Art History

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Department Projects

RASC/a program, “Scratchpad” forums, trips to on-site seminars, digs and more


RASC/a (derived from the Spanish vernacular for “scratch”) stands for “Rhetorics of Art, Space, and Culture” and marks a new curricular initiative in graduate studies launched in 2011. The department chose the unusual name to underline the commitment to shaping a small and innovative graduate program with close mentorship, rather than just another art history Ph.D. The program builds upon the strengths of the faculty and area resources, with particular emphasis on historical and new media, visual technologies, architecture and the city, race and gender, and a transregional and transnational approach to the arts of the Americas, Europe and the Ancient world. Among the RASC/a laboratories created outside the traditional classroom are “Scratchpad,” an informal recurring forum where faculty and graduate students share works in progress, and site-seminars, eight- to ten-day trips attached to semester-long art history seminars for on-site work with local curators and scholars, to sites such as Venice and Madrid.

The RASC/a principle of thinking beyond familiar patterns (intellectual “scratching”) extends into the undergraduate curriculum as well, in ways that are tied to art history’s internships, community engagement projects and curriculum.

Poggio Colla

Each summer, undergraduate students are offered the opportunity to participate in the excavation of an Etruscan settlement in Tuscany directed by Professor Gregory Warden, who taught art history at SMU for three decades. Recent summer work has unearthed amazing new discoveries and artifacts. Learn more about the Poggio Colla excavation.

Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas

In early October, the Art and Art History departments team up to send 10-12 student volunteers to help staff the international “Open House” at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa. When Donald Judd started plans for the Chinati Foundation in the late ’70s, he was not only rethinking the concept of the museum, he was also embarking on two of his most ambitious works of art. It was Judd’s goal to create outdoor works that would blend harmoniously with the surrounding landscape while maintaining the precision of man-made objects. This work forms the core of the Chinati Foundation, which also houses works by Dan Flavin, John Chamberlain, Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Once their volunteer shifts are up, students spend the weekend attending talks by international artists, critics and curators, attending free concerts and meeting other students and art professionals from around the world.

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