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Welcome to the Department of Art

It took the Renaissance, specifically the likes of Alberti, Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgio Vasari, and a host of Humanist philosophers to insist that the medieval notion of the seven liberal arts must give way to an eighth—Art, itself. Knowledge of the visual arts had become an essential key to the understanding of culture in any given place or time. Now, more than ever, ideas find expression through the medium of art, which is why the Department of Art at Vanderbilt has developed a curriculum that embraces a wide range of methods and perspectives offered by nationally (and internationally) recognized professionals. Although they are practicing artists themselves, these faculty members are devoted to teaching and sharing their technical and theoretical expertise not only with the students who seek to develop their creative energies as majors in Art but those from other disciplines who are drawn to the evocative powers inherent in a visual language.

Along with the strong foundation they receive in traditional processes—drawing, painting and printmaking—students are given the opportunity to explore sculpture in its many faceted forms, from the handling of clay, to the creation of installations, assemblages (often a springboard for aspiring architects), and the visual imagery or activity born of conceptual revelations regarding social issues and theories of everyday life. The program also presents students with today’s most cutting edge venues for artistic expression, including video art, digital animation, experimental photography, and performance art. Within the context of small classes, where faculty members can work closely with each student to assist in the discovery of an artistic voice and the honing of technical skills, the emphasis is always on the innovative – the place where the concept and the handling of the medium converge in a work of art.

Environment for the Arts

The Art Department occupies the E. Bronson Ingram Studio Arts Center located in the heart of the Vanderbilt campus. The facility offers light-filled rooms for classes, individual studios for senior majors, a well-equipped lecture hall, galleries that can be expanded from one space to four to accommodate exhibitions and critiques and a spacious lounge. Among the benefits of the Art Building is the experimental gallery, Space 204, which hosts student shows as well as curated shows of current interest and which acts as a workshop for artists in residence. The first floor of the building also boasts an informal, open space for student work run by students themselves. These exhibition spaces are supplemented by numerous galleries on the Vanderbilt campus, including the Fine Arts Gallery at the Cohen Building and the nearby Sarratt Center. Nashville, with a lively and diverse creative community in the arts, offers further opportunities for the impressionable Art student who may take advantage of excellent museums, including The Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Cheekwood Museum of Art, and The Fisk University Art Museum, to name only a few of the city’s offerings.

Special Opportunities

The faculty has been energetic in its pursuit of visiting artists to round out the students’ education by exposure to other successful practitioners. These artists come to give lectures and open workshops or individual critiques of student work. In the last several years the Department has welcomed Emma Amos, Jules de Balincourt, Enrique Chagoya, Judy Chicago, Mark Dion, Oliver Herring, Teresa Hubbard, Mike Smith, Janine Antoni, Roger Shimomura, Barry McGee, Mel Chin, James Benning, Sam Gilliam and others. Other distinguished artists visit each year to serve as jurors for the Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award. The highly coveted award consists of a $25,000 grant to be used for travel and art making during the year following graduation. It culminates with a solo exhibition here at Vanderbilt. Other awards include the Allan P. Deloach Memorial Prize in Photography and a variety of smaller awards given out each year for excellence. In recent years the Art Department has offered Maymester courses, which provide extensive study of contemporary art in cities such as London and New York.

After Vanderbilt

Many students will use the program in studio art as a foundation for careers in which creativity and the visual communications are especially valued as the basis for advanced training in professional schools (such as art, architecture, museum studies) and for employment in galleries, museums or design- related fields.  An important goal of the Art Department is to help students become lifelong interpreters of the rich visual environment in our culture as well as proponents of the creative approach in their selected professions, whatever they might turn out to be.