University of Rochester

General Information and Frequently Asked Questions

The Department of Art and Art History offers a wide variety of courses, programs and degrees in art history, studio art, and visual studies. As a department teaching both theory and practice, we provide interdisciplinary explorations of historical and conceptual frameworks using a wide range of interpretative techniques and media. Studio students may take courses in painting, printmaking, sculpture, photography, and video. Art History and Visual Studies students pursue courses in history and theory in all of the visual media. Undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations in art history, visual studies, and studio are offered. Students may undertake internships in Rochester's diverse and rich cultural institutions. The Department also offers the unique "Art New York" residential program in New York City.

The Department houses the internationally recognized Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies, offering an interdisciplinary Ph.D. degree. Students are in residence for four years during which time they take seminars, participate in conferences and colloquia, and serve as Teaching Assistants in many of the undergraduate courses. After successful completion of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, students pursue independent dissertation reasearch and writing. Both the Department and the Visual and Cultural Studies Program sponsor lectures, conferences, seminars, and exhibitions of interest to the University and to the wider community. The on-campus Hartnett Gallery in Wilson Commons has affiliations with both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Many of our undergraduate alumni go on to do graduate work in order to pursue university teaching. Our Visual and Cultural Studies graduate alumni teach in prestigious colleges and universities. B.A.s, M.A.s, and Ph.D.s have become museum curators, artists, media professionals, and critics.

Interm Chair:
Paul Duro (585) 275-9262

Director of the Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies:
Rachel Haidu (585) 275-4112

Undergraduate Advisor for Art History:
Grace Seiberling (585) 275-4169

Undergraduate Advisor for Studio Arts:
Allen.Topolski (585) 273-5994
Stephanie Ashenfelder (585) 273-5955

Martin Collier (585) 275-7451

Administrative Assistant :
Cathy Humphrey (585) 275-9249

Comments and questions:


Frequently Asked Questions—Art History

I am a high school student interested in majoring or minoring in Art History. What is the requirement to major in art history when we enter college?
There are no prerequisites for a major. A good preparation in history is useful for art history, as are foreign languages that correlate to the area you are interested in. But there are no prerequisites for entering the program.
I have taken AP Art History or I have taken an International Baccalaureate (IB) course; how do I get credit to count?
If you receive a 4 or 5 on the AP test you will receive 4 credits, usually for AH 101. The credit can be used toward graduation even if you do not take other Art and Art History courses. If you completed a 100-level course in visual arts with a B or better, you may qualify for credit hours. For more information see:
What can I do with an art history degree?
Our alumni have gone on to jobs in museums, universities, historic preservation, city planning, commercial art galleries, art and architecture libraries, and architectural firms. They have worked as free-lance curators, art consultants, art dealers, and professors of art and art history. In many cases they have found their undergraduate work, with its emphasis on writing and analysis excellent preparation for graduate school training in art history, art therapy, museum studies, journalism, and other higher degrees. Some students have completed programs in Arts Management, and others have gone to law school with a focus in entertainment law or another related specialty, while other students have thought of the art history degree as a liberal arts degree, providing them with skills in writing, research, and analysis, and have gone into fields as diverse as neuroscience, engineering, and politics.
What is special about your department?
Our department is distinctive in its orientation toward visual culture rather than traditional art history. We offer some courses on the art of particular periods ranging from ancient times to contemporary, while others investigate photography or architecture. The visual studies component of the department investigates visual culture, going beyond what's usually considered "art" in thematic way.
What are the tracks in the major?
The track system allows students to design majors in accordance with their interests and ambitions. Working with the undergraduate advisor, with the option of including another faculty member, the student puts together a program of courses inside and outside the department that has some kind of coherent focus. Tracks include architectural history, museums, contemporary art and criticism, and a focus on one or more historical periods.
What opportunities are there for students to get hands-on experience doing work in art-related fields?
The Hartnett Gallery Committee provides a chance for students to work with all aspects of: selecting work for exhibitions; installing work; designing publicity and generally learning what goes into the operation of a gallery. Local opportunities for learning about museum work include internships at the Memorial Art Gallery with the Curatorial, Exhibitions, Education, and Development departments; the George Eastman House; The Rochester Museum and Science Center; the Genesee Country Village and Museum; The Landmark Society of Western New York. Some students have arranged to work in commercial galleries, architects� offices, advertising and design firms, as well as doing summer internships at museums in other cities.


