Critical Focus on the Visual Arts: Art and Architecture

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10–11:00 a.m. and 1:10–4:00 p.m.
Thomas Ian Campbell

“I enjoyed both the insightful class discussions as well as the immersive learning opportunities at museums.” — From a program course evaluation 

Course Description

A two-course curricular option that provides a concentrated study of aesthetic concepts for students interested in the visual arts. Both courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, skills that will be valuable to students in whatever fields they choose to pursue in college and beyond. Numerous field trips to museums and architectural landmarks throughout the city enable students to take advantage of New York’s vast cultural resources.

Architecture and Society: New York’s Built Environment

This course introduces students to the visual analysis of architecture. Instead of surveying the history of architecture, we look at specific New York landmarks to understand how great structures not only fulfill practical needs but also influence our relationship to the physical and social world around us. By studying some of New York’s notable museums, parks, houses of worship, office buildings, and transportation centers, we see how these sites reflect and inform different kinds of social experiences. As students learn to “read” these sites closely, they become familiar with the basic vocabulary of architecture (including light, space, mass, and circulation) and come to appreciate how architects of different eras and sensibilities have engaged these same basic elements to different ends.

Some of the sites we explore together typically include Columbia University’s campus, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Central Park, Grand Central Terminal, Lever House, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the 9/11 Memorial.

Problems in the History of Art

This course covers selected monuments of painting and sculpture from various eras and cultures as well as basic trends and concepts in the history of art. Students learn about art from both the artist’s perspective (focusing on materials and technique) and the art historian’s perspective (focusing on issues of patronage, context, and interpretation), with both ultimately impacting how we view these objects in the modern world.

The goal of this class is to examine specific objects and encourage students to think about formal analysis—understanding the choices artists make, as well as how these objects reflect upon their specific culture and era. Rather than addressing the subject of art history in the traditional survey fashion, this course will be topic-based, with particular emphasis on how curatorial decisions impact the way we view works of art.

Field trips typically include visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Students interested in taking a studio art class might be interested in Drawing: Eye and Idea or Painting: The Painted Image


Thomas Ian Campbell

Thomas Ian Campbell is an advanced Ph.D. student in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. He holds a B.A. in art history and comparative literature from Binghamton University. His dissertation focuses on British artists’ attempts in the 1970’s to establish new contexts for their work beyond existing art institutions. Tom has taught a wide range of topics in Columbia University’s Art Humanities program and at the Horace Mann School, where he led courses on Renaissance and Modern art.

Back to the Course Guide

Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.