Bonnie Cheng, Associate Professor of Art History and East Asian Studies; Department Co-Chair
Johnny Coleman, Associate Professor of Art and African American Studies; Department Co-Chair
Bonnie Cheng, Associate Professor
Sarah Hamill, Assistant Professor
John Harwood, Associate Professor
Erik Inglis, Professor
Susan Kane, Professor
Christina Neilson, Assistant Professor
Julia Christensen, Assistant Professor
Johnny Coleman, Associate Professor
Don Harvey, Visiting Assistant Professor
Pipo Nguyen-Duy, Professor
John Pearson, Eva and John Young-Hunter Professor of Studio Art
Sarah Schuster, Associate Professor
Susan Umbenhour, Visiting Assistant Professor
Nanette Yannuzzi Macias, Associate Professor
The Department of Art faculty consists of a nearly even number of artists and art historians. These numbers underscore the department’s interest in, and commitment to, a balanced study of the visual arts in a liberal arts curriculum. The Allen Memorial Art Museum is an important resource for art students. Courses routinely meet there and students have the opportunity to participate in the Museum’s Docent program. Introductory courses—whether in studio or art history—presuppose that the student has no prior experience in art. The three majors offered—art history, studio, and visual arts—are designed to offer individuals a solid preparation for graduate school or a career in art-related fields.
Majors in the Art Department:
The Department of Art insists that its programs of major study be deeply integrated with the overall liberal arts education that Oberlin both endorses and offers. In planning their programs of study, students should therefore keep in mind the fact that all three major programs may be completed within the two final years of work towards the BA degree. Requirements for the three majors are as follows:
Major in Art History
The department offers four levels of art history courses. Courses with 100 numbers provide a broad introduction to the field and are open without prerequisite. Courses with 200, 300 and 400 numbers comprise the core of the major in Art History, and are available only to students who have completed the prerequisites or have received the instructor’s consent to enroll. At the 300- and 400-levels, students pursue advanced topics that provide training in art-historical research and writing. Some majors complete their work in the department in the year-long Honors (500-numbered) Program.
- 100-numbered courses provide entry into the Art History curriculum by introducing students to the methods and concepts of the discipline. Broad in geographic and temporal scope, they place particular emphasis on acquiring the visual skills necessary for the close, analytical scrutiny of works of art. The 100- and 200-numbered courses give access to 300-level courses.
- 200-numbered courses are designed primarily for majors and are intended to be taken early in the major. 200-level courses deepen the students’ understanding of the discipline and prepare them for advanced work at the seminar level.
- 300-numbered courses focus on the major periods and styles in the art-historical fields taught in the Department.
- 400-numbered courses include seminars that focus on selected problems in art history in a discussion-oriented format with emphasis on individual presentations and research.
- 500-numbered course is the Honors sequence, available by departmental invitation or student petition to seniors (see “Honors”).
An art history major consists of a total of at least 11 full courses and language competency.
Major requirements within the department (9 full courses):
- one – two 100-level courses
- Methods course (200-level) must be taken in the sophomore or junior year
- three 300-level courses
- two 400-level seminars
- one course in Studio Art
- No more than 2 courses at the 100-level may count toward the major (unless prior approval is received from the chair).
- The Methods course must be taken in sophomore or junior year and is a prerequisite to any seminar.
- At least one art history course must focus on non-western art.
- A course must be taken in at least 4 of the 6 areas offered by the art history faculty (Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance-Baroque, Modern-Contemporary, Architectural History, East Asian).
- Honors does not count toward the 9-course requirement
- Private readings will be HC and do not count towards the 9-course requirement
Major requirements outside the department (2 Full Courses plus language competency):
- Two courses outside of the Art Department (these should be chosen in consultation with your advisor to reflect your special geographic or chronological area of interest or a thematic focus in art history).
- A demonstrated ability to read a foreign language at the level of competence equal to two semesters of introductory language study at Oberlin. Students may meet this requirement in a number of ways, including but not limited to: (1) completing a two-semester introductory language course at Oberlin; (2) placing above the first-year level on a placement test administered by one of the language departments; or (3) transferring the equivalent of an Oberlin introductory language course taken elsewhere.
