Close up of person speaking while another person looks on.

Kian Talai (BA Visual Studies 2018) presenting his work at the CCA 2018 Visual Studies symposium.

BAHistory of Art & Visual Culture

Learn to think critically and write eloquently about historical and contemporary art.


Traditional art history meets modern visual culture

History of Art & Visual Culture logo

The History of Art and Visual Culture program challenges you to think and write critically about the past, present, and future of visual culture. You’ll learn to analyze art objects and artifacts of pop culture from the perspectives of historian, theorist, writer, and maker. Positioned within one of the best art and design schools in the country, you’ll work alongside fine artists from many different disciplines, not to mention our renowned faculty, who frequently contribute to high-profile publications and curate exhibitions around the globe. Alumni leverage these connections and opportunities to lay the groundwork for their personal practices.

Studios & Shops

Hands-on experiences

You’ll take History of Art and Visual Culture courses alongside interdisciplinary studios, a unique opportunity to directly engage with material practices you want to research. Our curriculum also features a number of open electives to give you the freedom to handle and make art objects. Through field trips and seminar discussions, classes examine an even wider range of visual material, from ancient architecture to video games, analyzing and contextualizing what you see within broader social and historical phenomena.

CCA 2021 HAVC Spring Symposium

Preparing for professional publication

You’ll culminate your classroom and studio work with a senior thesis project, designed to mirror the rigorous methodologies in professional settings. The thesis-driven research paper, which is transformed into a symposium presentation, can also be submitted as part of a grant or graduate school application. In addition to working closely with the History of Art and Visual Culture faculty throughout this process, you’ll get feedback from visiting curators, historians, gallerists, and even CCA alumni.

Your research and writing life at CCA

  • Analyze art objects through observation and research
  • Build visual and cultural literacy skills
  • Think and write critically
  • Visit renowned museums and galleries
  • Learn from visiting artists, scholars, and critics
  • Network with journalists, conservators, and art dealers
  • Take electives in fine arts, design, and writing
  • Write a research-driven thesis paper
  • Present your thesis at our annual symposium


Work with leaders in the field

Our faculty are practicing scholars, museum professionals, and critics. Their collective expertise spans disciplines, including experimental cinema, creative writing, architectural and urban history, fashion theory and design, comparative literature, and graphic design. Deeply engaged with the art world, they’re dedicated to sharing their knowledge—from curation to publishing—with History of Art and Visual Culture students.

Portrait of Elizabeth Mangini

Elizabeth Mangini, Chair of History of Art and Visual Culture

Chair Elizabeth Mangini is drawn to the way objects can tell stories. A widely published art historian, she specializes in social histories of postwar and contemporary art, especially European art of the 60s and 70s. She’s held curatorial positions and postgraduate fellowships at renowned institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts.


We think with our hands

Explore beyond the boundaries of traditional art history

History of Art and Visual Culture at CCA expands the perspective of cultural critique by studying everything from art and architecture to fashion and social media. You’ll learn from professional curators, historians, and critics how to think, write, and speak eloquently about the visual culture that surrounds you. The program culminates with a senior thesis you present professionally. View sample course descriptions.

Investigate ideas through every dimension

Before diving into their chosen major, every undergraduate participates in the First Year Experience. Students explore a wide range of materials and tools over the course of two semesters. Faculty from different disciplines guide studio projects, group critiques, and theoretical discussions, setting students up for success throughout their major coursework.

BA History of Art & Visual Culture

Core Studio

Drawing 1
3.0 units
2D, 3D, and 4D
9.0 units

History of Art and Visual Culture Major Requirements

Eye Openers
3.0 units
Contemporary Art
3.0 units
Methodologies 1
3.0 units
History of Art and Visual Culture (2000 level)
9.0 units
History of Art and Visual Culture (3000 level)
12.0 units
Vision and Visuality
3.0 units
History of Art and Visual Culture Practicum
3.0 units
Senior Project 1
3.0 units
Senior Project 2
3.0 units

Additional Studio Requirements

Upper Division Interdisciplinary Studio
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Studio
3.0 units
Studio Electives
9.0 units
Open Electives
9.0 units

Humanities & Sciences Requirements

Writing 1
3.0 units
Writing 2
3.0 units
Introduction to the Arts
3.0 units
Introduction to the Modern Arts
3.0 units
Foundation in Critical Studies
3.0 units
Critical Ethnic Studies Seminar (2000 level)
3.0 units
Literary and Performing Arts Studies (2000 level)
3.0 units
Philosophy and Critical Theory (2000 level)
3.0 units
Social Science/History (2000 level)
3.0 units
Science/Math (2000 level)
3.0 units
Humanities and Sciences Electives (2000 or 3000 level, at least 6 units must be 3000 level, excluding Visual Studies)
12.0 units

Total 120.0 units


Fluent in visual culture

Our students apply their skills in research-based critical writing, publishing, and art curation to myriad roles in the field. Some students go on to attend graduate and PhD programs, and others engage in political activism or become independent gallerists. Wherever they are, they ask challenging questions of themselves and the world.

Potential career paths

  • Critic and writer
  • Gallerist
  • Curatorial assistant
  • Museum education assistant
  • Assistant archivist
  • Arts administrator
  • Educator
  • Creative writer
  • Arts publisher
  • Professional at a nonprofit arts institution

News & Events

What’s happening in our community?

How to Apply

Expanding perspectives

Our students love art, design, and visual culture. They often want to share this passion through writing, curating, and teaching. Most importantly, History of Art and Visual Culture students want to contribute to the field in a way that’s inclusive and groundbreaking.

Find your creative community at CCA

Apply now