Jul 15, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
2023-2024 Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Art & Art History

The Department of Art and Art History is an innovative, laboratory program focused on the practice, history, and theory of art. Courses in a variety of artistic mediums, theoretical frameworks, and historical periods inspire students to analyze, interpret, and create art in context. Students thus learn to consider art objects and practices in relation to political, psychological, religious, aesthetic, and technological formations in society. The department faculty members encourage students to embrace the liberal arts tradition with respect to critical thinking, self-discovery and personal expression, while the College’s Catholic and Lasallian traditions help to deepen and broaden the student’s engagement with art. Our courses also encourage the development of practical skills enhanced through internships in galleries, museums, art centers, auction houses and more.

The department currently offers two Bachelor of Arts majors: Art Practice and the Art History

The coursework in Art Practice ranges in approach from traditional studio work to digital, new media and other contemporary practices. The department’s instruction in art practice integrates technical fundamentals and conceptualization, creative experimentation and critical thinking, personal expression and social responsibility. Students learn to engage in discussion and group-critiques as part of their professional preparation and as an integral way of participating in and benefiting from a community of shared inquiry. The coursework in Art History, presented alongside courses in archeology, anthropology, religious studies and world languages presents the rich tradition of Western and non-Western art from pre-history to the present. Both the Art History and Art Practice majors include coursework in Art Theory and Criticism. These courses emphasize conceptualization in modern and contemporary art practices, the asking of foundational questions about the nature and function of art in relation to human subjectivity and society. Theory adds a crucial dimension to the department’s majors and the endeavor to link the aims of art to concerns in other disciplines.

A degree from the Department of Art and Art History provides alumni with an appreciation of visual art as a way of knowing. Through personalized advising, the department prepares students to further their studies at the graduate level in curatorial studies, studio art, history of art, digital filmmaking, graphic design, critical theory, art criticism, and other related fields.

Acknowledging the importance of direct contact with diverse artistic practices, students in each major are encouraged to study abroad through the college’s many art-focused travel programs. Students are provided with academic internships at museums, auction houses, artists’ studios and galleries that prepare them for employment in art-related fields upon graduation.

The Art and Art History Department offers a merit-based scholarship by application for incoming Saint Mary’s students. This scholarship is designed for prospective students with leadership potential who wish to pursue studies in studio or video art production. Application guidelines are available on the department website.

Art Practice Faculty

Andrew Mount, EdD, Associate Professor and Chair, Screenprinting and Printmaking, Painting, Design,Gallery Team

Peter Freund, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Digital Media, Experimental Film/Video, Art Theory

Art History Faculty

Costanza Dopfel, PhD, Professor, History of Western Art, Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Art, Art Conservation and Restoration

Hossein Khosrowjah, PhD, Adjunct Professor, History of non-Western Art, Film, Theory and Criticism

Anna Novakov, PhD, Professor Emerita

Affiliated Art History Faculty

Thomas Poundstone, PhD, Theology and Religious Studies, Christian Art and Baroque Art

Cynthia Van Gilder, PhD, Anthropology, Archaeology and Art of the Pacific and the Americas

Art Practice Learning Outcomes

When they have completed the program of study with an art practice emphasis students should be able to:

  • MOUNT a cohesive exhibition of their artwork and produce a comprehensive thesis document discussing the ideas, techniques and influences in their artwork.
  • DEMONSTRATE an understanding of and facility for the use and application of several different media, especially that of their preferred medium.
  • ARTICULATE their artwork’s content and intention and visually manifest those ideas.
  • DEVELOP an ability for objective self-critique and demonstrate an understanding of their own place within a larger art historical context.
  • EVALUATE clearly different forms of art by other artists in their writings and class discussions.
  • DEMONSTRATE a foundational knowledge of contemporary and historic artists, particularly those working in their preferred medium. This is evidenced by their writings on art and during critiques and class discussions.

Art History Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the major, graduates must have attained the following:

  • A GENERAL KNOWLEDGE of the monuments and principal artists of all major art periods of the past, including a broad understanding of the art of the twentieth century and acquaintance with the art history of non-western cultures.
  • FUNCTIONAL KNOWLEDGE of the creative process through foundation or other studio art courses.
  • A MORE SPECIFIC KNOWLEDGE, in greater depth and precision, of several cultures and periods in the history of art and concentration in at least one area to the upper-division level. Study at the advanced level includes theory, analysis, methodology, and criticism.
  • KNOWLEDGE of the tools, methodologies, and techniques of scholarship. Active research and the writing of analytical, theoretical and critical essays are reinforced throughout the program from the first lower-division survey course to the senior capstone project.
  • An UNDERSTANDING of the role that art has played and can play in encouraging positive social change.
  • The ABILITY to synthesize in written essays the interconnection between various forms of artistic expression.
  • SUCCESSFUL COMPLETION of a senior thesis based on an in-depth study of a theme or issue in the history or art.
  • An UNDERSTANDING of the real-life experience and challenges of working in a museum, auction house or gallery acquired through internships.

Split Major Agreements

Art Practice: Split Major Agreements

Split majors between Art Practice and other disciplines are available by arrangement. For more information, please email Professor Costanza Dopfel at cdopfel@stmarys-ca.edu.

Art History: Split Major Agreements

The department offers three split majors: History of Art and Italian Studies, History of Art and Archaeology, and History of Art and Communication. Other split majors are available by arrangement. For more information, please email Professor Costanza Dopfel at cdopfel@stmarys-ca.edu.

Minor in Cinematic Arts

The curriculum of the Cinematic Arts Minor combines the critical analysis and creative production of the moving image art form, ranging from time-based film and video to new media art. The courses emphasize technical fundamentals and conceptualization, creative experimentation and critical thinking, and personal expression and social responsibility. A hybrid instructional approach for several of the courses integrates critical analysis and creative production in order to encourage students to analyze as well as to produce the moving image art form as an engaged critical practice.

Students minoring in Cinematic Arts take six courses from the disciplines of Art, Communication, English, Anthropology, and World Languages and Cultures. Beyond the coursework, an internship elective (ART 495 ) provides hands-on experience that can include assisting with a film exhibition, working as an assistant with a faculty filmmaker or researcher, and other options.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the Minor in Cinematic Arts will be able to:

  • Plan, shoot, edit a finished film or video art project.
  • Contextualize moving image artworks within a broader cultural, historical, and political framework.
  • Utilize critical-theoretical concepts as a springboard to develop a film or video art project.
  • Write a concept statement articulating the aims, influences, and process associated with their own production work.
  • Write an extended critical essay integrating research, analysis, and interpretation of cinematic works of art.


Degree Requirements and Courses


    Bachelor of ArtsMinor


      Art - Lower DivisionArt - Upper DivisionArt History - Lower DivisionArt History - Upper Division