Studies in Art History prepare students for a variety of careers and graduate studies by developing critical observation and communication skills through extensive discussion and writing about visual form. Students gain an understanding of a wide range of cultures and historical periods in introductory courses, while delving deeper into art historical methods and research in more advanced courses. Art history majors hone the skills they have developed in a senior capstone experience, composing a research paper and presenting their findings to the University community.
Arcadia's Art history faculty engage with students on a personal level, whether in the classroom or in Philadelphia’s many world class museums. Students also benefit from Arcadia’s vast global network of study abroad programs.
Our students have successfully pursued professions in museums, libraries, cultural institutions, and universities, as well as many other career paths.
The minor in Art History introduces students to the field and gives a broad survey from Ancient to Modern Art. The minor is designed for students who want to combine Art History with another major area. With this background, students may be eligible to apply for graduate work in art history. Familiarity with a modern language is strongly recommended. Studio art majors who wish to minor in Art History are required to take a total of five Art History classes to complete the minor.
The Art History program takes advantage of Arcadia’s support for off-campus study to offer many opportunities for students to encounter works of art in person both locally and internationally. Through field trips, Global Field Study courses, and study abroad programs, students travel outside the classroom to experience firsthand the world’s visual treasures.
Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) is a brief drive or train ride away from Arcadia’s campus, putting one of the nation’s premier encyclopedic art collections at our finger tips. Art history courses use the PMA in a number of ways: class sessions are held in its galleries, students write papers on works in the collection, use its library and archives for primary research, and present the results in the galleries.
Frick Collection. Drawing Connections, an interdisciplinary University Seminar co-taught by professors Abbey Ryan and Jill Pederson, visited the Frick Collection in New York City. They toured the exhibition Andrea del Sarto: The Renaissance Workshop in Action, examining up-close the Renaissance drawing techniques they were studying and practicing in class.
Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts. The students from the Drawing Connections course met with educators and conservators at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts in Philadelphia to observe highly technical processes involved in paper conservation. Students were able to learn about treatments of paper in books, photographs, documents, and drawings. They also learned about career paths in the field of conservation.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. During a visit to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), students from the Drawing Connections course had the rare opportunity to meet with curators and imaging specialists to learn about historic drawings from the collection. From the work of Thomas Eakins to Violet Oakley, the group observed a range of drawing techniques and learned about PAFA's unique history as an art academy.
New York City. Every fall the Department of Visual and Performing Arts travels to New York City for a day-long field trip that includes visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and galleries in SoHo and Chelsea. Art history courses often schedule special viewing opportunities for this trip, such as guided tours of exhibitions and private viewings of special collections.
Global Field Studies
Many students in the Art History program participate in Global Field Study (GFS) courses, which consist of a traditional semester-long learning experience on the Glenside campus, accompanied by an off-campus excursion (typically 1-2 weeks in length). These courses allow students to explore art-historical topics in depth through firsthand observation of the art and architecture they have studied in class. For example, students in AH224: Baroque Art learn about European visual arts from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries on their home campus, and then travel to Rome at the end of the semester to explore the glories of Baroque painting, sculpture, and architecture in context.
Arcadia has partnerships and centers around the world to support while abroad. Students in the Art History program often take part in programs in Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain.
Majors are encouraged to pursue internships in Arcadia’s many art spaces on campus, including the Commons Art Gallery, the Great Room Gallery, the Judith Taylor Gallery, and the Arcadia University Art Gallery. Students gain practical experience hanging work, lighting shows, writing wall text, and helping to plan openings. Opportunities are also available for students to engage in faculty research projects. These practical internship possibilities complement the Minor in Arts Entrepreneurship and Curatorial Studies. Internships may be arranged as 2 or 4 credit courses.
Megan D’Avella '16, Art History Major
Campus Internship: Research Assistant to Professor Matt Borgen. “As I flipped through the pages, I saw history firsthand.” Read more about Megan’s internship conducting research in the University Archive.
Jeremy Kramer '15, Art History Major
Campus Internship: Research Assistant to Professor Jill Pederson. “I had many opportunities that were presented to me during my time at Arcadia, and I think it’s very specific to the faculty in the Art Department [and] being that Arcadia is that smaller, tight-knit community. For example, I worked with Jill Pederson, Assistant Professor of Art History, on one of her publications about Leonardo da Vinci and his followers in Renaissance Milan, which was an opportunity that I jumped at.” View more.
Many of our majors take up internships in the vastly rich network of cultural institutions in our region. Most recently, students have gained hands-on experience in museums, such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Michener Art Museum. Internships may be arranged as 2 or 4 credit courses. Interested students should make arrangements with their advisor, who will pair them with an off-campus mentor at an area institution. Internship opportunities are also available through Arcadia’s many study abroad programs.
