Undergraduate Studies

Art History trains us to think critically and engage aesthetically with a world saturated by images. At SMU, students take an expansive range of Art History classes on topics spanning from ancient Mesopotamia to Afro-Futurism. The major works of the traditional Art History canon are taught – from the soaring architecture and marble sculpture of the Athenian Parthenon to Impressionist-style paintings such as Water Lilies by Claude Monet – alongside a robust slate of courses that challenge the centrality of that canon by deeply considering world regions, subaltern communities and forms of visual culture (figurines, clothing, maps, scientific diagrams, masquerade performances, video games, etc.) that are traditionally overlooked. SMU is one of only two universities in the United States with fully developed curriculum on South American and Central American art from the ancient to the contemporary periods. Interdisciplinary and intercultural connections are central to our courses, which overlap with disciplines as diverse as human rights, dance, film, literature, advertising, science and engineering.

The vast majority of SMU Art History courses are taught by tenured or tenure-track research faculty, giving students the opportunity to learn from leading scholars in the field. Courses range in size from large introductory lectures to small research-intensive seminars in which Art History majors and minors develop the analytical and writing skills necessary to pursue their own original research. SMU Art History professors closely mentor their students, with personalized advising available at every step of a student’s path from declaring the major or minor to graduation and beyond. The Director of Undergraduate Studies is available to meet with all majors and minors about course selection, degree progress, internships, study abroad, graduate school applications and career planning. Students can also work closely with any member of the Art History faculty to pursue independent research projects, including a Senior Honors Thesis.

Career preparation begins now, and the SMU Art History program connects students with a robust selection of internship opportunities. Art History students enjoy unusually close proximity to world-class institutions such as the Kimbell Art Museum, Amon Carter Museum, Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas Museum of Art, the renowned Meadows Museum and more. The SMU campus is located only five miles from downtown Dallas, home to the country’s largest arts district. Art History majors and minors can earn course credit for completing a museum internship, some of which (such as the DMA-SMU summer internship) are available exclusively to SMU Art History students. Pre-professional career training and real-world work experience in the museum field is also available on campus, whether through curating an exhibition as part of the Art Gallery Practicum (ARHS 4305) or leading tours of the Meadows Museum to elementary school students as part of the Art Museum Teaching Practicum (ARHS 4303).

SMU Art History majors go on to careers in museums and galleries, as well as conservation, auction houses, art advisory and consulting, publishing, art law, cultural policy, architecture, urban design, teaching and non-profit management. Many recent SMU Art History undergraduates have gone on to graduate school at institutions such as Yale University, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Oxford. Learn more about some of our students’ graduate school journeys.

Learn more about the undergraduate programs of study in Art History: