Why Study Art, Art History and/or Visual and Media Studies?

Modern culture is a visual culture, of images from the popular media -- advertising, photography, television, film and video -- to professional contexts -- the courtroom, the hospital, the lecture hall. From fractal theory in the sciences to computer imaging, visual competence and media literacy is central to critical thinking in the twenty-first century. The historical study of art, architecture and visual and media culture provides the understanding and the language necessary for analyzing space and images and recognizing their social impact. The making of art develops the ability to think visually and resolve spatial problems, at the same time that it involves the resonant satisfactions of creativity.

Art History is interdisciplinary. It involves the student in the culture, languages, politics and economics of the period in which the work was produced, as well as in its literature and religion. As in other fields of the Humanities, students are given the opportunity to develop their ability to formulate ideas orally and in writing. But in the study and criticism of structures and images, students refine their powers of gathering information visually as well as verbally. As a consequence of the historical and critical training involved in the study of Art History, majors are well-prepared for careers in any of the professions.

A passion for the visual artifact resides at the core of successful work in the history or practice of art, and both Art History and Studio training provide current and practical experience in the development and creative resolution of new ideas and their visual expression. In addition to the pleasure of a new awareness of the visual environment, these disciplines offer a new and compelling way to think and debate, and new perspectives on the past and present.

Careers for Art, Art History and/or Visual and Media Studies Majors

Because of its emphasis on precise observation, description, and clear expression, majoring in Art, Art History and/or Visual and Media Studies provides an excellent preparation for a wide range of careers. Our majors pursue graduate degrees in Art History as preparation for careers in teaching and museums. Some Visual Arts majors earn Masters of Fine Arts and become practicing artists. A number of students have become architects, urban planners, or landscape architects. Some have been able to combine their interests in art with other professions; they specialize as legal advisors to museums, dealers, or private and corporate collectors. Others become involved in arts management for private, local, or federal agencies, or they serve as consultants who advise individuals and businesses in purchasing art collections. A number of former students have also received further training for careers in restoration and conservation, as well as architectural preservation. Many have gone into careers in medicine, law, and business.

There are opportunities to gain experience in some of these professions even before graduation. Internships have been available at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh. A number of students have also arranged for internships in galleries and museums during the summer. Since a career in teaching or in a museum presupposes a love of research, students with a strong academic record are encouraged to apply for a number of fellowship possibilities that offer the opportunity for study abroad, such as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright fellowships. Both Art History and Visual Arts majors are encouraged to apply for a Benenson Prize to support a project they want to pursue.

For more information, see Undergraduate Resources.

Fra Agnello Stoia, prior of the Franciscan convent of San Francesco a Folloni, Montello, Italy, returned to Duke to work with a group of Duke students on the digital visualization of his abbey.  This project started as part of the "Wired!" class in Spring 2009, and resulted in a historical analysis of the sequence of buildings at the site.

The project, produced by students Michal Koszycki and Rebecca Wood with student research funds from the Visual Studies Initiative and Trinity College, is going to be translated into Italian and on view in the convent's museum.