Hacking the Art History Degree

Originally posted on sethwallen.com 4/23/2018

Like every dutiful freshman, I signed up for Art History I & II to satisfy general ed requirements. I was warned about superflous college electives by high school teachers and I assumed that art history was just that. After taking art history, however, I I found out that art has and does reflect the cultural and political zeitgeist of an era (I nerded out about social studies in grade school, so there ya have it). Artists created their art not necessarily out of a universal aesthetic of beauty or creativity, but instead joined schools of similar-minded artists whose shared the same values. In a dialectical fashion, I discovered that these schools vacillated between dichotomies like realism and abstraction, popular taste and elite aesthetics, imagined places and subjects versus real ones, etc. By learning the links between history, culture, the art world, and the lives of individual artists, this naive freshman joined the larger conversation about art.

The appreciation I gained from college art history inspired me to visit art museums throughout my young adulthood. I enjoy museums because I feel the same kind of transcendence that one might feel in a religious service or reading a gripping novel; the sense of being caught up in another place and time. I’ve volunteered as an art museum librarian and now want to volunteer as a docent (or similar capacity) in a museum focusing on modern and contemporary art. I would even pursue a degree in art history if I had the money and need for another Master’s degree. I do not and thus I’ve began research ways to ‘hack’ an art history degree, focusing on modern and contemporary visual art.

My plan is to take several massive online open courses, or MOOCs (learn more about MOOCs if you’re not familiar with the concept) and supplement my learning with YouTube videos, library books and DVDs, and the occasional splurge at the local used book store. I’ve taken a few MOOCs related to web design, copyright, and one on modern art already, which I immensely enjoyed. I like the self-paced nature of these courses and the ability to earn a certificate of completion.  

So I present to you a list of massive online open courses (MOOCs) related to modern and contemporary art. I mined the web, used a few MOOC search engines (yes, they exist!), and looked on reputable online platforms for MOOCs, such as Coursera and EdX.

If you see any courses related to modern art that I’m missing, please feel free to let me know!