Regents approve bachelor's degree in art history for Texas State

Posted by Jayme Blaschke
University News Service
August 15, 2013

The Texas State University System Board of Regents has authorized Texas State University to offer a new Bachelor of Arts in art history through the School of Art and Design.

The board, meeting Aug. 15 on the campus of Sul Ross State University, approved the new degree, which replaces a previously-existing concentration in art history for art majors.

"Art history is critical to the education of artists," explained Michael Niblett, director of the School of Art and Design at Texas State. "Previously, we just had a concentration in art history for art majors, but if you look at the rigor of our courses and compared them to other schools that offered art history degrees, we already had a B.A.--we just didn't call it that.

"That presented a problem for our graduates, I think. It didn't look good when they were applying for a job, because it was just a concentration. In many ways, though, I believe our training was better," he said. "We've had pretty good success with placing our graduates, but they had to overcome the fact other candidates had B.A.s and their degree didn't look as significant. We didn't want that perception problem. We knew they had equal training, so we didn't want anything holding them back. This is basically giving it the name, credit and prestige it deserves."

Growth in the existing concentration program indicates that a full major will be in demand. From 2002 to 2012 the number of art majors taking a concentration in art history grew 75 percent. That popularity is reflected in the overall number of art majors as well. The School of Art and Design moved into the Joann Cole Mitte Building in 2003, with space to accommodate 500 art majors, Niblett said. Today, there are more than 1,300 art majors at Texas State, and classes run continuously from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. A recent feasibility study showed the art building to be the most utilized on campus.

"It's incredible. We have people coming in all hours--this building is alive around the clock," Niblett said. "All of our students have to take between 9 and 15 hours of art history to satisfy their degree requirements. We have a large studio art and practicing artist program here, but if a student decides they don't want to be a studio artist, they may still want to be scholarly and write about the arts. Art history is a respectable field on its own."

The School of Art and Design has offered a concentration in art history under the major in art for many years and has experienced success in placing alumni in art-related jobs after graduation. Some of those employment routes include art preparator at the San Antonio Museum of Art, an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, a volunteer service coordinator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, a curatorial intern for performance programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, a collections move registrar at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and many more. The full major in art history would further enhance job placements for Texas State graduates.

"All major cities have art museums and art attractions that bring in tourists. Museums, galleries, university faculty and arts organizations need art historians," he said. "This degree will help our program become more robust. In the future, we may be able to add faculty in more specialized areas of art history. Instead of a concentration in art history, we might offer a concentration in Latin American art. That is way in the future, but this opens the door for us to have a healthy, growing art history program."

The Texas State University System Board of Regents is the governing body for Texas’ oldest university system, which comprises eight institutions: Lamar University; Sam Houston State University; Texas State University; Sul Ross State University; Sul Ross State University Rio Grande College; Lamar Institute of Technology; Lamar State College-Orange; and Lamar State College-Port Arthur.