Visual Arts and Art History

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Visual Arts and Art History Overview

The visual arts major with an art history concentration combines the advantages of a small school with the perks of being in a city with a vibrant arts scene, including traditional museums and experimental spaces. You will enjoy working in small, intimate classes with a dynamic faculty that is well-recognized in the local, national, and international community, learning how to assimilate, understand, research, and critique works of art from pre-history to our rapidly changing global contemporary context.

Degrees Offered
  • BA
Program School

Chatham prides itself on its close relationship with Pittsburgh art institutions and museum and gallery professionals. The opportunities this provides for our students are immeasurable and include direct access to important works of art, events, internships, and other pre-professional prospects.

—ELISABETH ROARK, Ph.D., associate professor of art

Alumna Profile: Meg Scanlon ‘16

While it’s rare to know where in the world Meg Scanlon is—she moves quickly and plans ahead—she is never far from an art museum.

Explore the Visual Arts Degree with Art History Concentration:

As part of our liberal arts focus, we embrace innovation and a student-centered approach, resulting in a flexible, interdisciplinary program that integrates new technology and practical experience with history, theory, and self-exploration.

  • All students complete a capstone seminar that channels the knowledge they’ve accumulated into a discipline-specific project under close faculty guidance. Chatham is one of the few universities across the country that offers such an independent and student-driven program.
  • Chatham is walking distance to many of Pittsburgh’s best loved arts institutions and organizations, including the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Carnegie Music Hall, and Frick Art and Historical Center.
  • Through a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, you may qualify to obtain a bachelor’s degree in visual arts and a master’s degree in arts management with only one additional year of study.

American Art: Colonial to 1900

This course examines the ways in which artists represented “America.” Beginning with the Colonial era, we explore selected themes and issues in American art to 1900. Emphasis is placed on how the works of art can help us understand our history, how studying that history provides a deeper understanding of the works of art, and how art worked to create diverse national identities.

Art + Land: Artists Engage the Environment

Building on Chatham’s commitment to sustainability, this course examines human engagement with nature and the landscape through the visual arts, from the Renaissance to contemporary times. Particular attention is paid to the development of landscape painting and photography, Land Art of the 1970s, and artists who work sustainably today.

Curating African Art and Artifacts

This course explores the rich diversity of art across sub-Sahara Africa from the Paleolithic era to today. It focuses on cultures from West, Central, and East Africa to complement the holdings of the University’s outstanding Olkes Collection of African Art, which includes more than 600 objects. Class lecture, discussion, and student projects use works from the collection, resulting in a student-prepared exhibition of the Olkes Collection in the Susan Bergman Gurrentz ’56 Art Gallery.

View Full Curriculum

Our Faculty

If one word could best sum up Chatham's faculty, it would be engaged. Professors bring experiences to relate the course lessons to real-world situations.

Full Faculty
Prajna Paramita Parasher
Professor, Chair, Arts, Design and Communication and Program Director, Film and Digital Technology and Interdisciplinary Design

Museum Studies Minor

The museum studies minor provides students with the skills, experiences, and specific professional knowledge necessary to work in the museum field. The minor balances history and theory with practical experience designing and installing exhibitions and preparing educational programming. Students interact with museum and gallery professionals through frequent field trips to local and regional museums.

The Olkes Collection of African Art

The Olkes Collection of African Art provides students with hands-on experience, with over 600 works of African Art that include sculpture, masks, fabric beading, weaving, and domestic objects.

The Susan Bergman Gurrentz ’56 Art Gallery

The Susan Bergman Gurrentz ’56 Art Gallery is a flexible space that features work by students and faculty, local and national artists, and also student-curated exhibitions.

Eclectic Collections On Hand

In addition to the Olkes Collection, Chatham has an eclectic collection of painting, sculpture, photography, and prints to which students have hands-on access and the opportunity to produce original scholarhip. Works of art in the collection by locally- and nationally-known artists date from the late eighteenth century to the present day.

Smart Classrooms

Chatham provides “smart” classrooms for art history classes and subscribes to the ArtStor Digital Image Library for use in class and for student research.