Art and Art History


The Department of Art and Art History values the universal human need for artistic expression and celebrates the contributions of artists in all cultures throughout history. We are committed to high quality teaching that develops the creative spirit, intellectual potential, and aesthetic sensibilities of every student. Through our teaching and advising, we prepare majors for professions in the visual arts. Our faculty, staff, and students collaborate to offer programs, activities and service projects that enrich the college campus and community at large. It is our belief that every person can contribute to the vitality of the arts in contemporary society and to the betterment of our shared communities.

Study in art history and the visual arts, in the context of the liberal tradition, is intended to help students become intellectually mature and to encourage creative development and the searching for values.

The objective of the Art department is to educate students in the visual arts and in the humanities and to assist them in developing their perceptual and technical skills to handle problems of their craft. Studio Art majors are guided to develop a studio practice that is conceptually rigorous, inventive, and open to contemporary questions inside of and outside of the arts.

The Art History major involves students both in academic studies and in experiential involvement in art history. Students in the senior seminar have designed presented and published original research, designed independent exhibits, commissioned original art works, and pursued internships at galleries and museums. After graduation, students have pursued careers in auction houses, galleries, museums, historical societies and colleges and universities.

Students in Art Education work closely with faculty from the Education department and the Art and Art History department. The curriculum engages the students in a rigorous studio program along with the teaching education program to prepare them for careers as both artists and teachers.

Majors in Art or Art History are encouraged to take advantage of international and domestic study programs, including programs in Ireland, Africa, Italy and the United Kingdom that are ideal for Art or Art History majors. The department allows appropriate coursework from approved programs to apply toward the major. See all available programs at

Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

We are collaborating community-wide to incorporate new strategies for student-centered classrooms and inclusive pedagogy. We acknowledge the power dynamics of the college structure and aim to facilitate courses with the professor as a guide rather than the sole expert in order to create class environments based on trust and collective foundations of knowledge that encourage creative expression and critical thinking. 

Together with students and our colleagues around campus, we are generating intercultural understanding so that we may continue to address and dismantle discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, cognitive differences, physical differences, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and other social identifiers.

One of our initiatives is reconciling with Native communities through conversation, curricular redesign and incorporation of Native artists, theorists, and histories into our courses. The Gustavus campus sits on the homelands of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, specifically Waȟpékhute and Waȟpéthuŋwaŋ land. We recognize Native people as the original and enduring stewards of this land. 

Currently we are working on:
-Removing barriers to accessing materials, equipment, and space through a student tool-library, peer-mentorship, and redesigning non-compliant spaces
-Creating accessible courses and assignments using universal design principles
-Building trust among students and faculty members in order to encourage personal expression and generative criticism 
-Incorporating metrics of access and inclusivity into regular reflections on teaching and learning
-Using written reflection, self-assessment, and one-on-one meetings to encourage a student’s individual perspective when assessing their artwork and art historical writing 
-Programming collaborations for artist talks and exhibitions with a focus on generating opportunities for artists who have experienced more barriers to success
-Equitably representing artists who have faced structural boundaries from art institutions in course presentations and discussions, and examining the systems and individuals who created and maintain the discriminatory boundaries who have excluded them from art institutions 
As we invite feedback and adjust to new information, we will continue to adapt and update our strategies for student-centered classrooms and inclusive pedagogy.