An Alternate Critical Community
for Working Artists

founded in 2013 by artist, educator, and curator Patricia Miranda

Critique is an Encounter

The Lab is an alternate critical community for working artists outside academia to come together for sustained contact, with empathetic listening, radical optimism and rigorous dialogue, in an act of hope over destruction.

Rigorous critique in small ongoing groups

The Crit Lab offers 5-month graduate-level critique seminars for artists. We employ a rigorous structure and pedagogy, with critical, supportive, feedback in small curated artist groups. The intensity of an ongoing conversation acts as incubator, and helps develop structures for a sustainable studio practice.

The Crit Lab is a community of working artists. Crit Lab participants are not students.
We are artist driven, not mentor-driven. We engage as colleagues and fellow artists in a community of peers. 

The Crit Lab is about the art.

First and foremost we honor the autonomy of the artist, the artwork, and the studio practice. We look, see, feel, describe, analyze, and communicate our encounter with the work. We do not make judgments about good or bad, working or not working, success or failure. Most of all - we learn from the work - what we care about and how this is best expressed in an artwork. We protect the mysterious aspect of artmaking and meaning-making.

Discussions are led by the artists, with the guidance of the pedagogy and structure. Patricia Miranda holds the space, keeps the dialogue in focus, brings in context, artists or texts to research, and keeps meetings on schedule. These are trusted long-form discussions between a curated cohort of artists.

For artists at every place in their practice

The Lab invites artists who are serous about wanting to grow and push their work within a small, supportive, intentional community. Success is defined by each artist; "career" is not important. What matters is that artists engage fully and consistently with their practice and with the group. Lab artists support one another to focus their ideas and work. Artists in the Lab include those with newly developing to long established studio practices. While this is not a requirement or a measure of inclusion, a majority of current critters are MFA grads. 

The main criteria is that you are serious about your work!

Interested in the Lab? Have questions? Want to know more? Reach out....

Info Sessions

Join Patricia and Lab artists for informal Crit Lab Info Sessions. Learn about our structure and pedagogy, and how the Crit Lab can support your studio and professional practice. These mini sessions last 20-30 minutes. 

Join our mailing list for upcoming sessions for Fall 2024.

What makes The Crit Lab so special?

A: The Artists

The most powerful component of the Lab is the artists- serious, active, working, artists at all stages in their practice. Artists at any and every level are welcome.

Each artist brings their whole self to this table; their work, ideas, experience, knowledge.
Patricia guides the structure and brings years of expertise.
But the table belongs to ALL.

B: Curated Groups

Intentional community makes for profound change.

Another fundamental aspects of the Crit Lab is curation of the cohorts. We comb through each application, visit every artist's website, and interview applicants. Groups are formed in which work speaks to work in productive and meaningful ways.

We create trust in a dynamic community, and feed and support both studio practice and artist. When the curated groups come together it is transformational.

Curation of the groups is not by medium, it is by ideas. These dream teams gather together around work that supports and challenges, highlights and invigorates, to exchange and learn from one another and the work.

The focus is on the WORK and not the artist.

C: An Ethical Aesthetic

The Crit Lab Pedagogy was designed after years of working with artists professionally and in grad and undergrad programs. Much of the structure was designed in response to the opinionated and personal nature of much critique, often clouded by the unremarked power dynamics of gender, class, race, etc.

We develop, learn, and practice critical observation and ethical language in a rigorous open space of discussion. Artists build tools to effectively articulate and engage in a dialogue around their work and that of fellow artists. We meet the work where it is and ask where it wants to go. And we help it get there.

In the Lab we make visible the social context in which all art is created, and locate the work inside its own constellations of ideas. The Lab structure takes into account the mystery of the creative process, our deep emotions and reactions, and creates space to communicate reflective, objective readings of the work.

We ask, we do not answer. Conclusions are the domain of the studio, not the group.

