Students of the visual arts at Union pursue art history and studio fine arts, which are offered as a major and a minor. Studio arts include ceramics, drawing, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture.
Hallmarks of a Union visual arts education include an actively engaged and accomplished faculty, small classes, and guest artists and speakers, many from Union’s accomplished alumni network of working artists in many mediums. There are field trips to museums in New York City and other locales, and students also have opportunities to study photography, drawing, and printmaking on terms and mini-terms abroad.
Interdisciplinary by nature, the Visual Arts Department has increasingly become a dynamic intersection of scholarly undertakings and teaching initiatives across campus. Courses in a variety of media are suited for students interested in pursuing careers in the visual arts as well as for those seeking greater visual literacy and a more creative approach to working in any field.
A number of interdisciplinary courses examine the ways in which entrepreneurs think and act in the field. These include Artists, Art and Entrepreneurship in Western Europe and The Business of Visual Art and Contemporary Entrepreneurship.
The Visual Arts building is home to a range of facilities that support students’ research and studies, including classrooms, studios, darkrooms and the Burns Arts Atrium, which presents student, faculty, alumni and guest artist exhibits. In addition, the Mandeville Gallery, located in the Nott Memorial, presents art, science and history exhibitions as well as related gallery talks and events. The Wikoff Student Gallery, on the third floor of the Nott, is dedicated to presenting student work. The Union College Permanent Collection holds more than 2,500 works of art and artifacts and offers academic and research support. Schaffer Library, home to the College’s historic archives, houses the College’s most prized possession – the double elephant folio original edition of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America.”
Sample Courses for Art History
AAH-104. Arts of China. This survey covers works of art and artistic traditions in China from the Neolithic period to the early 20th century. Lectures will focus on representative works in various media – calligraphy, painting, sculpture, architecture, and decorative arts – within the contexts of the tomb, court production, literati culture, Buddhist and Daoist temples, and interactions with other cultures.
AAH-201. Islamic Art and Architecture. A broad and select survey of the art and architecture of Islamic cultures from the 7th through the 16th centuries that will stress the religious, social, economic, and historical contexts within which Islamic arts and architecture developed. We will study a variety of arts in addition to the traditional architecture, painting and sculpture familiar to students in Western art history surveys, including calligraphy and book painting, metalwork, ceramics, glass, carpets and textiles, and gardens and landscape design.
AAH-208. The Business of Visual Art and Contemporary Entrepreneurship. In this course students will study and learn the business of the art world and entrepreneurship in the visual arts from the early 20th century through today. Topics to be covered include the economics of the art market and the commodity of art, auction houses, private collectors, art fairs, gallery ownership, art foundations, non-for-profits, and art criticism. Group assignments, field trips and guest lectures form a large component of the course.
AAH-380. The Floating World: Edo Prints and Printmaking. Students will produce a portfolio of woodblock prints based on an exploration of the history of Japanese prints during the Edo period (1603-1867). Ukiyô-e, or “floating-world pictures,” depicted to the urban pleasures offered in the imperial capital Edo (modern-day Tokyo). The themes and individual artistic styles, first studied, then interpreted by the students in their prints, include: cityscapes and landscapes; representations of beautiful men and women in bijinga; the exotic encounter with the west; and explicit erotic imagery.
Sample Courses in Studio Fine Arts
AVA-120. Photography I. An introduction to photographic techniques with some history. Individual development through projects along with the study of fundamental art ideas. A 35mm film camera with a light meter and adjustable focus is required. Limited enrollment, by permission of instructor.
AVA-240. Three-Dimensional Design II. A continuation of Three-Dimensional Design I, with emphasis on design and construction of chairs. The chair as structure; necessity; aesthetic object. Function, decoration, metaphor. Relationship of design to the human body. Each class member will construct three functioning chairs.
AVA-345. The Illustrated Organism. Descriptive graphic and written analysis of plants and animals; direct observation in field, studio and laboratory integrating biology and visual arts. Culminates with annotated portfolios illustrating organisms studied. Taught jointly by visual arts and biological sciences faculty using combined facilities. Apply through either participating department. Credits visual arts and biology majors.