Interview with an Art History Major
Listen as Stuart Deets (BA 2018), an Art History major and active member of the Art History Society was interviewed earlier this summer as part of the Chazen Ambassadors program. To read more about it and hear the interview, go to "Radio Chipstone" http://wuwm.com/post/radio-chipstone-making-art-accessible#stream/0.
|"The UW Madison Art History faculty and advisors are among the most helpful and caring
individuals I have encountered in my educational career; they clearly want their students to
succeed and go out of their way to help them do so. Potential majors need to know that they
can feel confident in their choice to pursue a degree in Art History because they will be gaining
extremely valuable skills that cannot be taught as effectively in any other major."
"The discipline of Art History arms its students with skills that are applicable beyond it. In the
broadest sense, we develop a knowledge base about cultures around the world and across time
as we study their material artifacts."
"While a multitude of majors prepare their students with a strict set of skills directing them at a
single profession, Art History allows students a broader cultural knowledge and understanding
that can be applied and transferred throughout a number of professions."
"The valuable skills [learned in class] make evident that Art History majors do not simply look at
pictures all day and can in fact, be appealing to employers who want highly visual and creative
thinkers. Working in museums or teaching the field is not the only option for Art History
graduates. I plan to utilize the skills I have gained from my Art History degree to work in a
creative work environment—whether it is related to an art or fashion magazine, blogging,
graphic design, advertising, buying, etc. There is no “dead-end” to the Art History major; the
possibilities are rather diverse and endless compared to other linear fields of study. At the
undergraduate level, I consider it rare for students to know and choose exactly what they want
to do for the rest of their lives. Therefore, I believe that the undergraduate level is meant for
students to explore and discover their passions, strengths and weaknesses, while enhancing the
essential skills they will need in the next stages of their professional lives."
"My studies in Art History have been an integral part of my work experience [in the Chazen
Museum of Art]. I am now able to place pieces from the collection in an art historical context,
which is crucial to my job. When I began working at the museum, I struggled to keep up with
the typical discourse in any given day, whereas now I am able not only to tread water in the sea
of artists, movements, and mediums, but also to participate actively in the discussions of my
colleagues. I am also able to make connections across ages and cultures, having a foundation in
our survey courses and a breadth from our elective courses. In a museum setting, I can look at
an Impressionist piece and tie it into my knowledge of Japanese prints. From my upper-level
course work in the major, I am able to take those initial, cursory connections and research them
thoroughly. Art History has trained me to skillfully use databases, primary sources, literature,
criticism, and scholarship, to integrate all of these sources in my own voice and use them to
articulately support an argument. I hope to use these skills in exhibition catalogues, gallery
talks, wall labels, database entries, and general scholarship. I can also use these skills when
talking to donors; I can someday argue for the art historical importance of a work that should
be acquired for the collection, or speak generally to donors and the art community at museum
|"Art History students gain a broad and critically examined world-view, develop an eye for detail,
and learn how to conduct thorough and meaningful research."
"Importantly, we learn how to identify our own biases that emerge when we are analyzing
"One of the most valuable skills I’ve acquired through being an art history major is learning
emotional intelligence [which] leads us to become more empathetic towards others and more
effective as communicators. Engaging with art and its history teaches us to learn how people
"Art has the potential to place one within a different society, a different time period, and a
different mindset through its rich, sensory representation of different facets of history."
"Art History as a field above all creates better, more informed people who are citizens of the
world. By establishing a cross cultural and interdisciplinary dialogue, it encourages and inspires
"[For a] lifelong enthusiast of history and yet previous jaded student of academic history, Art
History provides insight that history, history of sciences and social sciences in general are
critically missing.[This is because] Art History is a "eureka" of heuristics, a unique and fruitful
approach via understanding history through art; and, secondly, that the multimedia nature of
Art History pedagogy lends itself to great insight and value. I feel that multimedia competence
in today's circumstances, though it will require knowledge of contemporary cultures, modes,
institutions and developments, also must critically be informed by an historical
understanding….Art History is a superlative way of not only developing multimedia skills in
general (as skills developed through art criticism and analysis of historical forms do have
transference to new forms, i.e. multimedia) but of filling this very important gap of "heritage"
"Not only does art history create context for the art that I see, but it also helps me to humanize
the world. What I knew of faraway places was limited to what I saw in tourist books or popular
culture. Art history allows me to look at the works of a region and open a window to its people
and their reactions, feelings, and comments on historical developments. …"
"[As a double major in Art History and Neurobiology] being an Art History student has greatly
improved my critical analysis and reading comprehension skills. I have come to discover that
scientific journals and Art History journals both employ the same research methodology.
