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

Students in Elon Art History courses study visual and material culture, the built environment, and practices of patronage, collecting, and display from the world’s histories. Our innovative curriculum consists of courses in which students engage in critical reading, discussion, research, analysis, and problem-solving to consider power, identity, and cultural exchange across time and in a global context. Students learn to critique existing systems of power that marginalize and oppress both directly and passively, and it is our mission to train students to recognize the workings and protest the value given such systems. Through critical analysis of visual and textual material, ARH@Elon challenges canonical art history and imagines a new way forward.


Goal 1: Understanding Art History

An understanding of art history as both a discrete discipline and in relationship to museum studies, visual and material culture, and the study of built environments.

Outcome 1: Students can provide evidence that art historical categories are ideologically based rather than self-evident.

Outcome 2: Students can show competency in global art history.

Outcome 3: Students can synthesize materials from distinct courses or approaches in order to demonstrate a “big picture” view of art history as a discipline.

Goal 2: Critical Thinking, Reading, Writing, & Looking

An ability to think, read, and look critically and analytically and be able to articulate those critical analyses both orally and in writing.

Outcome 1: Students can locate, distinguish among, and state the meaning of a wide variety of textual and visual sources.

Outcome 2: Students can interpret and analyze these materials in written form.

Outcome 3: Students can interpret and analyze these materials in oral form.

Goal 3: Decolonizing the Discipline

An understanding of power, identity, and cultural exchange across time and in a global context

Outcome 1: Students can articulate their own engagement with and reflection upon that understanding.

Outcome 2: Students can recognize and identify the workings of power systems and critique them.

Outcome 3: Students can demonstrate the language, skills, and problem-solving abilities to protest those power systems.

Innovative and Flexible 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.

Engaged 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 Bishop, Saintly 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. The upcoming speaker for Spring 2018 is La Tanya Autry, “Reform or Revolution: Centering Social Justice in Museums.” 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