For students who are considering graduate work in Art History, the department strongly recommends advanced language courses. In general, within the first year of graduate study in any field of Western art, students are expected to demonstrate reading competency in French and German; for East Asian Art students will need a working knowledge of Japanese and/or Chinese. Depending on the area of specialization, other languages may also be necessary, e.g. Greek, Latin, or Italian.
Courses in which a student earned a letter grade below a C-or P cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of the major.
Minor in Art History
Students with 5 full courses in Art History may graduate with a minor in Art History entered on their transcripts. No more than 1 full coursemay be transferred for the minor in Art History; departmental approval is required for such transfers (see section on Major or Minor Credit for off-campus study).
Note: Students are responsible for notifying the Office of the Registrar if they wish to have the minor in Art History entered on their transcripts.
Major in Studio Art
For those students considering a major in Studio Art, it is recommended that you make every effort to take four courses towards your major by the end of your sophomore year.
No fewer than 10 full courses or the equivalent. A Studio Art major must have taken at least one course with at least four different studio instructors before enrolling in the capstone seminar.
Required courses are:
- Two “Materials and Methods” courses composed of four modules.
- One “Introductory Level” course: “Introduction to (Discipline)” courses.
- Two “Problems: [in (Discipline): (Title)]” courses (These courses may be repeated one time only for credit with the consent of the instructor).
- Two courses in Art History, one of which must be in 19th- and/or 20th-century art, and one in an earlier field or “Approaches to Western Art.” It is recommended that students interested in majoring in Studio Art take the 19th and 20th century course in Art History as early in their program as they can.
- Two “Advanced Level” courses, composed of the capstone seminar (year-long course, involving both fall and spring semesters) or any two “Advanced Level” courses.
- Courses in African American Studies “Talking Book”, “Blues Aesthetic: Continuity and Transformation”, and “Something From Something” may be counted towards Studio majors and minors.
Courses in which a student earned a letter grade below a C-or P cannot be used to fulfill the requirements of the major.
Minor in Studio Art
Students with 5 or more full courses or the equivalent in Studio Art may graduate with a minor in Studio Art entered on their transcripts. These Studio Art courses must be taken in at least three fields with three instructors. No credit may be transferred to the minor in Studio Art.
Note: Students are responsible for notifying the Office of the Registrar if they wish to have the minor either in Art History or Studio Art entered on their transcripts.
Major in Visual Art
This major is offered within the Studio Division of the Art Department. It allows individual students greater flexibility for pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the visual arts. Concentrations in this major permit students to study art within a particular social or historical context: urban studies, environmental studies, critical theory, museum studies, or art conservation. In addition this major can serve students wishing to pursue projects in the creative arts that may that may incorporate creative writing, theater, dance, music, performance art, or architectural design. The major may also be designed to accommodate students who wish to study more wide-ranging topics such as environmental aspects of art and/or architecture, art in the context of another discipline such as psychology, sociology, philosophy, critical or cultural studies, art and the law, arts management, multi-media work in computer science, music, or geology.
REQUIREMENTS OF THE VISUAL ART MAJOR
The Visual Arts major consists of 12 full courses or the equivalent. Students should be aware that 3 of the required 12 courses make up the Concentration for the Visual Arts Major and are taken outside of the Art Department. Students should therefore consult with an additional advisor in the appropriate department or program offering the coursework for this concentration. Students interested in this major must consult with members of the Studio Art division in the Art Department for further information.
A Visual Arts major must be grounded in Studio Art coursework. Seven courses must be within the Studio division of the Art Department, with an additional two in Art History. Of those 9 courses, students are required to take the following:
a. Two courses of “Materials and Methods”.
b. One “Introductory Level” course.
c. One “Problems [in: (Discipline): (Title)]” course.
d. Two courses in Art History, one of which must be in 19th-and/or 20th-century art, and one in an earlier field or “Approaches to Western Art”.
It is recommended that students interested in majoring in Studio Art take the 19th and 20th century course in Art History as early in their program as they can.
e. Two “Advanced Level” courses, composed of the capstone seminar (year-long course, involving both fall and spring semesters).
f. One additional course to be determined in consultation with her/his Studio Art advisor.
g. Three courses in the area of concentration outside the Art Department.
