The Majors

The department offers students different paths to explore the vital connection between visuality and creativity. With courses of study in the history of art and the practice of studio art (or a combination of history and practice), each major is designed to train students to develop the technical, conceptual, critical, and historical tools they need to engage the visual world.

Students majors follow one of three routes through the department—art history, studio art or history & studio—to complete nine courses and fulfill the major requirements as outlined on each page. Art history students take classes in Lawrence Hall, while studio art students work in the W. L. S. Spencer Studio Art Building.


Art Department Statement of Teaching Objectives:

Throughout human history visual media have been integral to how societies have expressed and understood themselves and how they have constructed their respective worlds. Art and architecture are shaped by humanity’s evolving historical, socio-political, religious, and aesthetic experience and in turn shape our interpretations of that experience, our own as well as that of other peoples and cultures across time and space. Thus the study and practice of art is central to the humanistic enterprise of a liberal arts education. The insights and skills students gain from such visual training build strong analytical tools for understanding history, the diversity of cultures, and our contemporary world.

The Art Department of Williams College, through its majors in art history and studio practice, is dedicated to the critical, creative, and practical study of visual expression in its expanded field—from traditional media of painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and architecture to photography, cinema, installation, video, digital media, and performance art. Students with deep, interdisciplinary interests in both wings of the department can choose the history and studio route to the major, allowing them to combine diverse avenues of study, including, but not limited to, a focus on particular media (including performance), themes, and methodologies.

In studio, we teach students form, technique, thematic ideas, and theory to support their ability to generate new tones, meanings, feelings and forms. In art history, we teach students approaches to understanding and thinking critically about the ways in which visual arts produce, reproduce, or resist social and aesthetic meanings. In doing so we recognize that as a discipline art history is itself part of the historical process that it studies, and that it therefore poses ever evolving questions to the art of the past as well as of the present.

In our estimation, the dynamic and complicated interdisciplinary relationship between the study of works in history and their genesis in the present makes what we do collectively unique to the college.