in Critical Theory and Creative Research (CT+CR), the first of its kind in the U.S., is an accelerated (45-credit), seminar-based program that prepares students for opportunities at the intersection of art, theory, and research. Students admitted to the program work toward an MA, which they complete within one calendar year. Through rigorous training in critical theory, research design and methods, cultural and institutional critique, and ethics, students develop skills and modes of thinking that cross the boundaries between the visual and verbal, linear and nonlinear, digital and analog, theory and practice.

Located in the heart of Portland, a center of creative risk-taking and social experimentation, the program combines the study of critical theory as a mode of socio-political critique and creative research as a process-driven form of inquiry, pushing both theory and research in new directions within the context of a 21st-century art school. The program is devoted to people and ideas and to a rethinking of the present and future of cultural production; of arts-based research and research-based arts; of curatorial practice, documentary, and the Archive; and of social and political reconfiguration in relation to major sites of contemporary contestation. These sites range from social media to biotechnology, surveillance to sustainability, political terror to revolutionary social and economic practices.

The foundation of the program is a complex of seminars and roundtables on interlocking themes led by PNCA faculty as well as by visiting artists, designers, critics, theorists, poets, and filmmakers. Past visitors to the school include Jacques Rancière, W.J.T. Mitchell, Art Spiegelman, James Turrell, Heike Kuehn, Ellen Dissanayake, Sue Coe, Susan Szenasy, David Shipley, Kurt Andersen, Joe Sacco, Laurie Anderson, Lewis Hyde, and Mel Chin.