Art is studied in the context of the political and societal forces of the times. Graduates of art history schools emerge with more than an in-depth knowledge of artists and their works. Coupled with other liberal arts subjects including economics, language, literature, politics, and philosophy, graduates emerge with critical analysis abilities and a skill-set applicable to a range of industries, employers, and job choices. While art history majors gain traditional work in museums and galleries, opportunities can be found in historical research, commercial art firms, teaching, consulting, and much more.
Art history schools teach curriculum that is usually delivered via certificates, a Bachelor’s degree, a Master’s degree, or PhD programs. Education programs are delivered by a range of colleges, schools, and universities; some art history schools provide majors in art history and some focus solely on arts and art history curriculums. Students usually undertake specializations such as photography and museum/ gallery studies as well.
The subject areas studied at any number of reputable art history schools typically cover a wide range of topics, including:
Art history – Ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary; cultural history perspectives
Visual art genres – Painting, sculpture, music, poetry, and architecture
Language – Knowledge of specific language/s, history, and culture
Extensions and specializations – Film, photography, decorative arts, ceramics and pottery; specific art movements and time periods; gallery and museum studies
Liberal arts – Economics, literature, philosophy, psychology
Credible art history schools should, as a matter of course, provide opportunities for students to obtain personal and industry experience. The types of opportunities you should seek out and consider as part of your study program evaluation include:
Hands-on experience with collections or research programs that the school itself owns or administers;
Internships at national museums, galleries, or libraries that house valuable and quality collections;
Overseas study element for students to experience International art and culture relevant to their specific areas of study;
Grants from trusts or scholarship funds for study tours of museums and galleries relevant to art specialization fields of study (national or international).
There are a number of important questions to consider when evaluating study programs offered by art history schools. Can the qualifications be used to further your studies should you wish to go more in-depth? Can you specialize in the subject/topics that you feel most interested and passionate about? Are there opportunities to gain experience in arts industries or cultural institutions?
Before embarking on any course of study, you need to find out the types of career and work opportunities that are likely to be available upon graduation. Will you be restricted to art history specializations or will there be opportunities to use your skill-set in different industries?
Perhaps surprisingly, graduates of art history schools do find work in a large range of non-traditional arts areas. These include:
• Art therapy
• Media – journalism, publishing
• Retail sectors
And of course the traditional areas still apply:
• Art galleries – Curatorial or administrative
• Museums – Curatorial or administrative
• Libraries – Managing special collections of historical or literary significance
• Heritage management and conservation
• Art teaching