Graduate Visual Culture Association

The Graduate Visual Culture Association (GVCA) is a vibrant hub of networking, peer support, professional and academic development, and social activities for Art History and Art Conservation graduate students at Queen's University.

Developed by graduate students in Art History for the programs involved in visual culture at Queen’s University, the GVCA is at the heart of our department’s student life for it offers a variety of events, workshops, tools, and an annual graduate conference, organized and provided by various student-run committees. Contact us at or find us at the Grad Room, situated on the second floor of Ontario Hall.

Every year the Graduate Visual Culture Association (GVCA) organizes a two-day conference, Context and Meaning, to showcase the research of grad students in the Visual Arts and related fields. The conference draws students from universities in Ontario and Quebec, as well as the north-eastern United States.

Context and Meaning

Context and Meaning is an annual juried graduate student conference organized entirely by Queen’s University Art History students. Since its inauguration, the conference has grown to become one of the most respected graduate student conferences in Canada. Each year, a new committee selects a topic that will appeal to both historical and contemporary topics and that is relevant to objects considered “fine art” as well as those encountered every day. Submissions are welcomed from students in all disciplines that engage with visual and material culture. The intentionally broad reach of the conference has proved fruitful, facilitating interdisciplinary discussions among both students whose work is similar and those who deal with temporarily and geographically disparate topics.

Context and Meaning is always a highly anticipated event, not only for the intellectual stimulation that it provides, but also the opportunity to network with graduate students from across North America. The conference has regularly attracted students from as far away as the University of British Columbia, New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, Columbia University, and the University of Alberta, in addition to those from places closer to home, such as the University of Toronto, York University, Western University, McGill University, the University of Guelph, and Concordia University. Recent online and hybrid conferences have also enjoyed international participation from students in Australia, Ireland, India, and Switzerland. View the Context and Meaning Page.


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Works in Progress: A Peer-Review Graduate Seminar

Works in Progress is series of seminars designed for graduate students who desire thoughtful feedback from their peers and faculty members on a topic that they are researching, and/or a conference paper that they wish to rehearse. The seminars are open to graduate students and faculty in Art History and Art Conservation. They provide a rich and energizing space where students can share and further develop their ideas and research interests. Each presentation is 20-minutes in length followed by a 10-minute Q&A period and may take the format of a conference paper, roundtable discussion, or performance.

The Professional and Academic Development Program (PADP)

The Professional and Academic Development Program (PADP) is a series of workshops offered throughout the academic year that provide graduate student in the department with an opportunity to develop and improve skills related to academia and the professional world. For example, each September a session devoted to grant proposals provides tips and guidance for applying to major awards, such as SSHRC and OGS. Subsequent workshops offer the chance for idea formulation and peer editing. These sessions have been instrumental to the success of students in securing major external awards. Other workshops devoted to conferences, museum work, publishing, archival research, art conservation, and many other topics, have proved to be a valuable opportunity for skill-building. The PADP is organized by graduate students in Art History with a faculty member or external guest invited to lead each workshop. View the PADP Facebook group.

Social Committee

The GVCA Social Committee is responsible for organizing social events for the department's graduate community on a regular basis. Whether it be through annual gatherings such as the Start-of-Term Potluck, group outings to the Grad Club for trivia on Thursday nights or impromptu picnics with a side of badminton at one of Kingston’s cozy parks, the Social Committee is dedicated to fostering a friendly community and a strong sense of camaraderie among graduate students studying visual culture at Queen's University. The committee’s work, which emanates from Ontario Hall, is a valuable means of keeping students connected both within and without our limestone home.

Fundraising Committee

Formed in the 2013-2014 academic year, the Fundraising Committee is a sub-group of the GVCA that works to raise money for GVCA-related events and projects. Money raised by the committee is earmarked to help cover the cost of, for example, event bookings, supplies and other resources that may be required for the PADP workshops, the Works in Progress Seminar series and social activities organized by the Social Committee . The Fundraising committee is also as an important entity that fosters campus-wide awareness of the GVCA and our department through fundraising events, such as the inaugural Used Book and Mug sale set to take place this November.