Art History Major Course Descriptions

The art history major introduces students to foundational and contemporary global art movements and theories, while integrating the research methods, critical writing and visual analysis skills necessary in studying the history of art and visual culture. Specialized electives led by faculty experts and covering diverse periods, geographical locations, and topics encourage a deeper engagement with the student’s particular areas of interest. Professional development courses and topics are integrated into the curriculum to prepare students for advanced degrees and/or careers in the visual arts.

Curious About a Career in Art?

Contact Rachel Brown,
Program Manager for
AUC Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective and an avid photographer.

Art History

Art History Major Course Descriptions

Foundational Courses – Students are introduced to art historical movements

SAVC 141 Ways of Seeing: Pyramids to Cathedrals
This course examines the art and architecture of the ancient world, focusing on Egypt, the Near East, and the Classical Greek and Roman world and Europe from about 2000 BCE to CE 1400. It also studies African and Asian art traditions that emerged during that period.

SAVC 142 Ways of Seeing: Medieval to Modern Art
This course explores the visual arts from the fourteenth century to the twentieth century (from the Medieval period to the Modern era). Students are taught about works of art in the social, political, religious, and philosophical realms as well as in the very personal contexts that gave these objects meaning for their original audiences.

SAVC 230 Global Foundations of Modern Art
This course begins with the premise that the history of European and American modern art, which arose out of 17th-century Enlightenment ideals, is incomplete without an examination of the African, Oceanic, Indigenous and other global influences that prompted the Impressionists to emulate Japanese woodblock prints and catalyzed Picasso and Braque’s exploration of Cubism in the early 20th century.

SAVC 243 African American Art
This survey examines multiple forms of visual art production by African Americans from 1619 to the present. It begins with an overview of the Middle Passage and slavery in relation to African American traditions in the decorative arts, architecture and archaeology through the end of the eighteenth century. Nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century topics demonstrate how printmaking, photography, drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and time-based media engage both art historical movements and historical trajectories of freedom, civil rights and social change.

Practice – Students deepen their writing and research skills

SAVC 255 Writing in Art History
This course focuses on writing for declared or potential art history majors. Students develop strong writing skills through close analysis of key art historical texts. They are taught to strengthen essential skills required in the discipline of art history, including archival research techniques and critical analysis based on visual and written evidence.

SAVC 320 Framing Art Histories
This foundational theory and methods course explores the practices and methods of the discipline of art history. Students investigate key questions, interpretative approaches, institutional structures and modes of dissemination that define the study of art history.

Elective Courses – Students expand their knowledge of art and art history
Sample Electives:

SAVC 234 Contemporary Senegalese Society and Culture
An overview of Senegalese society and culture, through its artistic and literary heritage within a global context. Using interdisciplinary perspectives, it explores aspects of Senegalese society that reflect the transmission of socio-cultural values or loss thereof, despite stressed social rules and norms.

SAVC 249 The Black Female Body in the Visual Arts
Focuses on the history and discourses of the black female body as figure of representation, sexuality, resistance, agency and identity in American visual culture. Organized thematically, with examples drawn from painting, sculpture, photography, film, popular culture and mixed media installations - from the antebellum era to present day.

SAVC 272 - 01 History of Photography
This course surveys the history of photography from its invention in the early 19th century to its present day application. Photography’s multiple histories: as artistic medium, as social text, as scientific technology, and as a cultural practice will be explored. Through lectures, discussions and field trips, students will be introduced to various technical processes, the camera’s evolution, and the vocabulary and issues of photographic theory and criticism.

SAVC 280 Innovation, Technology & Art I
This course teaches the basic skills of tools used in the Innovation Lab. Students research and discuss various tools and methods that artists have used to create their work. Students also create their own works by utilizing tools such as 3D scanning, 3D modeling, 3D Printing, and laser cutting in combination with various other digital and mechanical practices to pioneer new ways of creating objects.

SAVC 302 Satire in Africa & the African Diaspora
Explores manifestations of satires in the visual arts of Africa and its Diasporas. Topics to be examined include: satires that subvert gender, racial, or sexuality bias; satires that challenge hierarchies of artistic representation; and satires that address local, national, or global environmental concerns.

SAVC 303 Installation Art
Installation Art is a studio course where students explore this expansive form of art making with a focus on mixed media sculpture, site specificity and content. Students will produce original works through an understanding of issues, methods and ideas through the lens of current practices in contemporary art.

SAVC 305 Seminar in Curatorial Practice
This course introduces curatorial methodologies and strategies for developing a broad range of exhibitions (monographic, thematic and permanent collection shows, media-based and interactive projects, etc.). It examines how museums produce knowledge, considering the ways in which art history and visual culture studies have been informed by museum collection and display policies. This course is designed for students who are curious about curatorial projects and curating practices.

