Interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the increasing appearance of the PhD in fine art practice.
In the music world, the PhD is usually reserved for what are considered the academic subdisciplines within the field (music theory, musicology, music education), while the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) or DM (Doctor of Music) is the professional subdisciplinary terminal degree (DMA in composition, performance, conducting). Some institutions also offer a DME (Doctor of Music Education); like the DMA/DM, this is a professional practice doctorate. There are PhD programs in composition (Princeton, NYU and Penn come to mind), but most composition doctorates are DMAs. The visual arts, until recently, held the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree as the terminal degree. PhDs, as in music, were reserved for the subdiscipline of Art History.
The article spends most of its ink on the PhD in studio art; I would propose that – if the visual arts world wants a professional practice doctorate, and that world is by no means unified on that topic – the music model is the operational model. Keep the PhD for art history and those studio art programs which are the most research-oriented, and create the DFA as the professional practice program (Yale already does this in theatre). This will take a bit of educating, as the DFA already exists as primarily an honorary degree.
Of course, this may be answering a question no one really asked. Our terminal degree programs are already overstuffed (owing to R1/doctoral-granting institutions loving that supply of cheap teaching labor for undergraduate classes), and I’m not sure I see the need for Yet Another Doctorate.