What is Art Appreciation in College and Why We Need It

What is Art Appreciation in College and Why We Need It

7 minute read

StraighterLine has added to its offerings of 70+ online courses, Art Appreciation (also called Art 101), a new 3-credit course that fulfills an arts and humanities gen ed.  Art Appreciation equips you with the vocabulary to understand and discuss the visual arts, while introducing you to various mediums. Art helps create understanding of the world around us. It is an essential part of cultures across the globe because it allows us to be open to new ideas and experiences. In this online course, you will learn themes of art, principles of design, types of two-dimensional and three-dimensional media, and be taken on a tour of art through the ages. You will learn the different eras of art, how culture is affected by and affects art, and how to use elements of a piece of work to identify its time period or artist.

Why is Art Appreciation Important?

Art appreciation is extremely relevant for multiple reasons. Perhaps most importantly is how studying art provides a historical perspective into different cultures and societies. When you learn to analyze a work of art, not only do you gain an understanding of the history behind that particular piece, but you also learn about the period of history from which the piece originated. “Artists often reflect the problems that they face, and the issues of the society in their work. By analyzing and putting ourselves in the mind of the artist, we can better study how differently society functioned then, compared to now,” states the article The Importance of Art Appreciation. "It is important to foster art appreciation and analysis, as it ... delves into the history and the story behind the art, as well as a look into the lives of the artists. It enables one to critically analyze a work, along lines of design, mastery and techniques. Most importantly, however, art appreciation stimulates thought and analysis, provokes an individual to look past what meets the eye and open our mind to the views of others." Studying art appreciation not only can broaden our mindsets in relation to the artist and their world, but also to the world of other students and their reaction to art. The subjective nature of art is ripe for encouraging discussion about varying interpretations, which requires you to listen to different perspectives. The article Why is Art Appreciation So Important? really drives home how this is an intrinsic aspect of art appreciation. The authors state, "Art is not meant to be looked at only for what it is. It is meant to stimulate thought because it allows viewers to draw their own emotions and pull from their personal experiences when viewed. Art appreciation … encompasses so much more than just looking at a piece of art or learning about the artist. Due to the subjective nature of art... it allows students an opportunity to develop an open mind and understand that there is more than just one solution to a problem. Having an appreciation for art also helps us to develop an appreciation for each other and how we are all unique in our own way.”

The key takeaway from the value of teaching art appreciation? Art helps us understand our world.

A report by the Rand Corporation found the visual arts "can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing," creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.  "When we give ourselves the opportunities to connect with art, we are able to take a step back, reflect what's going on in our world, evaluate our lives, and reflect," notes artist Samantha Kaplan. "You are learning about the stories of different people, the lives they lived, the story behind the artist, and what they went through to create that type of work. There was a story or a life experience, a meaning or an intention that inspired that artist to create that work. There was a mission or an idea behind that drawing or painting."

What Do You Learn in an Art Appreciation Course?

It is difficult to understand art without understanding the culture in which it was created. So with this important concept in mind, Art Appreciation, as a college course, centers on the ability to view art throughout history, focusing on the cultures and the people, and how art developed in the specific periods. “The history of the world is similarly the history of art, continually intertwined,” explains Deborah Gustlin, professor of fine arts at Gavilan College and art history at Evergreen Valley College. “For millions of years, as humans roamed the earth, evolution and environment shaped many different cultures depending on location, weather, natural resources, and food. These cultures formed the foundation of all art today. Art appreciation analyzes art using the methods and materials, allowing people to make connections to the context of art and the interactions of societies.” Students who take an Art Appreciation course:

  • Receive an introduction to all visual art mediums
  • Gain the knowledge to understand and analyze art
  • Acquire the ability to discuss and write about art
  • Learn to identify the movements from ancient cultures through contemporary art

In addition to the knowledge you will gain, the study of art appreciation develops several skills that are in demand by every employer across industries.

Art Appreciation as a course, “naturally develops critical and innovative thinking skills. [Studying] art also teaches many important qualities such as listening, observing, and responding to multiple perspectives,” note Kristin Gargaro and Emily Jilg, art teachers for South Lyon Community Schools. Gargaro and Jilg further explain how talking about art provides a forum for developing literacy and communication skills. When students engage in conversations about art they "develop visual thinking skills where they are able to observe closely, describe what they see in detail, and also provide evidence for their observations.”

About StraighterLine’s Art Appreciation Course

StraighterLine’s incredibly robust Art Appreciation course covers discussion and analysis of the following topics:

  • Living with Art
  • What is Art?
  • Themes of Art
  • The Visual Elements
  • Principles of Design
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Prints
  • Camera and Computer Arts
  • Graphic Design
  • Sculpture and Installation
  • Arts of Ritual and Daily Life
  • Architecture

You will also dive into the following periods of art history:

  • Ancient Mediterranean Worlds
  • Christianity and the Formation of Europe
  • The Renaissance
  • The 17th and 18th Centuries
  • Arts of Islam and of Africa
  • Arts of Asia: India, China, and Japan
  • Arts of the Pacific and the Americas
  • The Modern World: 1800-1945
  • From Modern to Postmodern
  • Contemporary Art Around the World

Upon completion of StraighterLine’s Art Appreciation course, you will be able to:

  • Understand the value of art, its many uses, and its history
  • Define the key vocabulary of art such as value, form, design, space, proportion, scale, balance, unity, and variety
  • Classify different two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and abstract mediums like installations
  • Analyze art through the lens of history, its effects on culture, and culture's effects on art
  • Construct a formal analysis of a piece of art

Take Art Appreciation with StraighterLine

Interested in learning more about StraighterLine’s Art Appreciation course? Download the course syllabus and register today to earn 3 easily transferable college credits!

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