Art and Art History: Allies in the Liberal Arts
At Transylvania, we believe that through making art and through critical thinking and writing, we better understand ourselves as we more thoughtfully contribute to our communities, both local and global. This is art’s place in the liberal arts.
Studio art and art history are firmly allied at Transylvania. Art majors take art history and art historians take studio classes. All five faculty members—three in studio and two in art history—consult one another in the construction of these two majors. Majors and minors in the two areas collaborate in a variety of ways—in studios and classrooms and in the student art club Wet Paint; in the college snack bars and on trips to museums and galleries. Also, majors will travel together, at least once in their college careers —to New York or Los Angeles or Washington, DC or Chicago—on the annual art trip. The trip is subsidized by a university endowment.
Both majors, though in different ways, are linked to the broader goals of Transylvania’s liberal arts curriculum. Art historians become visually literate, understanding how art is shaped by social, intellectual, and political contexts. The history of European and US and Asian art and architecture, together, practice critical/analytical thinking in seminar discussions and guided research papers. Similarly, in the studios, our artists become visually literate, understanding visual form by making art that is grounded in theory and culture. In fact, every studio critique requires student artists to explain the personal and contextual reasons for their work. Together, these majors are designed as processes—ways of making and thinking—that allow experimentation and critical reflection.
Studio Art and Art History contribute to the liberal arts at Transylvania by providing distinctive ways of asking questions and proposing answers; they open the way for students in other programs to follow new paths in problem solving. Certainly, the other programs in the liberal arts inform art and art history. We encourage our majors to take languages (and to study abroad); to take allied courses in history, anthropology, literature, religion and philosophy; and in the sciences and social sciences.
An ongoing and evolving series of interdisciplinary courses pair art with other disciplines—literature, philosophy, physics and theatre—and with non-academic community and professional partners. These courses all generate creative and scholarly responses to particular topics. This expansive role for engaging creative practice is at the heart of Transylvania’s liberal arts mission of public engagement.
In the end, our students find careers using skills and ways of thinking in the fields of art, art history, and architecture. And because these majors are integrated into the broader liberal arts community, they can, and often do, become gateways to careers and graduate schools in other fields.