Copyright — Mary Lee Foote

Professor of Art History
PhD Boston University

Peter Barr teaches eight different subjects in the history of Western art from Ancient Egypt to Postmodern America. His specialization is the History of Photography.  He also teaches the Art Department’s Junior Portfolio seminar and team teaches two Freshmen Foundations art courses and the University's Liberal Arts Studies course in Contemplation & Action.

Peter recently collaborated with Professor of Art Christine Reising to present a lecture on "How to Produce Articulate Artists" at the Mid-American College Art Association Conference 2012.

Click here to see his award-winning website about historic architecture in Adrian, Michigan featuring essays by several of Barr's students.



My courses reflect my interests in art, history, languages, spirituality, politics, and the various ways students learn.  I strive to create learning environments that help students develop visual literacy, critical thinking and communication skills, and a creative and purposeful direction.

The discipline of art history more closely resembles detective work than a lecture. The former is much more mysterious, fun, engaging and intellectual.  I want students to understand the challenges and pleasures of looking at, researching, and writing about art.  When I develop courses or revise them, I am constantly experimenting with new methods of instruction that provide opportunities for students of various skill-levels, learning styles and interests to find out about both the history of art and the discipline of art history.

I attempt as much as possible to devise courses that ask students to participate in discussions about works of art; to visit regional museums, including the Toledo Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Art and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology; to act out artworks physically, for example: to stand as a figure stands in Polykleitos's Spearbearer; to search for information about works of art online and in the library and then to connect disparate bits of information into a conceptual whole; to collaborate with each other; to read challenging essays by some of the key scholars in the field; to consider the subjectivity inherent in historical pursuits; to debate significant issues within the discipline of art history; and to think for themselves.

In these ways, my students not only learn about art and artists, but also the various contexts that give them meaning.