The Art History program supports you in your exploration of visual culture within contemporary, historical, and global contexts. Majors benefit from a supportive faculty, a diverse curriculum, and a flexible program that encourages the pursuit of a second major or minor in another discipline. You can enrich your educational experience through internships at regional museums and independent research projects that are shaped by your interests. The acquisition of critical thinking skills as well as effective written and oral communication ensure that you will develop an understanding of the visual arts from diverse cultures and eras. Alumni have been admitted to competitive graduate programs for museum studies and art history, and have found employment in publishing and teaching English overseas.
BA in Art History
A major or minor in art history provides you with an expansive framework to explore the arts and visual culture. Through the examination of historic and contemporary works produced around the globe students engage with questions of context, interpretation, and how these concepts have changed over time. Through the study and practice of art history you’ll approach the arts as complex and dynamic agents that reflect as well as shape cultural ideas and values.
For more information, please read the information about the BA in Art History.
Minor in Art History
The minor in art history is designed to offer students a general introduction to the study of art history and its methods. It offers students from many disciplines including - studio art, the humanities and professional degrees - the opportunity to examine the contexts for the production of the visual arts.
For more information, please read the information about the Art History Minor
Students benefit from a supportive faculty, diverse course offerings, and a flexible curriculum that works with each learner’s educational and professional goals. You can also expand on classroom experiences through study abroad, internships, and undergraduate research opportunities. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged and art history students regularly graduate with a second major or minors from other programs at GVSU. In the art history program you’ll learn discipline specific skills along with transferable ones including critical thinking, informed analysis, adaptability, resilience, as well as effective written and oral communication, the foundations for any career. This integrated approach provides graduates with a global outlook and a respect for context, qualities essential in our changing world.
Art History Courses
A survey of art history from prehistoric times to the Renaissance.
Offered fall semester.
A survey of art history from the Renaissance to the present day.
Offered winter semester.
A thematic examination of the arts and visual culture created between the 6th and 15th centuries in Europe and the broader Mediterranean. Explores diverse media in relation to their political, religious, and social contexts. Also considers 19th century and contemporary reception of medieval art and ideas. Course offered fall semester of even-numbered years. Prerequisite: ART 221 or junior standing.
A thematic examination of the visual arts of Europe created between
1350 and 1600. Topics include the artist in society, civic and
domestic settings for the arts, and global contexts, as well as the
representation of gender, ethnicity, and social class. Also considers
the reception of renaissance art in later eras. Course offered winter
semester of odd-numbered years. Prerequisite: ART 222 or junior standing.
This course highlights important moments of modernist and
contemporary aesthetic development from the mid-twentieth century to
the present. Offered winter of even-numbered years. Prerequisite: ART
222, or junior or senior status.
(Only courses with a history emphasis are part of this curriculum)
A course built around a special project or media with limited or topical significance and offered on a very limited basis. Students must seek special permission of the instructor for entry into any 380 course. Offered on sufficient demand.
Credits: 1 to 3
A course giving students with special interests an opportunity to
explore texts, periodical, and reference materials under the guidance
of an art faculty member. Offered fall and winter semesters.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
Credits: 1 to 4
This course will survey the visual arts of India, China, and Japan,
focusing on the relationship between visual form and cultural
ideology. Offered fall semester of odd-numbered years. Prerequisites:
ART 221 and ART 222, or junior or senior status.
This course provides an in-depth investigation of the Surrealism
movement, addressing its artistic, as well as its historical,
political, philosophical, and psychological implications. Offered
winter of odd-numbered years. Prerequisite: ART 222, or junior or
Examines the arts and material culture produced in Islamic contexts
between the 7th century and the present. Themes include patronage,
materials, reception, cultures in contact, plurality of meaning, as
well as colonial and postcolonial circumstances. Also explores the
work of contemporary artists in relation to transnational contexts.
Course offered winter semester of even-numbered years. Prerequisite:
ART 221 or junior standing.
A thematic approach to 19th century American arts and visual culture.
Considers individual artists, but stresses the role of objects to
reflect and shape cultural change. Discussions include portraiture,
westward expansion, the Civil War, as well as the role of visual
culture and conceptions of gender, race, and social class. Course
offered fall semester of odd-numbered years. Prerequisite: ART 222 or
A seminar composed of lectures, discussions, papers, and assigned
readings intended to give the student an understanding of his or her
own place as a visual artist in the historical, social continuum of
our time. Offered fall and winter semesters. Prerequisite: Senior
standing in B.A., B.S., or B.F.A. program.
The art history rooms include lecture and seminar spaces designed for small classes and active learning. Faculty often broaden opportunities for students by moving outside the classroom with visits to archives, architectural sites, campus collections, and regional museums.
Art History Alumni
Our program is quite young, but alumni have attended MA and PhD programs devoted to museum studies, historical administration and public history, as well as art history. Students have pursued advanced degrees at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Eastern Illinois University, George Mason University in Virginia, Northeastern University in Boston, the University of Denver, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and The Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
After completing their advanced degrees, alumni have gone on to work in collections management, art co-ops, archival collections, as well as pursued curatorial work in galleries and museums. Many of our graduates have chosen not to pursue graduate study putting the transferrable skills stressed in the program to good use as they pursued careers in technology, publishing, arts practice, and teaching English overseas.
Grand Rapids Undergraduate Art History Symposium
This is an event that brings together art history majors from Kendall College of Art and Design, Aquinas College, Calvin College and Grand Valley State University. Students present their scholarly research to their peers and professional scholars, allowing future collaborations and knowledge exchange.