Art History

The study of past and present artistic production--its practitioners, methods, materials, patronage, purposes, and meanings within the culture that gave rise to it--constitutes the discipline of art history.

Art History is a unique field of study, one that most high school students do not encounter prior to college (unlike English, history or psychology, for example). It is a perfect discipline for those with broad ranging interests in the liberal arts. While cultural artifacts of the past (architecture, sculpture, paintings, drawing, print arts, ceramics, urban planning, etc) are the primary focus of study, understanding the importance and meaning of these artifacts can lead students into many rich avenues of investigation from religion to history, to sociology, politics, economics, science, literature, dance, music, theater—indeed all aspects of human activity can and do inform the making of art. Because art history is deeply enmeshed in the liberal arts, students are prepared to be critical observers and independent thinkers, creative and scholarly writers and speakers, acutely sensitive to aesthetic principles and to diverse cultural viewpoints, and gifted with a lifelong curiosity about the world in which we live.

Art History at Hiram College

Hiram College's art history program is very diverse in its offerings. Students can study the art of ancient times in Asia and the Euro-American west, as well as of their own time and place, and all of the centuries in-between. Students have the enormous advantage of investigating some of the greatest museum holdings in North America very close at home--at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art, Spaces, the Akron Art Museum, and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. Within an hour drive one may engage with one of the sterling Asian and Western Baroque art collections in America, a hidden gem filled with past American art, and the works of leading artists of our time, among many other first-rate works. And only a short distance further are rich collections in Pittsburgh, Toledo, Detroit, Buffalo, and Columbus Museums as well.

Some of our study abroad courses will take students to Italy to investigate the great monuments of antiquity, the Renaissance, and Baroque ages, to France to learn of art in Paris and in the deep south region of Provence, or to Japan to explore the heritage of Shinto and Buddhism in monuments and gardens of the main Hokkaido island.

Additional Opportunities

Our students enjoy many opportunities to experience the work of art historians by pursuing internships at local museums and galleries. Additionally, there are some work-study positions available each year in the art department that provide training with classroom and gallery preparation, which can be invaluable for future career goals.

Take one class or a dozen and explore the vast world of human creativity encountered in an art history course. Also consider joining the student-run Fine Art Society, an organization devoted to the promotion, understanding, and enjoyment of the arts. It is open to all interested students regardless of major, or previous knowledge or involvement in the arts. Over the years the group has sponsored trips to museums and special exhibitions, brought guest speakers to campus, aired films, sponsored the best college Halloween bash ("come as a work of art"), and planned the semi-annual art department weekend in New York. The level of funding and activity of the group is determined by the degree of participation and enthusiasm of its members.

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Required Courses

  • History of Western Art
  • Early Modern Art
  • Contemporary Art
  • Independent Research
  • Two studio art courses
  • Competence in a language at the 103 level, preferably French


For advising and more information, please contact:

Lisa Bixenstine Safford, Professor and Department Chair

  • 330-569-5307
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Gelbke Art