Art History

Art history examines visual culture from the ancient world to today in a historical and socio-economic context. It draws upon many fields, across many time periods and places. Art historians analyze materials, organize ideas, and write and speak persuasively about representational issues.

Why Choose Art History?

Access to Art

Where better to study than in one of the greatest art centers in the world: New York City. Whether you are looking for an internship or inspiration on a personal project, you will have access to world-class museums and galleries including:

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Guggenheim Museum
  • The Museum of Modern Art
  • The International Center of Photography
  • Chelsea and Brooklyn galleries
  • The Whitney Museum
  • The Morgan Library & Museum
  • The New Museum of Contemporary Art
  • The Brooklyn Museum

The Community on Campus

There is also a growing art presence on campus that you can be a part of. A great place to start is in the Performing Arts & Visual Culture residence community. You will live in a residence hall with other students who enjoy the arts and get to know the community’s faculty adviser. As a group, you will visit galleries and art studios, enjoy on-campus art workshops and talk about what interests you.

Professional Opportunities

You can turn your passion for art into a profession. Being able to study and interpret images is a valuable skill in every subject area. Employers are in need of people who can write and speak persuasively about how things are visually represented. A minor in art history is also a great option if your major is English, psychology, communication, modern languages, philosophy, history, sociology, marketing or even civil engineering.

  • Meet an Art History Major: Laureta Ismailaj
    Art History Major Student

    “I came to America from Albania back in 2000. I started at Parsons School of Design and graduated with a degree in fashion design. [Later on], I was looking to go back to school and I was thinking to go back to Parsons, but I found Manhattan College, which is nearby where I live. I was torn between these two decisions — should I go to Parsons or should I go to Manhattan College? I started at Manhattan College and I found myself filling in the gaps I had from the past. Back in Europe, I had studied history of art, but not in this depth and detail. We learned things by practicing. We had to go to museums and study a specific artist and a specific event. The art department at Manhattan College isn’t big, but its professors are amazing and fully equipped with knowledge. They’re kind of like a second family for me — it’s gotten to that point. The Parsons idea was gone forever after that.

    "This semester, under the instruction of Dr. Pottinger, chair of the visual and performing arts department, and with the help of two other amazing professors, Dr. Savoy and Dr. Lerer, and Amy Surak at the library, we organized my first exhibition at the O’Malley Library. To prepare, I worked closely with Dr. Savoy and Dr. Lerer and went over what works were going to be displayed. We brought together everything from my sketches to the most advanced 3D digital media.

    "The exhibit has a story behind it. It’s about what we learn in our society and how it’s connected to nature, how women in nature are oppressed, how we somehow still face gender inequality in our society. Also, environmental issues have always been important to me since I was a little girl, actually. I was always connected to the beauty of nature. So, some of my artwork is related to environmental issues. They are very simple works, but they make a big statement.

    "After I graduate, I would love to be more involved in an organization that deals with environmental issues, to help through art. My choice may be between an environmental organization and going back into something like design. I ran my own business for a couple years and I’m ready to introduce more eco-friendly materials into fashion design if I can.”

What Will You Learn?

As an art history major, you will:

  • Research history
  • Develop a visual vocabulary
  • Analyze writing and visual images
  • Organize ideas
  • Interpret what you observe
  • Graduate prepared for a variety of careers that use writing and visual analysis

Art history is also offered as a minor.

See degree requirements

What Will You Do?

Studying art history gives you the chance to pursue art in many creative contexts. It also boosts the skills needed for a career in education or business.

My professors [at RIT] make reference to a lot of buildings that I already know because of my knowledge in art history, and I am able to incorporate the styles I’ve learned about into my designs. After RIT, I plan to come back to New York City and become a licensed architect, to practice and follow the path Manhattan College inspired me to follow.

Andrea Stylianou ’14, master's student at Rochester Institute of Technology