I was thinking about where I was just one year ago, a high school senior beyond anxious while awaiting college decisions, and realized that it’s probably best to just explain it as you’re all probably feeling right now: I just want to know already!! Well, very soon, you’ll have received all of your decisions and be faced with an even bigger dilemma: Where do I want to go? While I may not have the answer, although I do have a suggestion (see: Hopkins), and while we’re on the theme of “just wanting to know,” I thought I’d explain “all you need to know” about one of the best parts about Hopkins: art history. Since coming to Hopkins in the fall with the expectation that being an art history major here is so out-of-the-ordinary, and now feeling completely the opposite, I thought that I should write a blog solely about what it’s like studying the history of art at a school like Hopkins for those of you who may have the same doubts that I had.
So I may have just lost at least half of my readers – I mean art history, who wants to study that, let alone read a blog about it? – so if you’re one the valiant readers continuing, you’re most likely my hero. Why? Because you’re interested in art history! And even better than that, you’ve realized that Hopkins is one of the best places to do that. Why, you may ask? Well, here we go:
And P.S., as added incentive, we’re going to go delve back in time to my awkward teenage days taking pictures with art.
Whether your interest is in research, art theory, or museology, Hopkins lets us art history majors take the classes that match our ambitions in the field. At the end of this semester after having taken just the two introductory art history courses, I’ll have written four papers – two visual analyses and two academic research papers – which is not only necessary when applying to internships but exposes you to the more research-focused side of art history. A lot of the art history classes are labeled as “writing intensive,” so if you enjoy digging deep into certain issues in the history of art, something I’ve found to be surprisingly rewarding, you can focus your curriculum around such courses. If you’re more intrigued by the ideas surrounding art in a more culturally-focused context, there are courses that will expose you to those ideas, while if you’re interested in art museums and how to deal with issues of exhibition and interpreting art for the public, the Museums & Society minor cross-lists many courses with the art history department to combine such topics. For example, one of the classes next year gives students the opportunity to reconsider the exhibition and installation of the East Asian art collection at the Walters Museum of Art – that’s pretty cool if you ask me. And speaking of museums, who could forget about Hopkins’ ideal…
It’s no surprise that Baltimore is thriving with the arts, and the numerous museums play a large role in that. If you’ve ever taken an art history class before, you know that slides only get you so far; actually experiencing the work, seeing it in the flesh, brings entirely new interpretations and new levels of learning to an art history education. So let’s start with the closest museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, which is literally right next to campus. The museum boasts the largest collection of works by Matisse, which compliments its impressive collection of other European Impressionist works. There is also a great collection of European master works, American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts, (the department in which I currently work), non-western works, as well as modern and contemporary art in a smart and inventive way. The modern wing is currently undergoing a reinstallation, and the curator of the collection came to talk to our Intro to the Museum class and explain the exhibition; all I can say is it’s going to be amazing and open the public up to new ideas in contemporary art. In Mount Vernon, just a 15-minute, free bus ride away, is the Walters Art Museum, which houses ancient to Impressionist works, often displaying them in ways that give a better understanding of their original context. If for some reason this isn’t enough, DC is just a $7 train ride away, while it’s just as easy to take a bus to New York to experience the renowned collections there; I recently took a trip to see the New Museum’s exhibit The Ungovernables, so there’s really nothing keeping you away from the art scene there in the city. My Intro to Art History professor actually commutes from NYC, which reminds me that I should definitely talk about all of the amazing…
The art history professors at Hopkins never cease to astound me in terms of their reputations and passion for the material. Even better is that no matter your focus in art history, there’s bound to be at least one professor who has specialized in that field and can guide you in your studies. From as general of concentrations from Modern to Early Christian and as specific as Early Modern Spanish to Northern Renaissance, the faculty not only knows their stuff, and knows it pretty darn well, but knows how to teach it in engaging and insightful ways. In the Fall, Dean Newman, the Dean of Arts & Sciences, invited art history students and the professors to her house for dinner and a lecture. It was a really great opportunity, and I got to talking with Professor Merback about how our loves for art history were both fostered by first practicing the visual arts. It’s incredible being around such intelligent (admittedly an understatement) professors who are also approachable and insightful about the field, which is especially helpful in discovering your…
Focus and Secondary Field
As an art history major, the requirements involve taking two introductory survey courses, four courses focusing on four different time periods (ancient, medieval, Renaissance/Baroque, modern), and finally (but not limited to) three additional courses of your choosing. My interests revolve around modern and contemporary art, with a bit of French post-Impressionist thrown in, so the way that Hopkins sets up the major will let me get a focused education in the entire history of art while letting me get especially in depth with what interests me most. In addition to these major requirements, students choose a secondary field which shows specialized studies in an outside department, which can be anything from a language to museum studies to cultural studies, really whatever you like. By giving us the freedom to focus on our interests but framing that in an education that exposes us to many areas, Hopkins art history students are definitely a step above the rest, and we’re constantly being ranked with the top schools offering art history programs.
So, where do you go from here? Feel free to take my word that art history at Hopkins is incredible. Even at a school known for its sciences, Hopkins art history offers an education unlike any other that I encountered when visiting other schools, not only for the reasons above but also from the high level of academic excellence that comes from a school like Hopkins. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to do your research, either. Visit the art history website, ask a question about the major on the forums, or sit in on a class if you get the chance to visit. I can honestly say that I have no regrets in choosing to study art history, and Hopkins has only helped me maintain my love of the material while pushing me to new levels of understanding.
Good luck to everyone awaiting decisions! Keep a clear head and know that everything will soon be done!