Art History & Visual Culture Studies

Art History and Visual Culture Studies are two related fields that study art and visual objects created by people from various cultures and parts of the world.  Art history is traditionally concerned with the description and interpretation of the fine arts, including paintings, prints, sculptures, and architecture, while Visual Culture Studies also investigates the history and importance of visual communication, photography, graphic design, film, the internet and advertising.

Historians of art and visual culture combine research, knowledge of theory, and analytical skills to present oral, written, and multi-media arguments with clarity and economy.  Skills required within the field include:

  • interpretive research skills,
  • ability to describe and classify accurately and articulately,
  • ability to connect objects to their historical contexts,
  • critical thinking skills,
  • attention to detail,
  • intellectual creativity and curiosity,
  • appreciation of aesthetics,
  • communication skills, including writing, public speaking, and digital publication
  • foreign language skills,
  • organization skills,
  • interpersonal and collaboration skills, and
  • self-discipline.

These skills are desirable in a wide range of careers both in and out of the arts. At Siena Heights, you can develop these skills while investigating a wide variety of art and visual culture. 

To impart a broad overview of the history of western civilization, all students in the Studio must select either the history of graphic design or the history of architecture.  The History of Graphic Design is required for students majoring in Graphic Design.  These courses are offered every other year and open to all students across campus who have completed English 102.

To provide a global perspective, the Non-Western Art course is required for all students majoring or minoring in art history or wanting to pursue a degree in art education and offered every other year.

A menu of four additional lower-level courses is offered periodically and open to any student who has completed English 102.  These include Ancient to Medieval Art, Renaissance to Modern Art, American Art, and Film Study and Analysis. 

Once you have completed one of the lower-level courses listed above, you may enroll in the following upper-level art history courses: Introduction to Visual Culture, Late 20th-Century Art, History of Photography, and Nineteenth-Century Art.  These courses ask you to demonstrate your research and writing skills as you pursue independent research projects.  Students majoring in Graphic Design are required to complete Introduction to Visual Culture, while students majoring in Fine Arts must complete Late 20th-Century Art.

A distinctive feature of the Art History degree at Siena Heights is that it is a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, and thus requires the student to complete a studio concentration.  Students who select to concentrate in Digital Media while pursuing the BFA in Art History will be prepared to contribute to the emerging field of Digital Humanities.