Why Study Art History?
In a visually complex world, art history teaches us to slow down our thinking and to look closely. It fosters a habit of asking: What does this image mean? What did it mean to the artist who made it? What can it tell me about the time when it was made? Or the place? And how has it been received—who has raved about it; honored it; owned, displayed, or hated it?
The VCUarts Department of Art History—a community of faculty, students, artists, curators and museum professionals—takes a range of approaches to answering such questions. We embrace the fact that art history is one of the most interdisciplinary of disciplines, drawing from studies of history, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and literature. We prepare undergraduate and graduate students for careers that contribute to this dynamic field of study, grounded in rigorous methodologies for
- creating historically oriented interpretations of artworks;
- making reasoned statements about ways in which visual art enhances our lives;
- connecting artworks to the complexity of life, of civilizations, of daily experiences across time and around the world.
Students who major in art history acquire knowledge of artworks made in various contexts, while they learn the terminology and research methods used by art historians. At the same time, they polish their highly transferable skills—reading critically and analytically; conducting visual analysis; making well-reasoned assertions; and writing compelling texts about complex ideas.
The opportunity to minor in art history is open to all undergraduate students. The minor is an especially good complement to majoring in graphic design, studio art, business, history, fashion design, cinema, religious studies, and world studies.
Many art history majors and minors study abroad for a semester or summer program. Academic advisors point students to programs that fulfill art history course requirements.
Undergraduate students may earn course credit while completing internships at museums, art galleries, historical sites, research libraries, or archives. Student Resources include internship information and application; the art history undergraduate handbook; and information about scholarships, directed research, study abroad, and class overrides.
The Master of Arts in Art History with a concentration in historical studies prepares students to embark on successful careers in academia and/or museums by providing a general background in the research methods and teachings of art history. Additionally, this concentration equips students with the necessary skills, knowledge and theoretical grounding to pursue further education in art history at the doctoral level.
The Master of Arts in Art History with a concentration in museum studies provides students with a general background in the research methods and teachings of art history and museum studies. Coursework, research endeavors and museum internships equip students for careers in arts and cultural institutions that require an MA degree or for further study at the doctoral level.
Funding and research support awarded by the university, school, and department is based on academic merit and financial need. All graduate students and applicants are eligible.
The Art History Graduate Manual provides detailed information about program requirements. It’s accompanied by links to information and forms that students need as they progress through their programs of study.
The Art History program at VCUarts is shaped by the leading scholars among our faculty, as well as the students who pioneer new avenues of study. Together, they drive the field of art history forward.
Art history faculty members are a collegial group of productive scholars and dedicated mentors. Their work has been published in highly regarded national and international journals relevant to their fields, as well as in monographs and anthologies presented by scholarly and museum affiliated publishers.
All art history students are encouraged to connect with our network of accomplished alumni working in museums, galleries, libraries, universities and colleges across the country and beyond.
Meet our graduate students.