Dao La '13, Art History Major
"The value of an internship in conjunction with other classes is one of the most important steps a student can take during their years at Arcadia. I was able to work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for my internship and the knowledge I gained has been invaluable. My supervisors, both at Arcadia and at the museum, were both very intent in making sure I was learning what interested me. To work in the archives of PAFA face to face with masterpieces with the curator was an experience of a lifetime. The work I did at PAFA allowed me to understand what I wanted to do with my professional career after graduation and now, I am attending graduate school for my Masters in Science of Library Science concentrating in archival studies."
Senior Capstone Experience
The Senior Capstone represents the culmination of students’ art-historical studies at Arcadia. For this project, majors identify a topic of interest in consultation with their Art History thesis advisor and engage in an extended research project over the course of the senior year. In the spring semester, majors present their research in a didactic, museum-style installation in the Senior Thesis Exhibition, as well as in a public presentation as part of Arcadia’s Capstone Day celebrations. The senior thesis process provides students the opportunity to engage with a variety of methods and approaches to art history. The writing and critical thinking skills developed during the Capstone project serve students well beyond their time at Arcadia.
Samantha Schaeffer '14
"My undergraduate thesis was developed with the hopes of studying a tumultuous time in art history, while incorporating aspects of my Gender and Women’s studies minor. The process of completing this thesis, while tasking, was satisfying as I was able to devote myself to a course of research over a long duration of time. By becoming familiar with many critics, historians, and writers, my critical research skills were strengthened. These skills are highly beneficial as I begin my Master’s dissertation. Without this previous capstone experience, I would be unprepared to complete such dedicated research."
Recent Thesis Titles
Jeremy Kramer, “Beneath the Bridge: James McNeill Whistler and Ukiyo-e,” 2015
Kathlene Williams, “Bauhaus Color Theory in Practice,” 2015
Samantha Shaeffer, “Edouard Manet and the Modernization of the Female Nude,” 2014
Elizabeth Lutzvitch, “Shooting Soldiers: The Practice and Processes of American Civil War Photography,” 2013
Dao La, “Curiosity on Display: Charles Willson Peale and the Development of an American Natural History Museum,” 2013
Nadia Koltsoon, “Underground and Untitled: The Beginning of Non-Conformism in Leningrad – the Arefiev Circle," 2013
Alexandra Schilt, “Jan Steen: Lessons Learned from Gathering around the Family Table," 2012
Alanna Deirdre Mills, “The Objects of Objects: Depictions of ‘Fallen’ Women,” 2011
Arcadia’s Art History major and minor prepare students for a broad range of careers both within the art world and beyond. The intensive training in analysis, critical thinking, and writing that students receive in art history courses readies them for professions that require high-level problem solving and communications skills. In addition, the art history program’s internship requirement provides students with firsthand work experience that appeals to employers both within and outside the art world. Below is a glimpse at the careers and higher-degrees that Arcadia’s Art History graduates are successfully pursuing.
Jeremy Kramer '15, Art History Major
The summer after graduating from Arcadia, Jeremy was awarded a highly competitive internship at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the South Asian Art Department. Read on.
Samantha Schaeffer '14, Art History Major
“After graduating from Arcadia, I completed two internships in New York City: the first at Tyler Rollins Fine Art, a contemporary art gallery, and the second at the Children’s Museum of the Arts. Upon the completion of these two internships I applied to graduate school programs in London, as I hoped to study for my Master’s degree abroad. I am currently studying Culture, Policy, and Management at City University London with the hopes of starting a career in the cultural sector. I have become quite interested in the place of the visual arts in urban planning and the benefits of cultural goods on urban environments. My art history background has helped me in exponential amounts. The content has supplied me with knowledge of many fields, not just the visual arts. Through art historical studies I am familiar with the history of many cultures, societies, and cultural movements. In addition, the research skills cultivated through my time as a student of art history have helped me in my present research and dissertation.”
Alexandra Schlit '12, Art History Major
Upon graduating from Arcadia, Alexandra moved to New York City and entered Sotheby’s Institute of Art Fine and Decorative American Program, earning her Masters of Art in 2014. She rounded out her education in the decorative arts by becoming certified by the Gemological Institute of America in 2014. Since then, Alexandra has worked at Christie’s, one of the nation’s premier auction houses. She recently began a job at Collectorium, an online database for collectors operated by Christie’s. Alexandra credits Arcadia’s small class sizes and the personalized attention she received from professors for cultivating her love of art history and capacity for in-depth research.