The Art department comprises studio art and art history, complementary and interrelated disciplines with a shared interest in the art object and its historical and theoretical contexts. The four art historians teach courses in western and non western art ranging from ancient to contemporary, and the three artists teach courses in drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, digital media and artists' books. The two branches of the department are united both philosophically and, to an extent rare among liberal arts institutions, in actual practice. Art historians and artists participate on each junior qualifying and senior thesis exam, and students writing a thesis in studio art or art history are required to take at least four courses in the other discipline. The near balance of course requirements enables some majors to cross disciplines when going on to graduate study or professional work.

Two lectureships, the Stephen E. Ostrow Visitors Program and the Robert L. Lehman Fund, enable the department to bring distinguished individuals in the arts to the college for periods of up to a week. These visitors give public lectures and seminars with students, and Ostrow artist visitors often coincide with a show of their work in the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery. Robert Morris, Michael Fried, Leo Steinberg, Linda Nochlin, Al Held, Dennis Oppenheim, Adrian Piper and Judy Pfaff are among past Ostrow visitors.

In number of thesis students, 15-20 seniors a year, the Art department ranks above the college average. Each senior thesis student works closely with a faculty adviser, usually meeting for a weekly conference throughout the year.

Except for classes with space constraints (photography and digital media), enrollments for studio art classes are rarely capped and are open to non- majors even through the 300 level. Many non-majors take studio classes throughout their Reed careers, and continue making art after graduation.

Art alumni are spread out across the country as art historians, artists (painters, sculptors, photographers, video and film makers, printmakers, ceramists, fine woodworkers, tattooists, comic book artists, calligraphers, book and graphic designers), teachers, gallery and museum directors and curators, art conservators, architects, NASA designers, etc. The 2002 and 2003 commencement speakers, both distinguished alumni, were art majors.

About Studio Art

In all studio classes equal consideration is given to technique, form, subject matter and content. The one semester introductory course, Visual Concepts (Art 161), is the prerequisite for all upper-level courses in studio art. It introduces many of the concepts and processes of visual art, with an emphasis on drawing as a tool to sharpen perception and conceptualization. As a different faculty member teaches the course each semester, the focus and additional media introduced varies according to his or her expertise and interests. In past semesters projects involving painting, printmaking, photography, digital media, sculpture, artist's books, etc. have been incorporated into the course.

The 200-level courses include figure drawing, printmaking, painting, sculpture, photography and digital media. Projects are normally introduced with images of historical and contemporary art, amplified in discussions of related readings and conclude with a group critique. The 300-level courses serve both as advanced explorations of the above media, with some courses having a particular themes and others operating more as group independent projects, and as junior seminars with weekly discussions of critical readings and presentations of short papers.

Although there are no specific requirements beyond the Visual Concepts course, majors are strongly advised to take department courses in several media.

The ten-day, junior qualifying exam is normally taken at the end of the junior year and is the final hurdle before the senior thesis. In studio art, students are given a short essay or two and are asked to respond to it in a short paper, and in a series of drawings and a finished work. At the end of this period the student turns in the paper and displays his or her work, and the paper and work are discussed with members of the department.

It is a spare and accelerated program of study, but it well prepares most students for the independent and focused, creative and written work of the thesis.

About Art History

In art history the introductory course, Art 201, introduces students to the extended, firsthand study of original works of art and to a wide range of art from various cultures and historical periods. Advanced courses acquaint students with selected periods and movements in art and in the various methods of art historical research. Students learn to refine their powers of critical observation by looking, talking, and writing at length about individual works of art. Currently six to eight advanced art history courses are offered each year. Normally the advanced art history courses are offered in a two- or three-year sequence. The pattern is occasionally altered to suit the special interests of visiting faculty.

The art history junior qualifying exam is written in an advanced art history course the student takes during the junior year.  It consists of a research paper of about 20 pages, written in close consultation with the faculty member teaching the course.  The qual paper typically replaces some or all of the other written work in the class.  At the end of the semester the student is examined orally by a panel of department faculty.


The Studio Art building is located above the woodsy canyon on the far east side of the campus. On the main entry level are office/studios for faculty and senior majors, a seminar/projection room, a digital media lab, a photography darkroom and a critique gallery. Downstairs are class studios for painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, and ceramics, with a partially covered patio for outdoor sculpture work and the ceramics kilns. The classroom studios are open at all hours for students currently enrolled in art classes.

Art history faculty offices are located on the third floor of the library. In the library basement is the art book collection, the Visual Resources Center with a collection of over 101,000 digitized images and 110,000 slides, a seminar/projection room and the Print, Drawing and Artist Books room, which houses original work for course study. The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, which shows four exhibits each year of significant historical and contemporary work, is located on the main floor of the library.