Studying Art History: Undergraduate

New Report Suggests College Students Are Studying More

Are you a high schooler trying to determine what you want to study in college? Are you in college and curious about the art history department? Or maybe you already study art history and just need some advice on how to survive. The first part of our mini series, Studying Art History, offers tips and tricks to survive and succeed while studying art history. Whether you’re an art history major or just taking one art history class, this is for you.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Intimidated.

Introductory Art History classes can seem like a lot, especially to those who had not studying art history before. The classes can require a lot of memorization of titles, names, and dates. For many, this may seem intimidating and may discourage some from pursuing what is an incredibly fascinating and diverse degree. Figure out what study method works for you and as you get further into the degree, classes turn more towards deeper analysis and discussion over memorization.

Tip #2: An Art History Degree Teaches More Than Just Art History

I think every art history major encounters the same response when they tell people what they study: “what are you going to do with that?” Understand that an art history degree is so much more than just studying art. A degree in art history provides a substantial background in visual analysis, research, critical thinking, and writing. Programs have sprung up dedicated to teaching professionals such as surgeons and police officers art historical skills because they’ve been proven to improve their visual interpretation and analysis skills. An art history degree opens doors to so much more than just academia or museums! Check out this link for an overview of Art History careers.

Tip #3: Take Advantage of the Art Community Around You

One of the best things you can do to support and supplement your art historical education is engage with the art community around you! Get involved with your campus museum or gallery; visit, volunteer, or intern at the local museums; connect with art majors and local artists; take art classes! It is easy as an art history student to be disconnected from the contemporary art world and the art being created in your community. Understanding the art world now will enrich your understanding of art and the history of it!

Tip #4: Take a Diverse Selection of Classes

Don’t get stuck only studying one thing. If you love the Renaissance, take a class in Modern and Contemporary Art. Take classes about art from non-Western cultures, from a diverse range of eras. Art History is traditionally western-focused and pushing yourself to take classes outside of the traditional canon will help you in all aspects of your degree. It allows you to have a wider understanding of the art world and it is easier to see the cultural exchange and movement of trends over time and space. Push yourself to research things you don’t know anything about, it’s how you grow and learn.

Tip #5: Ask For Help

This is good advice for everyone in college. Ask for help. Go to your professors office hours if you don’t understand something. Email the Teaching Assistant if you have one. As people who have served as teaching assistants, we were so glad when students reached out to ask for help! While it can be intimidating to go to office hours, it makes a huge difference. They can talk things through with you and help you understand. Plus, your professors are fascinating people and they may have amazing stories to share. Show up for office hours, trust us.

These tips are just the beginning, but they are a place to start! While they are focused on an art history degree, they can also apply to many other degrees. What are your best tips for future and current art history students?

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