Art Theory and Criticism, BA

Art Theory and Criticism, BA

This interdisciplinary major will challenge you to consider foundational questions about the nature and function of art in human society and explore the link between the aims of art and other disciplines. 

The conceptual nature of contemporary art practices puts theoretical and critical investigations at the creative core of art production. The work of artists, art historians, and theorists today includes dialogue and debate that cut across art production and art criticism in a way that links and sometimes even combines the critical and creative disciplines. 

Many graduate programs in contemporary art history and practice assume some familiarity with critical theory and the cross-pollinating relationship between theory and production. Our  curriculum will prepare you for graduate studies in art history and related fields as well as established and emerging programs in critical theory.


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Upon successfully completing the program of study with an Art Theory and Criticism emphasis, students should be able to...

  • Conduct an extended, rigorous written analysis of artworks by drawing upon concepts from established critical theoretical texts;
  • Articulate the theoretical assumptions driving specific interpretations of artworks by availing a knowledge base of art theory and criticism;
  • Pose and investigate theoretical questions about the nature and function of art by utilizing specific artworks as reference points; 
  • Demonstrate foundational knowledge of facts and accepted art historical and critical terminology in writing and discussion;
  • Contextualize established and contemporary artworks within a broader cultural, historical, and political framework;
  • Produce a work of art or curate an exhibition informed by an art-theoretical concept. 

Art on Campus

At Saint Mary’s, opportunities to engage with art abound. Visit the College Museum of Art, which features rotating exhibitions from contemporary artists alongside a comprehensive collection of work from renowned California landscape painter William Keith. Or stop by Studio 160, our springboard for the large and diverse community of young artists at Saint Mary’s. You could be next!

students making disco balls in the museum of art surronded by neon displays

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