SAVC 306 Mining the Museum
This course positions museums as dynamic, changing, non-neutral spaces that should be respected as extraordinary cultural assets, that should be enjoyed and challenged, critiqued, and scrutinized. This course focuses on seminal exhibitions that inform current perceptions of and interactions with museums. Using exhibitions and works from the permanent collections of AUC institutions as case studies, this course examines the role of institutions, curators, and other museum professionals.

SAVC 312 Africa, Antiquity & Contemporary Expressions
This introductory level course surveys the arts of Africa, from ancient times to today, highlighting the art of ancient African cities and kingdoms to contemporary art of urban centers. Students are introduced to the work of internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, who have emerged from colonial and postcolonial African contexts since the 1950s, to consider how colonialism, political independence, Pan-Africanism, and other socio-political forces shape the artistic practices of artists of Africa and the African Diaspora.

SAVC 315 Contemporary Art Making Strategies
This class explores contemporary art making strategies employed by visual artists. Through assignments, critical readings, class discussions and critiques, students will utilize past technical artistic skills, thoughtful experimentation and critical thinking skills to create and develop new working methods with art making. The topic of this course will rotate each semester. (Topics may include: Ecology, The Body, The Archive, and Materiality).

SAVC 317  The Black Arts Movement: Art, Music, Literature and Film
Examines the art, music, literature and film of the Black Arts Movement (1965-1972), and explosive cultural flourishing that emerged in the United States in the wake of the African liberation and decolonization movements in the 1950s and 1960s as well as the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the same period.

SAVC 325  African American Cinema
Looks at the history of African American filmmaking from the perspective of directors, actors, studios and audiences. Students will study works of pioneering black filmmakers from Oscar Micheaux to Julie Dash.

SAVC 355 Contemporary African Diaspora Art
This seminar considers the work of artists who trace a visual genealogy of the African Diaspora through archival practices and memory work. It examines traditional art forms including painting, sculpture and printmaking as well as the contemporary art practices of photography, installation, film, video and performance.

SAVC 365 Black Pacific Art
Black Pacific connections in culture and literature can be found on both sides of the world’s largest ocean. Scholars have traced these linkages between African American culture and Oceania as well as Asia Pacific. This seminar explores Black Pacific art and its relationship to Black Atlantic art while teaching critical reading, thinking and writing skills.

SAVC 383 Slavery and Visual Culture
Examines the visual culture of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade from the 16th century to the present. Lectures present artifacts, prints, paintings, photographs, sculpture, film and installation art that images the history of slavery and its profound contemporary resonance. Students will study art and artifacts in the AUC museums and libraries. Field trip to nearby anti-slavery sites of memory as well as contemporary memorials.

SAVC 387 The Art Market
This course examines the history of the art market from the 16th century to the present. Students examine the production, sale and exchange of works of art as well as the patrons, artists and collectors who participate in this economic, social and political form of taste-making and aesthetic valuation.

SAVC 435 Theory and Criticism in Exhibition Practice
This advanced seminar explores the ways in which our contemporary understanding of art, history and culture is constructed and informed by public display in museums, galleries and the global landscape. Using a series of case studies, it considers issues of representation, display, reception, and wider social contexts in which art and culture are experienced in museums and public spaces.

Personal Practice and Career Building – Students prepare for a real world usage of skills

SAVC 375 Rules of Engagement
Rules of Engagement provides a basic introduction to the topics and individuals that shape and inform curatorial practice. Through roundtable discussions, structured classroom exercises, field trips, and workshops with a variety of arts professionals, students will discuss and analyze the challenges, limits, rules, and opportunities that have historically informed curatorial practice.

SAVC 480 Art History Thesis
The Art History Thesis is required for all Spelman College graduating seniors and is intended to serve as a “capstone” experience. This course gives students an opportunity to conduct supervised research and adapt to the rigors of study in the field of art history. Students should complete all of their major core requirements before enrolling in this course. The student and professor devise a meeting and writing schedule culminating in a written presentation of an art history research thesis.

SAVC (various) Division of the Arts Seminar
This required seminar-style course is designed to bring together all majors in the Division of the Arts (Art & Visual Culture, Dance, Music, and Theater & Performance) to engage in dialogue and critical thinking related to contemporary art practices, art and technical innovations, and the creative economy. The seminar is intended as a forum to support future collaborations for projects leading up to and including the final thesis project in the senior year.

Study Abroad [Global Experience], Internships & Directed/Independent Studies are strongly encouraged.

*see the department for information on electives

Through the ARCHE Program, the department also offers opportunities for study at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Georgia State University, Agnes Scott College, Emory University, University of Georgia, and several other visual arts programs throughout the state university system.

More Information

Please contact Rachel Brown, Program Manager, AUC Collective for the Study of Art History and Curatorial Studies |, 404-270-4121.