Art History Class Revitalized


Eva Berezovsky

Lilli Herpers ’19, Sierra Erdman Luntz ’19, Henry Roach ’19, and Tanner Parr ’19 at the Walker Art Center for their Art History class

Caroline Hardy, Student Life Editor

Officially titled Art Now: 21st Century Art History, the “Art 21” semester class is currently running for the first time in four years. Visual arts faculty Bill Colburn designed the class after his college Art Criticism course. The junior and senior elective class travels a local museum or gallery every Wednesday, where students journal about the pieces they observe and work to analyze and interpret the piece past their initial observations. “It’s a little bit like we always have a traveling classroom,” explains Amelia Smith ‘19.

“I can’t just look at a piece of art and go ‘oh that looks nice!’ Not anymore. I think about it on a much deeper level,” describes Smith. In addition to an enhanced understanding of art itself, students have increased their appreciation for art museums and galleries all over the Twin Cities. “Primary research is one of the hearts of academia, and we are doing it,” explains Colburn.

Colburn works to tailor the class to the students and works with them to set expectations for assessments. As a result, students will facilitate class discussions for their upcoming artist presentations. This focus makes the class accessible to students who would not typically take art classes. John Meskan ‘20 explains, “even if you’re not the most artistic person in the world, you still have an opportunity to show yourself in the art world.”

Art, especially contemporary art, is social commentary. Through art, students work together to make sense of the world around them. “Your critical thinking unfolds a bit, in new ways, in this class. Because a lot of the work at the Walker is not easy to get, and you have to open up your mind a bit, and listen to each other, and listen to what everyone says. And let go of your preconceptions and confront it for what it has to offer,” details Colburn.

But these challenging discussions pay off, and students are immensely enjoying their experience in “Art 21.” “Everybody in that class, after they leave, I hear, ‘oh my gosh, this is the best part of my day,’” describes Smith, “It’s live action learning, and it’s a lot of fun.”