Art History @ Elon

“It takes a very dedicated person to choose to study art history at Elon and students leave with not only a strong understanding of the history of art, but also the ability to synthesize what they've learned into something a lot more complex than programs that only require slide memorization.”   

Olivia Feldman '12
Art History & International Studies 

Mission statement

Elon’s Art History program offers in-depth examination of images, artists, and the contexts in which artworks are created.  We believe art history courses are beneficial to anyone wishing to develop advanced critical viewing, thinking and writing skills in a discipline that melds the arts with the humanities in a historical context.

Elon Art History majors and minors study images and objects from the world’s history both broadly and deeply. Rather than simply memorize lists of artists, artworks, and historical dates, they study what these artworks mean, the contexts in which their artists produced them, and how those issues relate to the way history has been constructed. We emphasize the ideological biases that have informed one’s understanding of art to this point and practice articulating a more informed position.

We therefore have constructed an innovative curriculum wherein introductory courses consider themes of power, identity, artistic exchange, and collection and display, across time and from a global context. Upper-level courses cover specialized areas of analysis, including those defined by geographical region, time period, stylistic category, conceptual theme, and/or ideology. These studies culminate in capstone experiences that emphasize historiographic perspectives as well as individual projects that allow students to find their own voices in the discipline.

Goals

All successful art history majors should graduate with the following understanding of the discipline:

  • That art history, like all other fields of academic study, is constructed by human beings.
  • That art historical categories are a variable part of this construction and reception, as are chronological and geographical groupings, and that these categorizations are ideologically based rather than self-evident.
  • That art is continually affected by the context and condition in which we find it; therefore one must attend to how and where the art is located and presented to the viewer(s).

All successful art history majors should thus attempt to attain the following goals in their work:

  • An ability to think, read, and look critically and analytically.
  • An ability to articulate both orally and in writing those critical analyses.
  • A commitment to personal integrity in and responsibility for all their work and actions.
  • A history of preparation for class and assignments.
  • A history of active, generous contribution and leadership, both verbal and nonverbal, in and out of class.
  • A practice of giving ideas respectful consideration, even if they conflict with one’s personal views.
  • A practice of giving one’s opinion from an informed position.
  • A desire to interact with art communities that is not limited to or solely inspired by required assignments.

Outcomes

At its core, every liberal arts discipline requires a successful student to acquire the ability to develop and articulate critical and analytical thoughts. All successful art history majors should thus graduate with the following skills and experiences:

  • An ability to locate, distinguish among, and state the thesis of a wide variety of textual sources.
  • An ability to locate, distinguish among, and articulate the meaning of a wide variety of visual sources.
  • An ability to articulate their own interpretation and analysis of these materials in both written and oral form.
  • A developed vocabulary of formal analysis that has been articulated in written and oral form.
  • An expanded and practiced vocabulary of terms and concepts relevant to history and criticism.
  • A wide variety of experiences with “live” works of art and artistic contexts.
  • An ability to articulate their own engagement with and reflection upon these experiences.
  • An ability to synthesize materials from distinct courses or approaches and articulate a “big picture” view of art history as a discipline.

Innovative curriculum

As an art history student, you will embark on a rigorous, challenging course of study that focuses on images and objects from the world’s history. Art history students at Elon benefit from the university’s subscription to ArtStor, a digital library encompassing more than a million images from the breadth of human history. Rather than memorize lists of artists, artworks and historical dates, you will study what these artworks mean, the contexts in which their artists produced them and how those issues relate to the way history has been constructed. You will explore the ideological biases that have informed your understanding of art to this point, and you will practice articulating a more knowledgeable position.

Introductory courses consider themes of power, identity, artistic exchange, and collection and display, across time and from a global context. Upper-level courses cover specialized areas of analysis, including those defined by geographical region, time period, stylistic category, conceptual theme and/or ideology. An art historian’s primary sources include visual objects themselves in addition to more typical historical resources, so specialized training in formal analysis is also vital to our studies. Art history majors complete their academic training with a senior seminar in which they research, write and present a significant project founded in their own interests. These projects may result in term papers, exhibitions, symposia or alternative ventures developed under the guidance of the faculty.

The art history program is flexible, allowing students to select a double major or minor in other fields. You will be encouraged to expand your academic experience in order to gain a wide range of skills that can be useful to any career path.