Only courses with a grade of C–/P or better may be counted toward the Visual Arts major.
Minor: There is no minor in Visual Art.
A grade of 5 on the AP exam in Art History may be transferred as one full course to the Oberlin transcript. However, the department offers no major credit, and no exemption from major requirements, for AP work in Art History. The Department offers no credit and no exemption for AP work in Studio Art.
Transfer of Credit/Major Credit for Off-Campus Study
The Art Department’s preliminary approval must be obtained before beginning work away from Oberlin if this work is to be counted as credit for the major. Students must receive tentative prior approval from the Chairperson of the Art Department before leaving campus. On return, students must supply both an official transcript and evidence of the nature of the work done. Such requests, as well as those of transfer students, will be handled on an individual basis. The department is not obliged to give credit for work that fails to fit the general patterns of the Oberlin curriculum or that fails to come up to Oberlin’s standards, no matter how valuable a student feels the experience has been, or how much time and effort has been expended.
Art History: No more than 3 full courses or the equivalent may be transferred to an Art History major, unless the courses were taken in an Oberlin-affiliated program. Students should submit transcripts, syllabi, class notes, term papers, and examinations in order to obtain final approval for credit.
Studio Art: No more than 3 full courses or the equivalent may be transferred to a Studio Art major. Students should submit transcripts and Syllabi to their advisors to obtain major credit for work completed at other accredited institutions.
Visual Arts: No more than 3 full courses or the equivalent of studio art may transfer towards this major.
Admission to the Honors Program is at the discretion of the department. There are two paths to honors in the Art Department, dependent on one’s major, Art History, Studio Art. The Visual Art major is a component of the Studio Art Program.
The Honors Program is intended to recognize the outstanding achievement of Art History majors. Students are afforded the opportunity to formulate a serious art-historical research agenda and learn the craft of carrying out independent and original work. The result is generally a substantial Honors Thesis of 30-40 double-spaced pages, which must meet high standards of intellectual rigor, imagination, and skill in research and presentation. Enrollment in the Honors Program requires a two-semester senior-year commitment and sustained work during Winter Term in the area of study.
Admission to Honors occurs during Spring semester of Junior year by invitation of the Art History faculty. We encourage students who are interested in pursuing Honors to discuss the details of the program and potential topics with any member of the Art History faculty. Faculty members are likewise urged to encourage qualified students to consider applying for Honors. A proposal must be submitted to the Art Department’s art history faculty by the instructor who will sponsor the Honors project by the end of the spring semester of the junior year. Students who are away from Oberlin in this semester may submit a proposal on the last Friday before orientation begins in the fall. Final credit will depend upon effective presentation of the results of such studies.
Studio Art and Visual Art majors may apply for honors using the following paths. Students must declare their interest in honors with their art department advisor, following which he or she may then approach a specific instructor whose interests coincide with the student’s. In most cases honors will take place within the context of the program capstone Senior Studio and Thesis. If the instructor agrees, the student collaborates with the instructor to develop a project proposal. This proposal must be submitted to the Art Department faculty by the instructor’(s) who will sponsor the Honors project before spring break of the junior year. Final honors credit will be dependent upon effective presentation of the results of such studies. There are other advanced course options for majors who do not take senior studio.
GLCA Arts Program in New York
The program consists of a semester of work, normally in the junior year, combining an internship in an artist’s studio, or one of a variety of other art-connected organizations and agencies, with a seminar in the arts of the city, and an independent study. Successful completion earns 15 hours of credit towards graduation; these credits cannot count as major credit towards any of the departmental majors.
Various Winter Term projects, including off-campus projects such as gallery or museum internships or studio assistantships with artists, and on-campus ones such as supervised individual or group research projects, are typically sponsored by members of the Art Department.
Preparation for Further Professional Study
Students interested in preparing for graduate studies in Studio Art, Museum Studies, and Art Conservation should consider the following programs of study:
- Studio Art. It is suggested that studio art majors who wish to prepare for graduate study leading to the MFA degree take as many studio courses as allowed and it is strongly recommended that they enroll in Senior Studio and Thesis. Many of the candidates competing for the limited number of placements in graduate schools will have received the BFA (studio) degree (not offered at Oberlin) and have earned a substantially higher number of studio credits than those required for the studio major at Oberlin.
