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Art History

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

The Art History program at the University of Rhode Island offers students a thorough introduction to the art and architecture of Europe and the Americas, beginning in ancient times and coming all the way up to contemporary art. Students learn about the major monuments from the history of painting, sculpture, architecture, printmaking, photography, and more by studying them in their historical, social, and cultural contexts. Visiting artists, scholars, and curators enrich the regular course offerings with special lectures, workshops, and other events.

Our classes are small, which means students receive individual attention from faculty. Art history faculty regularly advise students both formally and informally on career opportunities, as well as internships, study abroad, combining majors, entering graduate school, and more. Faculty members actively publish their latest research in important scholarly journals and participate actively in organizing international exhibitions and working on important archaeological sites, in addition to speaking at professional conferences and other meetings. This allows us to enrich the classroom experience with the latest discoveries and controversies in the field. Some classes include hands-on field work and training with art objects. An Honor’s Degree in Art History is also possible, and each year the department selects one graduating senior to receive the President’s Excellence Award at a special ceremony during commencement Weekend. We may also give Art History Recognition Awards to seniors who show special promise or who have contributed to the department.

The department organizes regular bus trips to New York City, where students sometimes complete assignments or visit major museums and exhibitions. Classes have also been held at the museum of the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, the Newport Art Museum, the Hera Gallery, and more. The museums of Boston are a 75 minute drive away and students are encouraged to interact with curators in them when engaging in research projects. Each semester, a contemporary artist has a short-term residency on campus through the Italo Scanga Visiting Artist Fund, and these artists often come into art history courses to discuss the historical relevancy of their work, as well as their inspirations from the past. Art History students can also use the Fine Arts Gallery spaces as a resource for special projects with the assistance of faculty.

Art History Courses and Requirements

The B.A. in Art History requires a minimum of 30 and a maximum of 45 credits in the major (of the 120 total credits required for graduation). The study of at least one foreign language is strongly recommended. Some students double major in Art History and another discipline, including foreign languages, history, anthropology, studio art, and more.

Courses are offered on a three-tiered system:


  • Introductory courses (100 and 200 level): basic skills in visual analysis and introduction to the history of Western art and architecture through two semesters of survey (Ancient to Medieval and Renaissance to Modern). 200 level classes have a maximum of 35 students.
  • Intermediate courses (300 level): advanced study offered in important periods and media of Western art (Ancient Greek & Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque (17th century), American Art, 19th & 20th century, History of Photography), as well as focused topics courses such as Women and Art, Newport Architecture, The African American Artist in Context, Graveyards and Cemeteries, and more. These classes have 25 students.
  • Other options at the 300 level include semester or summer internships for credit and independent projects on the intermediate 300-level.
  • Advanced courses (400 level): small seminars on specialized topics required of all art history majors. Seminar topics rotate through the faculty each semester. Recent topics have included: The Image and Idea of the Artist, Ancient Painting, Reality and Realisms in Art History, Cultural Heritage, Sculpture in Rhode Island, Historic Preservation, Campus Architecture, and Neoclassicism in the Visual Arts. Seminars have between 8 and 15 students.
  • Seniors considering graduate school are encouraged to do an independent Senior Project to develop their research and writing skills.
  • Many students complete a semester or summer of study abroad in Italy, France, Spain, Greece, England, or other countries, depending on individual interests. Study abroad experience can in many cases satisfy the University’s foreign language requirement and free up students to complete more coursework in their chosen field.

Upon completing art history courses, students will have developed their skills in critical thinking, reading, and writing; in oral presentations, and in visual analysis. These foundational skills, considered the keystone of any education in the humanities, translate into a wide variety of career paths upon graduation. Both intermediate and advanced courses emphasize research and writing skills and prepare students for advanced study in art history or a variety of other fields. Academic credit through internships and independent study opportunities is available for students who demonstrate academic excellence and the ability to undertake self-directed coursework. Recent URI art history students have interned at: the Newport Art Museum, Gallery Z in Providence, the Feinstein Campus Arts Program, the Hera Gallery, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and the RISD Museum of Art. Students are actively encouraged to study abroad and assistance is provided in choosing and applying for study abroad programs.

After URI: Graduate Study and Careers in Art History

In recent years, students with a B.A. in Art History from URI have been successful in earning admission and scholarships to Master's and Doctoral programs at some of the top-ranked art history programs in the country, including Brown University, the University of California-Berkeley, the University of Massachusetts, Tufts University, University of Arizona, University of Vermont, and Bryn Mawr College. Other students have entered Masters programs in Museum Studies, Arts Administration, Art Business, Historic Preservation, Art Education, Art Therapy, and Library Science, while a few have entered law schools.

URI art history graduates have gone on to careers in art-related fields such as museum and gallery work, historic preservation, work with auction houses or art dealers, art education, art criticism, arts administration, visual resource management, art therapy, and art publishing. Students have also been sucessful in business, law, public relations, and communications with art history backgrounds.


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Department Chair


Ronald Onorato

Office Hours:

Tues 2pm to 3pm

Weds 11am to 12pm

Or by appointment

Contact: 874-5821

Room: FAC 207


Special Programs

Italo Scanga Visiting Art Professionals Program

Visual Arts Sea Grant Program