I dare you. At least just sit in on one during syllabus week.
With August starting up and school looming ahead, I wanted to harass everyone to take an art history class. I know what you are thinking reader: It’s not going to get you a job, it’s more work than a film class, it’s easy fall asleep in dark lecture halls. These things are not untrue. But, let me offer some counterpoints.
Fulfill Humanities Requirements
If you go to a 4-year college or university within the borders of the United States, chances are you have take at least one humanities class. Yes, even you Engineering and Business majors. Literally you need it to graduate.
Humanities are Important (I swear)
While not obviously appealing to any potential employers, humanities provide much needed critical thinking skills. Critical thinking, the elusive unicorn of higher education, is generally agreed to be found in the thick, wooded forest of the humanities department. The aim of university is not simply to teach students facts and figures, but how to actually think. Art history classes — alongside literature, philosophy, classics, film, religion and et al. — are an excellent conduit through which to learn how to think better.
Pretty Things are Pretty
Art is pretty. And pretty things are fun to look at. Therefore, art is fun. Another thing to consider: it takes way less time to gaze at a painting than to read the Iliad or watch Citizen Kaine.
Sharpen Writing Skills
Visual analysis are the bread and butter of any AH course. These bad boys are usually only two pages double spaced and you are not even allowed, let alone required, to use outside sources. This makes it them sound fun and easy. Fun they are, easy they are not. The goal of visual analysis is to describe a painting. This simple directive forces you to think outside the box, write creatively, and translate abstract visual concepts into words. It is goddam difficult to describe something visual using only the alphabet and grammar. But, the exercise of writing a visual analysis will vastly improve your overall writing abilities, from producing lively case studies and concise thesis papers.
For Your Future Travels
My favorite art history professor in college did not care if we knew the dates for Van Eyck’s Annunciation. She wanted the information from her class to enrich students’ future travels and adventures. This is the biggest payoff for an art history course. Art history makes traveling much more than a checklist. It’s a chance for powerpoint slides to come to life. And when you don’t have 3G and you can’t read Italian, you still have the grey matter in your head to understand and appreciate everything you are seeing. Nothing beats that experience.