- Museum Studies. Students wishing to pursue a museum career are advised to consult with the curatorial staff of the Allen Memorial Art Museum at their earliest convenience. There are both research and teaching opportunities as curatorial interns and docents available to interested and qualified students. Either an Art History or a Visual Arts major would provide suitable pre-graduate school preparation for this field. Knowledge of a relevant foreign language (French, German, Chinese, Japanese) is essential for museum curatorial work and helpful preparation for other areas of the museum profession, such as administration or education.
- Conservation of Art. It is suggested that students who wish to prepare for graduate study in Art Conservation fulfill the requirements for the BA with a major in either Art History, Visual Arts, or Studio Art. Most schools of conservation require between 18 to 21 hours of art history, between 8 and 15 hours of studio, and a portfolio. Additionally, most schools require: a reading knowledge of German, French or Italian, two classes in organic chemistry with labs, and an additional one or two science courses with labs. The following may also be useful: Physical Chemistry 309; GEOL 201 Mineralogy, PHYS 103-104 or PHYS 110, 111. For further information, consult with Mr. Inglis.
- Classical Archeology. Students interested in classical archeology as a profession should note the availability of a concentration in classical archeology within the Archeological Studies Major. For further information, see the separate listing under Archeological Studies above, or consult Ms. Kane in the Art Department.
Art History - Introductory Courses for a General Audience
Art History - 100-Level Courses
Art History - 200-Level Courses
Art History - 300-Level Lecture Courses
Courses require one 200-level course or an equivalent as a prerequisite.
Art History - 400 Level Seminars
Art History - 400 Level Advanced
The aim of all studio courses is to enhance students’ awareness of and sensitivity to the visual
arts through engaging in the actual intellectual and technical processes by which works of art
come into being. Students learn to perceive the world in visual terms and to conceptualize their
perceptions through their own work. They also become familiar with selected techniques of artmaking
and with examples of those techniques by significant artists through the study of the art
both past and present.
Students planning to complete their studies with the Bachelor’s degree in art should
recognize that the fine arts curriculum at Oberlin is designed primarily as an integral part of the
liberal arts program of the College, and not as specialized technical training. Studying art at
Oberlin does provide a solid foundation for students who wish to proceed into formal
professional training at the graduate level or to continue their development as artists on their own.
The purchase of textbooks is not usually required for studio courses. It is necessary for each
student to purchase expendable supplies as required and/or to pay a fee for expendable materials
supplied by the department. Students should realize that studio art practices can often be quite
The size and facilities of the department are limited. Therefore, it is impossible to offer work
in every field of student interest; however, credit can be arranged for off-campus study in areas
not available at Oberlin. A program of study must have the prior approval of the department. See
Introduction: Major or Minor Credit for Off-Campus Study.
Students absent from the first studio session in any course will be dropped from the
Introductory Gateway Courses for the Studio Art Major
Visual Concepts and Process Courses
Read the following course descriptions carefully.
The courses listed below are designed to
offer students an introduction to art by encountering a diverse range of concepts, attitudes, and
approaches through the direct “hands-on” procedure of exploring a wide variety of art media and
processes. General focus will be upon the disciplines specified in the course title suffix, but
coverage will not be limited to the conventional assumptions about these disciplines. These
courses may be repeated if taken with a different instructor.
Courses With Prerequisites or Consent of Instructor: “Problems in: (Discipline/Title)”
Material covered in these courses will correspond generally with the boundaries as specified in the course descriptions listed below. The instructors in each course will pay special attention to the individual requirements of each student. Courses in this sequence may be elected more than once. These courses may be taken only by consent of the instructor.
Senior Studio and Thesis
Visual Arts and Studio Arts majors are strongly urged to apply for the
Senior Studio and Thesis (SST) course. Admittance to SST, a
one-year production/seminar course, is by portfolio only. Students
interested in Senior Studio and Thesis are strongly encouraged
to take at least one course with at least four different studio
instructors before enrolling in Senior Studio and Thesis. In
order to adequately prepare for admittance to SST, students must
consult their Art Department advisor in the first semester of their
junior year. Applications are available in the Art Department