Scientists and Art Historians both have to formulate a study question, create a hypothesis,
delve into existing research or conduct an experiment, and come to a conclusion regarding their
initial ideas. Therefore, it became evident that my science and Art History backgrounds may
have similar roots and complemented each other."
"Learning art history teaches us to become more flexible and open thinkers. Everyone is
encouraged to think critically and flexibly about the content we are discussing.
Another important aspect of art historical learning, is that there is no one right answer.
Discussions and arguments can go on forever, and the multiple interpretations that evolve from
these discussions improve communication and emotional intelligence skills."
"A flexible and empathetic mode of thinking can be very beneficial when working towards your career. This type of creative thinking will work towards your advantage in your job and make you a valuable employee."
"Art History students will never be content with basic, ostensible explanations, and will delve
deeper into subjects through critical analysis and strong argumentative skills. An individual
studying this subject knows there is no limit to what can be discovered and experienced within
"Students must develop excellent attention to detail in order to succeed. … Research in Art
History must meet especially high standards because it attempts to argue subtle,
interpretation-based points that may never be conclusively proven or disproven. Thus,
convincing interpretation of concrete, credible evidence is crucial."
"Art History gives you the skills to assess any situation and persuade an audience. This skill is
universally applicable and reaches far beyond the realm of art or art analysis. My mother was
an Art History major and went on to become a lawyer; my father was an art history major… for
a year and a half, then left school to start his own company."
"First and foremost, the study of Art History hinges upon the ability to think critically. In
practicing the discipline, one learns the skill of close looking by developing an eye for detail. For
example, assignments such as formal analyses and research papers are predicated upon
identifying the most salient points in a work, visually, historically, and culturally. Learning to see
both the composite parts and the “whole” entails active participation in-class as well as out."
"I also gained immensely valuable rhetorical and communication skills, in both written and
verbal forms. I have learned to make effective arguments based on evidence, and present my
findings in a coherent manner."
"Art History teaches you a set of skills that are applicable on an everyday basis in the real world. Skills like persuasive writing, critical thinking, and careful analysis are among the most useful skills learned as an art history major. Let’s talk about writing for a moment. I have been writing for the majority of my college career and was firmly under the assumption that writing was a skill that everyone had. … Well, apparently this is not as universal of an idea as I thought."
"The study of Art History cannot exist without collaboration and open-mindedness.
Interpretations and outside applications make Art History a reality, requiring that one is willing
to listen and apply different forms of analysis."
"I personally like to emphasize the skill of attention to detail as something that is highly
important within the field of art history. Art history without a doubt provides this skill to its
students or in most cases, strengthens this skill in those that already possess it. I like to think of
attention to detail in art history like a “Where’s Waldo?” book, except in the case of works of
art, you don’t always know who or rather what you’re specifically looking for; a red-and- white
striped Waldo doesn’t exist in art history. It is up to the creative mind of the individual to come
up with their interpretation of a particular detail of a painting, most often details that
otherwise would be missed if not for the act of close looking. Attention to detail is, as you can
imagine, applicable in a variety of tasks throughout life, in addition to the field of art history.
Details are important when scheduling trips, completing your taxes, or even baking.
Throughout life, we are faced with dealing with complex issues and processing them through
the details from careful observation."
"One of the most valuable and fascinating aspects of the Art History major is its ability to be
interdisciplinary. The artworks studied in classes and discussions provide access to not only the
mind of the artist himself or herself, but also open a portal into the society and culture in which
it was created. Thus, interplay between fields such as politics, economics, science, and
psychology can be seen in various pieces."
"One vastly important skill acquired from Art History that is necessary in any field is the skill of
having a multidisciplinary lens through which to observe and think. When majors and art
historians are crafting an argument about a piece of art, they have to think about: the politics,
the religious climate, science, gender roles, literature, race relations, social hierarchy,
technology, and functionality that occurred in context with the creation of the piece. Knowing
and comprehending how one image/sculpture/etc can form from all of those aspects and how
it can affect them is valuable for understanding the importance and influence art and the idea
behind it can have on a society."