The Crit Lab is about the studio

The Crit Lab offers the intense dialogue and feedback of an MFA program, in a supportive and nonjudgemental environment, without the agenda, degree, or high tuition. If you are actively working and want a higher level of dialogue around your work, miss the discourse of an academic program, and don’t want or require the piece of paper, The Crit Lab offers intentional space for work to flourish.

The Crit Lab is a supportive forum for exploration and discussion of new, vulnerable, in progress, and experimental works and ideas, as well as finished bodies of work. The connection and community transcend the Lab. The ongoing, intensive, inclusive, space of the meetings encourages work to flourish and grow in critical depth and perception, while building a strong community of committed artists.

Our Story

The Crit Lab began in-person, with 5 artists in Patricia Miranda's studio in 2013, and has grown to 60-70 artists each session. With the pandemic we moved to long virtual meetings, learning the structure and possibility of the digital space. The Crit Lab utilizes a pedagogy for the digital space as its own unique form, not as a poor substitute for the real. The pedagogy was developed by Patricia Miranda in response to the question of how one can best represent physical objects in the virtual space. The structure has necessarily grew tighter and more formal as together we deepen the dialogue of the digital space.

The rigorous and ethical framework the Lab is known for holds safe brave space for the depth, complexity, and creativity of each individual practice. Artists from around the country join in meaningful in-depth discussion, develop skills in critical analysis and the language to articulate their ideas nad the ideas they encounter in other artists' work.

We are inspired by the digital space: with no geographic limits, and the intimacy of meeting without physical bodies. Online we are all heart and head, everyone has a front row seat, we share equal space, and make room for one another in a spirit of creative disagreement. As we continue, we consider the environmental concerns of travel, and continue to craft new ways of working, making, reflecting, and supporting sustainable ecosystems.

We have since developed a Fellowship program, Residencies in Italy and NY, and exhibitions at MAPSpace and in 2024, and an upcoming exhibition at Hudson Valley MOCA in fall 2024.

Join us in a space of curiosity, empathy, radical listening and rigorous exchange.

We welcome you to join us. 
Reach out to to chat about our programs.

The Crit Lab was founded by artist, curator and educator Patricia Miranda. Miranda designed a structured pedagogy to focus and deepen discussion beyond common subjective reactions, and to help support ethical structures in which artists can thrive. Additional faculty are available for one-on-one sessions and at the AltMFA.

Follow us on Instagram @thecritlab

circle link image: Kathryn Geismar

What does the Crit Lab have to Offer?
Founded by artist Patricia Miranda, the Crit Lab offers rigorous, critical, supportive feedback in small ongoing artist groups. If you are a serious working artist at any level in your practice, just starting out or working and exhibiting for many years, and you are ready for critical feedback that will push the work in a focused intense manner, The Crit Lab is for you. If you have been to art school, whether in a BFA or MFA program or both, and miss the intense feedback and dialogue that an academic environment offers, The Crit Lab is for you. If you would love to go back to school for an art degree, but your home life or the high cost make it prohibitive, if you don’t need the piece of paper yet you crave a more academic critical discourse, The Crit Lab is for you. Art-making is a solitary pursuit, if you are looking for a community of artists seriously engaged in discussion around their work, The Crit Lab is for you.

Does The Crit Lab have a preference for certain kinds of art?
We love all art forms equally! We are rigorous about quality. Our commitment is to work with artists to direct and hone their own vision- to support you to be the artist you are and not the artist someone else (including the ubiquitous internal critic) thinks you should be. Regardless of whether you make abstract paintings, conceptual sculpture, outwardly political work, or observational representational paintings, (we love all) The Crit Lab pedagogy acknowledges the rhizomatic ways that all art, no matter the genre, speaks to its place in the world.

