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Our department believes in the inherent unity between the practice and theory of art. Beyond the development of skills and training in techniques, the study of art involves gaining both an understanding of visual thinking and an awareness of the histories, issues and concepts that bear on the direction and role of the visual arts in our culture today.

Most of our courses are designed to serve all students regardless of their major area of study. A,T,P, enrolls about 40-60 undergraduate art majors and 70+ art minors, while approximately 1,000 non-majors/minors take our classes every year. Our undergraduate courses cover both traditional approaches and newer media and alternative strategies. Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography form the core of the undergraduate curriculum, giving students the opportunity to develop a solid foundation in the field’s traditions and established media. The department also looks forward to experimental approaches and future developments in visual art making.

We incorporate digital technology, video and conceptual art practice into our curriculum, thus blending newer trends with established practices. Also integral to our program are seminars in art theory, as well as critique classes in which enrolled students present new work for prolonged, in-depth analysis by the class. By the senior year, each department major is encouraged to elaborate their own self-motivated, individual studio practice in which artworks are produced independently of classroom assignments.

Please note a portfolio is not not needed for prospective undergraduate students, and the department is unable to conduct portfolio reviews. If admission is granted to Northwestern, then a student can declare either the major or minor as early as their first quarter at the University. A portfolio is not needed in order to declare the major or minor. Questions about the undergraduate program and the major may be sent to our Director of Undergraduate Studies, Zach Buchner. Questions about the minor may be sent to the advisor to the minor, Sherwin Ovid.


ART, THEORY, PRACTICE, is a studio program, meaning we focus on art-making. We lead our majors and minors into developing their individual practices (ways of working, individual voices, body of work) within an environment of rigorous critical thinking. A major can lead, of course, to pursuing a career as an artist, but the skills and knowledge gained can also be the ideal training for a variety of careers, including design, project management, curatorial and museum work. Learning is an action process, and art-making allows students to take action, to do things, to make mistakes, explore and search for answers, to discover how a thing or action might contain meaning or be meaningful, to develop higher level cognitive skills involving the use of many different symbol systems (verbal, mathematical, visual, auditory, kinesthetic). Art-making encourages a suppleness of mind and the ability to act both autonomously and as part of a group.

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