Frequently Asked Questions—Studio Art

Do you need studio art experience to take a studio course?
Not necessarily; introductory level courses are designed to accommodate students with a broad range of experience.
Can my high school studio experience or advanced placement portfolio be considered in determining what level studio course should be taken first?
The successful completion of our program's introductory level courses not only assures a particular level of skill and a broad knowledge of technique and approach, it advances the importance of writing and the discursive elements of art evaluation. These two important aspects of studio experience are difficult to assess through AP portfolios and school records. Four advanced placement credit hours (with a score of 4 or 5) can be granted if a "B" or higher is earned in any 100-level studio course.
What can I do with studio art experience upon graduation?
Our program asks students to think critically and to synthesize ideas and materials creatively; these skills are invaluable in any aspect of life. Many of our majors and minors further their academic career in noted graduate programs and go on to become professional artists. Some teach, which can be a complement to supporting one's art career - while allowing time for an artist to develop their artwork, teaching keeps the artist involved in the dialogue and production of art. Some students go on to free-lance work in graphic and commercial design, web-page design and computer animation. Others enter the commercial art field or pursue careers and interests in museums and galleries.
Does your program offer commercial, design, ceramics, or craft-oriented courses?
Although our classes broach all of the concerns key to understanding these areas, our courses are more broad in base and application and are not limited to professional application or craft. Art production is a means of communication, and as such, is a major contributor to a rich liberal arts experience.
Can I use Sage Art Center's facilities if I am not enrolled in a studio class?
Only students currently enrolled in studio classes enjoy the privileges of using a well-equipped and well-stocked facility. Rochester is rich in opportunity for individuals interested in art making, but not enrolled in a studio class. Many resources exist off campus and are well worth pursuing.


Frequently Asked Questions—Graduate Program in Visual and Cultural Studies

Can I enter the Program if I have a B.F.A. or M.F.A.?
Yes. In fact, about a quarter or a third of our students are practicing artists. Although the Ph.D. program itself does not include art practice or studio classes, we have a strong interest in questions of theory and practice, and in contemporary art. Graduate students who are also artists keep up their studio practice, and we have regular exhibitions in the University's Hartnett Gallery of the work of VCS students.
Will I get transfer credits for my graduate work in another program?
It depends on the program. We do not give one-for-one transfer credits, but it is very likely that if students come to Rochester with an M.A. in a closely related discipline, in which they have taken classes similar to those offered at Rochester, they will receive transfer credits. This is negotiated on an individual basis with the Director of the Graduate Program once the student is in the Program. The maximum number of transfer credits is twelve--that is, the equivalent of three graduate classes (one semester's work).
What will be involved in my teaching assistantship?
We generally ask graduate students with studio backgrounds to assist with undergraduate studio classes, but others may be involved as well. There are also undergraduate art history and film classes which use TAs. Some graduate students will be asked to work as research assistants rather than teaching assistants--either by a particular faculty member to whom they have been assigned, or by the Director of the Graduate Program, who may assign them to assist in the Visual Resources Collection, in the Hartnett Gallery, or in the Department Office. In general, we try to match students' preferences and needs with the Department's and Program's needs, and to give students a variety of experience during their time in Rochester.
What is the usual length of time to degree?
The Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies involves sixty credit hours of coursework--normally five semesters (for those with no transfer credits). After that, students complete thirty credit hours of Ph.D. research, while they prepare for their Qualifying Examination; this is normally taken one or two semesters after the end of coursework. After the Qualifying Exam, students are ABD, i.e. only the dissertation remains to be completed. Completing the dissertation usually takes from one year to three years.
What is involved in the Qualifying Examination?
Graduate students preparing for their Qualifying Examination will decide which faculty member they want as an adviser on the dissertation, and which faculty members they would like on their Committees. (Committees must consist of at least two core VCS faculty and one 'outside' member.) For the qualifying exam, students need to prepare three things: (i) a prospectus of the dissertation as a whole (normally twelve to fifteen pages), (ii) a draft chapter, and (iii) a comprehensive bibliography. When they are ready to schedule the examination, they consult with the committee about dates and times, and make the arrangements with the Administrative Assistant in the Department of Art and Art History.
What opportunities are there for teaching?
At the University of Rochester, there are certain teaching opportunities (apart from TAships). Departmental undergraduate classes in both studio and art history are sometimes offered to VCS students. Students can also apply to be accepted into the College Writing Program, in which they would teach their own classes. Locally there are a number of colleges that are often looking for adjunct teachers in art history, studio, film, and cultural studies. VCS students have regularly taught classes at these places.