In response to a Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) survey conducted in the previous school year, the Art History Department has decided to offer an art history minor that will tentatively begin next semester.
According to the results of the survey, 25 students expressed interest in art history but were not interested in declaring it as a major. Art History Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and Art History Joseph Siry stated that the survey kickstarted the discussion of a minor.
“[The survey] got us thinking about how [a minor] would be structured,” said Siry. “It would have to have a fewer number of courses than a major and a slightly different set of requirements.”
The art history faculty held meetings in April and May and unanimously voted to proceed with a minor. Meeting again in September, the group approved the idea by a vote of 7-0-1.
“The current Art History major provides an excellent and rigorous survey of visual culture from both historical and stylistic points of view,” wrote Dean of the Arts and Humanities Andrew Curran in an email to The Argus. “It is a very strong major. In my opinion, the new Art History minor will allow students majoring in other subjects—but who nonetheless have a real interest in art, design, painting, sculpture, and photography etc.—to move past taking a couple of classes in the department and undertake a more in-depth study of the subject.”
In order for the minor to gain approval, Associate Professor of Art History and Art History Program Director Katherine Kuenzli created a proposal to send to the Educational Policy Committee. The minor was approved on Nov. 18 and is currently being sent to the Registrar.
“We hope in general that the minor will further integrate art history into the liberal arts education,” said Kuenzli. “Art history is one of the fields you usually encounter in an academic setting for the first time in college. Often students encounter it on a whim, and often then it is too late for them to declare the major. This is here to allow students to take an interdisciplinary approach to humanities and allow art history to be part of that.”
The proposal discusses the purposes behind creating the new minor.
“Our motivation for creating a minor is to reach students who discover art history later in their college career and/or who would like to incorporate the study of artworks and architecture into their work in other disciplines,” the proposal reads.
The proposal also mentions that establishing a minor provides an alternative path for students to engage in art history courses.
“Non-majors applying to graduate school in the humanities or to jobs in arts-related fields after graduation have repeatedly expressed an interest in having art history appear on their transcript in ways that go beyond a mere listing of individual courses,” the proposal reads.
Siry added that there are several students who are engaged in the subject but have other interests and commitments in their major fields.
“The thought in our minds is that it might fulfill an educational aim for students who have some interest in art history,” he said.
Curran added that this minor will attract students who enjoy art and art history but have been unsure about what classes would be best to take.
In order to complete the minor, students will be required to take six art history credits. These requirements include the completion of a 100-level course, as well as five courses numbered 200 or above. The courses must include four of the five areas—classical, medieval, Renaissance/Baroque, modern, and non-western—and one of the five courses must be a seminar.
To avoid discrepancies between the Art History major and minor, no courses numbered 401 or higher will count toward the minor, and the study of a foreign language through the intermediate level is not required.
Students who choose to complete this minor will not be required to have an official minor adviser, but all of the full-time members of the Art History faculty will take part in advising students as needed.
“I think there is a general support among [students] and Art History faculty,” Kuenzli said. “Our main concern is that it would take away from the major and that our majors may downgrade to the minor. But in the end, we thought it might have the opposite effect. Instead, the minors might like it so much that they might upgrade to the major.”
The Art History Program will hold an open house in February to introduce the minor to interested and prospective students.
“This new idea is to open a door and create an option that seemed to be in sustained demand,” Siry said. “We hope it will serve a good purpose educationally.”