Critical Focus on the Visual Arts: Art and Architecture

II - July 20–August 6, 2021
Modality, Day & Time:
Monday–Friday, 9:10–11:00 a.m. and 1:10–4:00 p.m.

Nenette Arroyo, 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, 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.


Nenette Arroyo

Nenette Arroyo holds a PhD in art and architectural history from the University of Virginia and an MA in the history of decorative arts and design from Parsons School of Design at The New School. Nenette studies and teaches architecture from diverse historical perspectives: stylistic, social, political, and religious. She received the award for outstanding graduate teaching from the UVA Art Department in 2018. She has authored Sacred Light: Stained Glass Windows of Southeastern Virginia (Chrysler Museum of Art and Virginia Arts Festival), and two articles for White House History Quarterly. Her forthcoming publications include an essay in "Visual Ecologies of Place-Making" (Bloomsbury Press) and an article on sacred spaces in Saeculum, a German scholarly journal. 

Thomas Ian Campbell

Tom Campbell holds a Ph.D. from the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University. His dissertation examines the attempts of British artists 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.

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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.