The visual arts have always been an important part of human culture. Individual expression, the shaping of cultural values and the creation of beauty have been among the traditional functions of art. Artists invest objects with meaning through processes that are themselves significant. When objects become part of the larger culture, artists and audiences interact with each other and with the world around them in ways that are aesthetically and intellectually enhanced. The arts ask us to see more clearly, think more deeply and respond with greater passion to the realities of human existence.
Integral to a liberal arts education, study of the arts encourages critical thinking, self-reflection, personal growth and the mastery of a variety of creative, intellectual and technical skills. In both art and art history courses, students gain abilities and confidence to conceive, analyze and understand works of art in a variety of forms and to pursue lifelong learning in the arts. Art courses encourage individual creativity, provide a foundation of skills to enable artists to create objects or performances of lasting significance, and challenge students to new critical awareness. Skills of analysis, critical thinking and writing, and a grounding in historical and cultural contexts form the basis of the study of art history. Drawing upon archaeology, religious studies, social history, contemporary critical theory and other fields of knowledge, art history helps students realize relationships between art and life.
Majors choose either a bachelor of arts degree (B.A.) in art or art history or a bachelor of fine arts degree (B.F.A.) in art. The B.A. in art provides a broad grounding in major studio areas including drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, computer art, video and photography. Students who wish to do more intense and focused work in art may apply for the B.F.A. program. The B.F.A. is recommended for students who will pursue graduate work in art and/or a career in the arts. Students who pursue a B.A. in art history develop research, writing, verbal and critical skills preparatory for graduate studies or careers in a variety of arenas. Art and art history majors regularly add a second major preparatory to a wide array of careers. For example, students may combine majors in art and psychology as part of their preparation for careers in art therapy. Students may choose a minor in either art or art history.