Exhibition Design

The MA in Exhibition Design is not currently accepting applications for new students.
Please email [email protected] if you have any questions about the program.


Design and display where and when it matters most.

The Master of Arts in Exhibition Design (MA–EX) program explores the intersection of design and public communications, in the nation’s capital, at a critical moment in the history of cultural discourse and spatial practice.

Exhibition design, in the MA–EX program at GW’s Corcoran School, is more than the design of spaces that convey information, share stories, or promote products. It does more than relate artworks, objects, and audiences in experiential compositions. It has the potential to tell us about how we are living and how we could be living.

MA–EX students take up the charge to rethink connections in the world. They find shapes for ideas and identities and orient them for diverse publics. They choreograph forms, facts, and fictions that put people in touch with each other and with the (built) environment. They design exhibitions as sites of material expression and activism.

The interdisciplinarity of the MA–EX program prepares students to innovate through exhibitions. Students work with curators, artists, and institutions. You will design in dialogue—drawing on multiple art, design, and social practices. And, you will develop dexterity, through training in analog craft and digital fabrication, studies in history and theory, and exercises in real-world application.

The MA–EX program coordinates with Washington, DC’s extensive network of national museums. It also engages the city at-large, identifying opportunities for exhibition in its places of memory and monument, performance and protest, and commerce and leisure.










Students collaborating on project both are holding an object and modeling it for size reference

The MA–EX Program of Study


Computer Requirements


The MA–EX is a two-year, forty-eight credit graduate program. Each semester, students take one exhibition design studio, one history/theory/criticism seminar, one professional practice course, and one tools/techniques lab.

  • The exhibition design studios act as channels for the term’s courses. The studios prompt students to apply what they are learning across the curriculum to design scenarios. Students explore the elements (display features, spaces, and infrastructure) and ecologies (visitor experience, institutional influence) of exhibitions via analog and digital drawing and modeling exercises.
  • The history/theory/criticism seminars expose students to exhibition pasts and precedents and to contemporary influences on culture and display; they establish context and position students to make thoughtful contributions to the exhibition design discipline.
  • The professional practice courses prepare students for the realities of the work of exhibition design. They convey design code and ethics, introduce the expertise of allied professionals (from curators to acoustical/lighting/graphic designers), provide a foundation in business and management, and encourage individual agency.
  • The tools/techniques labs teach the skills of spatial and experiential documentation, representation, and making. Students with architecture backgrounds may replace some of these classes with instruction in specialized skills taught in allied departments across the university.
The MA–EX Curricular Schedule

Fall 1

CEX 6010     Exhibition Design Studio 1 (the elements studio)

CEX 6011     Spatial Representation and Making 1

CAH 6400    History of Exhibitions

                     Curatorial Elective

Spring 1

CEX 6020     Exhibition Design Studio 2 (the internal ecologies studio)

CEX 6012     Spatial Representation and Making 2

                     History/Theory/Criticism Elective

CEX 6100     Lighting, Acoustics, and Design for the Senses

Fall 2

CEX 6030     Exhibition Design Studio 3 (the external ecologies studio)

                     Tools/Technique Elective

CEX 6220     Exhibition Design Research

                     Art/Design Business/Management Elective

Spring 2

CEX 6040     Exhibition Design Studio 4 (the capstone studio)

CEX 6014     Materials, Detailing, and Fabrication/Installation

CEX 6230     Art and Design Writing

                     Open/Personal Practice Elective


Exhibition Design Courses




MA—EX students have many backgrounds—from accounting and art history to biology and museum studies, to architecture and graphic design. They share a passion for making and storytelling. They look to exhibition design as an outlet for conceptual and material speculation and as a platform for shaping public conversations. They aspire to roles as cultural producers and creators of meaningful environments.

MA—EX faculty are architects, artists, designers, fabricators and technicians, curators, and managers and directors. They represent museums, design studios, institutions and organizations, and individual enterprises. They recognize the power and potential of exhibition design and work tirelessly to elevate the discipline and educate its practitioners.

MA—EX graduates work in and with local and national museums, are design studio associates, oversee construction and fabrication enterprises, lead arts organizations, and are independent entrepreneurs.

Get to know us by following our regular interviews with a member of the MA—EX network.





Exhibition Design Banner




Local Museums: many of the recent program collaborators, including the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art

National Museums: including The Getty and Whitney Museum of American Art 

Arts and Non-Profit Organizations: including Halcyon House, District Architecture Center

(Non-)Governmental and Professional Organizations: including Inter-American Development Bank Art Collection & Cultural Center, The Society for Experiential Graphic Design and the United Nations Department of Global Communications

Multi-Disciplinary Design Studios: including C&G Partners, Cortina Productions, Gallagher & Associates, Howard+Revis, The PRD Group, Syzygy Events and Thinc Design

Design Fabricators and Vendors: including F. Schumacher and Quatrefoil



Freer & Sackler Gallery

Hamiltonian Gallery

Phillips Collection

The National Air and Space Museum

The National Building Museum

The National Gallery of Art

The National Museum of African American History and Culture

The National Museum of American History

Renwick Gallery

Smithsonian Institution

The Textile Museum



The MA–EX program welcomes new students in the fall only. The program is not accepting admissions in 2024.




The Office of the Registrar provides up to date cost information on the MA–EX program. The Corcoran School of the Arts & Design offers partial fellowships to MA–EX students through the application process. You may apply for additional fellowships through the Office of Fellowships & Assistantships. The Office of Student Financial Assistance also has information on aid opportunities.






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