Active, demanding faculty

The art history faculty are active researchers who believe in the importance of student responsibility. Art history majors will be challenged to build intellectual muscles in  classrooms led by professionals who are up-to-date in their knowledge and pedagogies.

Dr. Kirstin Ringelberg, professor, specializes in modern and contemporary art and visual culture. Ringelberg recently published Redefining Gender in American Impressionist Studio Painting: Work Place/Domestic Space and has authored numerous essays on topics ranging from the gendering of artists' studios, to the influence of contemporary art in popular culture, to the tension between beauty and criticality. They have also published and presented nationally and internationally on how contemporary Japanese artists represent pain and cuteness. In 2008, Ringelberg received the Elon College Excellence in Teaching Award and in 2013, Ringelberg received the Elon College Excellence in Service/Leadership award. They also received the university's only full-year, full-pay sabbatical for 2016-2017.    

Dr. Evan A. Gatti, associate professor, specializes in medieval art. Gatti recently co-authored an annotated bibliography on Medieval Italian Art for Oxford Bibliographies and was co-editor of an interdisciplinary collection of essays entitled Envisioning the Medieval Bishop: Images and the Episcopacy in the Middle Ages (Turnhout: 2014). She has authored several essays on the art and culture of medieval bishops, including a contribution to Envisioning the BishopSaintly Bishops and Bishops Saints (Zagreb: 2012), as well as a special issue of Peregrinations devoted to Ottonian art for use in the undergraduate classroom. Gatti has presented papers nationally and internationally on the relationships between ritual, performance, pilgrimage and art in a religious context. In 2009, Gatti received the Elon College Excellence in Service/Leadership award and in 2012, Gatti received the Student Government Association's Gerald F. Francis Award for Outstanding Faculty Member

Speaker series

Since 2003, Elon’s art history program sponsors a speaker series that has brought world-renowned art historians to campus. With four talks scheduled per year, the series gives students an opportunity to interact with the major scholars in the field. Past speakers include: Timon Screech, Norman Bryson, Terry Smith, Carol Duncan, Barbara Abou-el-Haj, Frank K. Lord, esq., Rebecca Brown, Carol Mattusch, John Neff, Gennifer Weisenfeld, Rebacca Martin Nagy, Dorothy Verkerk, Judith Rodenbeck, Rachael Ziady DeLue, David M. Lubin, Mary D. Sheriff, James Elkins, and Jaroslav Folda.

The Elon University art collection

This collection includes a wide variety of visual objects from around the world; notable is the African art collection, which includes more than 300 pieces. The university collection is a living part of the Elon campus. Revolving exhibitions from the collection are housed in the library, academic classrooms and department suites. Art history majors and minors can choose to curate exhibitions on campus or research and document the collection under the supervision of a faculty mentor as part of their academic curriculum or as a work-study opportunity. 

The world as your classroom

Art history majors and minors benefit from a variety of opportunities outside of our dynamic classrooms. University faculty lead study abroad programs that emphasize art historical study in countries such as France, Japan and Italy. Majors and minors are also encouraged to take semester-long studies at universities outside of the United States, so they can experience the diverse contexts for art first-hand.

Many art history majors and minors have received course credit for internships at galleries and museums in the United States and abroad, including:

  • The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  • Christie’s Art Auction House
  • Pace Prints Gallery in New York
  • The Archives of American Art
  • The High Museum
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Virginia Fine Arts Museum
  • The Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Reynolda House
  • The North Carolina Museum of Art
  • The Phoenix Art Museum
  • The National Museum of American Art
  • The North Carolina Museum of Art
  • Christie’s Auction House
  • The Museum of Tolerance
  • The Weatherspoon Art Museum

After Graduation

When students graduate with an art history degree from Elon, they are well-prepared for an array of postgraduate opportunities. Art history alumni have gone on to work in the fields of art practice, visual culture, museum studies, international studies and history, among others. Recent graduates also have attended prestigious graduate programs in art history and other disciplines at:

  • Université Paris-Sorbonne
  • Chatham University
  • University of California at Berkeley
  • University of California at Riverside
  • American University
  • Sotheby’s Institute of Art
  • Florida State University
  • George Washington University
  • Drexel University
  • Stony Brook University
  • University of Colorado at Boulder
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Virginia Commonwealth University