I am generally shy and uncomfortable giving critique, will joining the Crit Lab still be beneficial?
Creating trust in an open welcoming space for all is crucial to this process. The structured guidelines in the Lab focus conversation on the artwork rather than the artist. We build skills in critical analysis, allowing difficult issues to be raised, examined, and discussed, without becoming personal. This keeps focus on the vitality of the object, its dialogue with the world as an autonomous being, and how, as artist and viewer, we collaborate with it to create meaning. We articulate complex abstract ideas around all aspects of art, including materials, voice, subject matter, context, using empathetic approaches to dialogue. This makes visible the social and political aspects of an artwork, encouraging work that is more self-aware and situated in its time. Artists come away with sophisticated strategies for looking, thinking, and talking about ideas aesthetically, formally, socially and politically. This helps all, including the introvert artist, feel comfortable speaking confidently about their own work, the work of others, and to hear and productively utilize feedback on their own work.

What if I have never attended Art School?
No Problem! The Crit Lab is an egalitarian space for open dialogue, all are welcome and encouraged. We assume that every committed person is able to engage in rigorous discussion no matter their background- that’s our politics. The Lab pedagogy is for anyone with enthusiasm, openness, dedicated seriousness about their work, and a willingness to tackle big ideas in a supportive space with an open mind and heart. All groups start with an introduction to the framework and some short background readings.

What if I don’t live in the northeast? Are there still Labs available to me?
The Crit Lab is now virtual and hybrid. We will continue to have a virtual and/or hybrid structure in future, allowing artists from different locales to join a group together. For IRL Labs, Patricia is available to set up Labs around the country. Labs can be formed in a local artist studio or home, or community spaces such as galleries, art centers, etc., and are designed for your community. Patricia is available for private consultations one-time or ongoing private studio visits in person or virtually. Check the faculty page for info.

Can’t I set up my own critique group? Why should I pay for a critique group?
You can! I encourage artists to set up crit groups with peers in your community. I recommend this to all working artist and graduating BFA/MFA students looking for feedback and community. Artists need different kinds of feedback and support at different points in their practice- all of these are good. The Crit Lab is a more formal, academic, structured, and intensive program, with rigorous guidelines designed to push dialogue around the work in a focused manner. The Lab employs graduate level critique with empathetic radical listening, and requires serious focus and commitment to produce work within the monthly time frame, that often propels the work in dynamic new ways. We create intentional communities around our work. If you are at a point where you want a push, and are not in a place to go back to school, the Crit Lab is for you. Feel free to contact participants about their experience, to determine if the Lab is right for you at this moment.

How much does The Crit Lab Cost? Why does it cost that much?
Session costs vary depending on the type of Lab. The Crit Lab is an artist-run organization and we strongly believe that artists are workers and should be fairly compensated for their work. Keeping costs reasonable for artists is also a priority. We offer interest free payment plans to any Lab artist. We offer Crit Lab Fellowships,for the Lab sessions, and for the AltMFA, and hope to develop more programs in future.

Are there trial sessions available before I commit to joining The Crit Lab to see if I enjoy it?
While there are rare exceptions, due to the trust developed in the individual groups, it is not possible to visit a Crit Lab in session. Patricia is happy to talk with you about the structure, and to answer any questions you might have in detail. AltMFA small group crits have observers in some critiques.

What If I miss a critique meeting? Do I get my money back?
The best results come from full engagement and accountability from each artist and for their cohort. We encourage artists to make every effort to preserve the time for the Lab. That being said, life happens! All meetings are recorded (for private group use only), and we ask that you watch any missed meetings to remain a vital part of the conversation. Many artists also watch the recordings to gain more insight into their critique, as we hear different things when in the live session.

There are no refunds for missed meetings. This assures commitment to the process, builds continuity, confidence, and integrity between members, and protects the nature of the relationships built in the meetings. While we understand that life happens, we ask that everyone do their best to clear their schedules for all dates. Switching groups is not possible once the session begins. Due to the impact on the curation and small number of artists in each group, cancelation within 7 days incurs a $100 administrative fee. No refunds once the session starts.