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Archival image.

The archival study of creativity is another way of knowing yourself; a chance to find your own identity in the historical record. Once you see and understand the process of artistic discovery, you will have greater appreciation for what your work means. No matter the size of your studio or the dimensions of your canvas, you're onto something big now.

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This program encourages young artists to make work that engages more than just the eye; to make work that engages us as thinkers.
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Tom Huhn

Why We Stand Out

  • Knowing the history of art is very important to the artist’s development

  • There’s no better place to study art history than in New York City with its abundant museums and contemporary art world

  • Review all art—from the dawn of civilization to today

A Day at SVA

More About the Department

SVA offers a non-degree art history program that is geared for the practicing artist, not the scholar. In addition to the benefit of taking Art History classes in New York City, SVA students have access to a faculty of more than 60 instructors who are artists, curators and critics.

You might ask, why study the old when the artist's work is the new? Well, for one thing, art history is a chance to learn that you haven't reinvented the wheel.

Studying the vast image bank across time and space will show you that nothing under the ancient eye of the sun is truly "new," that movements beget movements, which beget movements, which...and here you are, toiling happily away on the great cultural continuum.

For sheer inspiration alone, you can't do much better than a survey of the visual image down through history. Doing it at SVA, with all the cultural resources of New York City at hand, is to be able to get close enough to a Vermeer to see his colored lights in the shadows, close enough to ancient Egyptian statuary to see the original paint (close enough maybe to get a warning from a museum guard). Many of your courses will take you to museum and gallery exhibitions (we are in the contemporary art bullseye: Chelsea); others will inspire you to visit on your own, with a sketch pad or just a hungry eye.

SVA teaches art history for the practitioner, not the scholar, emphasizing the influence historical perspective has on studio practice. Our faculty of more than 60 instructors is the largest of any independent arts college, made up of artists, curators and critics who will reveal and explain the miracle of visual creativity, from cave paintings to the Web. How did the image transform itself over millennia, and why? To see the trajectory of history can be an energizing catalyst for your own work, putting you in the big picture as an expression of all that's come before.

If art history has seemed to be all about "What happened before Andy Warhol," you'll be pleased to know that we look at work of the 21st century, too. There is no cultural snobbery at SVA. Courses like Art and Popular Culture study the relationship between high art and aspects of mainstream culture such as comic books and the music of the MTV generation. Introduction to Visual Culture challenges the very definition of "culture," using the mall, Madonna, Disneyland, drag balls and sports as case studies.

We offer the artist who has chosen college the chance to learn research methods, whether the source is traditional text, Internet content, or even exhibitions or symposia. Regardless of your discipline, being able to cull what you need from a body of information is a skill that will last a lifetime.

  • General Course Listing