Art History and Visual Culture: Student Testimonials

Carol Cheong

Majors: Art History and Studio

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
I was a transfer student from the Mississauga campus who specialized in Art and Art History so when it came to choosing my program at the Scarborough campus it only made sense to continue what I started. The only difference being the program at Mississauga was one joint program with Sheridan College whereas Scarborough had it in two separate programs.
 
Can you describe your program(s)?
 
Both programs have their own challenges and are demanding of different things. The Art History program is taught by professionals in the field who incorporates their experience and skills gained; the professors are constantly encouraging students to become engaged in the art communities, to go out and spend the time in museums and galleries in order to fully experience the artwork and visually see what is being studied. The time spent on reading textbooks and attending lectures are not enough to grasp the lessons being taught. There are always more that can be done to understand the histories and how Art came to be now. In comparison, the Studio program is very hands-on. In the first 2-3 years the students are required to follow different disciplines to explore all the technical ways of making art. The experience during that period allows them to not only explore what can be used and how, but also realize what they are capable of creating. The professors are there as mentors and guides while the creative process is left for students to develop.
 
What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
1. To explore the city. You will find not only inspiration in the places you go but also learn the history of places. In this process you will gain knowledge and create relationships that can become major influences for you.
 
2. Attend artist talks and gallery opening/closing receptions. Whether you are studying Art History or Studio it is important to hear from present-day artists to learn their process and influence. There is always a connection between the present and the past, in talking to the artmakers you get the chance at seeing how they process experience and transform it into art.
 
3. Critiques are important and you need to be involved. It is understandable to be nervous during critiques and even intimidated but that is not an excuse for not participating. Everyone deserves to know what the public feels about their creation and if you are willing to help carry the conversation, they in turn will do the same for you. When there is no constructive criticism or praise for what was successful in an artwork, not only do your peers lose an opportunity for learning about themselves, but you also lose an opportunity to become more articulate in explaining and understanding art.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
Personally, my undergrad has been a long learning process that is allowing me to understand my role as an active artmaker and participant in the art community. With my double major I can continue to pursue history or overlap into museum studies to learn the workings of a museum or gallery. I plan to pursue art full-time and to continue creating, to complete a Masters in Fine Arts and become an exhibiting artist.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
After transferring to the Scarborough campus my first and second year had been full of studying, getting what needed to be done done, and going to school was just in-and-out. I did not want to spend a lot of time at school and my goal was to complete the task at hand to graduate. In my third and fourth year here my studio projects were becoming larger in scale and I did not have that kind of space at home. As a result, I spent all of my time at school whenever possible and from that it allowed me to share experiences with my peers and create strong relationships with other studio majors. It also was not until the latter years that my being at school brought me to: a work-study position for the Doris McCarthy Gallery; I began exhibiting my artworks in group, class, and solo shows, and I became the Studio Director for ArtSideOut 2016. There has been so much to gain throughout the years and when I took the time to be involved and invested in the University, it has always allowed me to grow as an individual.

Aretina Chan

Major: Health Studies (Health Policy)

Minors: Health Humanities & Art History

What factors contributed to you choosing your program(s)?
 
My decision to major in health studies was stemmed from being intrigued with the idea of what it actually means to be healthy. So many of us think being healthy means to eat good foods, go to the gym every day or just be disease free, but it's much more complicated than that, and it's that that really drew me to this program. I didn't actually decide to minor in Health Humanities until my third year, and that decision was made after I took a few classes with Dr. Andrea Charise, and what I really found fascinating was the way the humanities and arts challenged the conventional view of health, illness, and death. I also decided to minor in art history in my third year, and that was out of passion. During my high school years, I really enjoyed art classes and especially the art history portion that were taught in those classes, but I wasn't brave enough to do something about that passion until my third year.
 
Can you describe your program(s)? What is it actually like?
 
Health studies classes are fascinating especially if you're into viewing health as a broader issue affected by a multitude of external factors. The classes themselves don't just focus on one concept, for example, you may take a class in nutrition in one semester but another class in anthropology in the next; both of which are part of the program optional/required classes, and it's the wide range of classes from all fields that give you a better sense of what health studies can really incorporate. Health studies isn't a program that focuses on hammering into your brain theories or formulas, but requires you to think outside the box to connect broader ideas of health together. The latter goes with Health Humanities. I would like to think of art history as a program about culture and the way the arts are influenced or influence it throughout history. Art history requires you to memorize dates, art works and artists, but that's expected; in addition to that, the classes will help you improve your writing abilities because you'll have to write a lot of analytical and research essays.

What tips/advice can you provide to students just starting or considering this program(s)?
 
Go into health studies if you have an interest in learning how factors outside of biomedicine influence one's well-being, an interest in learning about how health care systems work around the world work, and an interest in exploring the current issues in the Canadian health care system, such as, long hospital wait times or disparities within Indigenous communities. Go into Health Humanities if you have an interest in how individuals experience health, illness and death, an interest in learning about the way science and the arts can come together practically in the study of health (i.e. art therapy), in addition, you have to be open minded. Go into art history if you have an interest for analyzing art using theories and broader cultural ideas of that time, and an appreciation for art.
 
What will you do with your degree after graduation? (Future plans?)
 
Plans include doing further studies in Medical Humanities. Jobs include something in health promotion, museum/exhibitionist officer, art therapy. I would also love to be part of Indigenous health related research.
 
What has your academic journey during your time been like as you progress toward graduation?
 
My first year was really chill, I had a fun time making friends and being introduced to health studies. My second year was stressful because I had a really hard time figuring out what programs I wanted major and minor in, and I finally decided after 6-12 months of doing research and taking classes.