Master of Arts in Art History - University of Houston
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Natilee Harren
Associate Professor
Program Coordinator
Office: Fine Arts, 104C

Advanced Art History Foundation at a Tier-1 Research University

The MA in Art History program at the University of Houston gives entering graduate students, whatever their undergraduate major, a firm grounding in the discipline of art history—all within the context of a Tier-1, urban research university that affords close contact with the collections of major arts institutions. This degree provides an ideal foundation for curatorial work or further academic study in the field. Alongside their coursework, Art History MA students at the University of Houston are profoundly engaged in the city, a dynamic cultural center and gateway to the international art world. Our degree program is designed with a significant number of electives, which enable students to craft an educational experience best suited to their individual needs and interests. It also allows them to take advantage of numerous high quality internship opportunities that propel forward their career ambitions. For more detailed information on the program and its curriculum, please see the “Printable Program Guide,” which is downloadable from a link at the bottom of this page.

The MA in Art History program is located in the School of Art, where program participants have the unique privilege of developing their expertise in conversation with a peer group of MFA students in art and design working across the fields of painting, sculpture, photography, digital media, and experimental, interdisciplinary practices. In addition to a rigorous grounding in art history, curatorial theory and practice as well as art criticism are among the program’s specialties. Students have access to dedicated curatorial spaces for course or MA thesis-related projects. 

The Program

The MA in Art History program faculty are dedicated to a close mentoring process in art historical research and writing. We have research specializations in Art of the Ancient Americas, Northern European and Italian Medieval and Renaissance Art, 17th-Century Northern European Art, Global Modern and Contemporary Art and Design, Latino American Art and Urbanism, Art Criticism, Museum Studies, and the History of Photography. (For more information on our faculty, click here.) Special courses taught by visiting faculty and museum curators further enrich regular course offerings. Graduate students are introduced to art historical methodologies and historiography in small, graduate-only seminars. For each of 3 semesters, students take an Art Historiography and Methods course, proceeding from a broad disciplinary-wide set of issues to successively more in-depth, field-specific concerns. For students entering with an undergraduate degree in another discipline, these initial seminars, focused on the craft of art historical research and writing, provide a place to develop field-specific skills under the close supervision of our faculty. Beyond these seminars, graduate students maintain close contact with our accomplished faculty through advanced lecture courses and seminars, individual mentoring, and paid Instructional Assistantships. 

Through wide-ranging coursework options and internship opportunities at diverse institutions throughout the Houston area, the MA in Art History program enables students to pursue an exciting variety of career options. Our graduates have gone on to complete PhDs and secure tenure-track professorships. Others have used the MA as a capstone professional degree to qualify for curatorial, education, and director positions in public museums and private galleries, or to take on editorial positions with established art publications. Our graduates have also pursued careers in arts librarianship, arts management, and arts education. 

Visiting Speakers

The Art History Program sponsors a Distinguished Lecture in Art History each Fall, as well as several high-profile talks throughout the academic year. In addition to giving public lectures, our speakers often get to know our graduate students over a lunch discussion and closed-door seminar, where students have the opportunity to converse more intimately with distinguished guests. 

A selection of recent speakers includes: Claire Bishop, Charlene Villaseñor Black, Allan DeSouza, Katy Siegel, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Thomas Crow, Darby English, Suzanne Hudson, Caroline Jones, Cornelia Butler, Peggy Phelan, Judith Rodenbeck, Douglas Crimp, Matthew Ritchie, Harry Gamboa Jr, Sergio Prego, Sondra Perry, Gloria Sutton, Christopher Lew, Mia Locks, Megan Metcalf, Bradford Epley, Kari Dodson, Katie Anania, Asa Mittman, Gail Levin, Amelia Jones, Steven Rowell, Moyra Davey, Lewis Kachur, and Bryan Just We also regularly host local museum curators and conservators to discuss their fields with our students, drawing especially from arts professionals at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Contemporary Arts Museum, and the Menil Collection. 


Opportunities for Financial Support

The program provides additional opportunities for financial support including salaried Instructional Assistant and Graduate Writing Fellow positions, which prepare students for teaching careers through involvement with undergraduate education within the Art History program. The graduate program in Art History also provides a competitive travel award to support fieldwork and so that students can present their research at national and international conferences. Scholarships are furthermore available to provide non-local and international students with the low, in-state tuition rates. 


Art History within a Vibrant Global Arts City

Beyond a rigorous training in art history and related disciplines through coursework, the MA in Art History program values applied art historical work as an integral part of the graduate experience and has strong relationships with many of Houston’s world-class arts institutions. Year-long funded internships for graduate students are awarded each year at the Menil Collection, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and Project Row Houses. Internships are additionally available at UH’s Blaffer Art Museum and many other museums and alternative art spaces around the city. Graduate students also regularly hold a funded position as arts editor of UH’s highly-regarded literary journal Gulf Coast.

Fellowships and Assistantships

Teaching fellowships and assistantships are available on a selective basis each semester. Only those graduate students who have completed 18 hours toward their degree can be considered for Teaching Fellowships. Fellows are assigned to teach classes at the fundamental and intermediate levels. Assistantships are non-teaching positions for which all graduate students are eligible.

University of Houston Graduate Internship Program, The Menil Collection

Available to one graduate student in Art History at University of Houston per academic year (September–May), the program offers the opportunity to work as an intern in the curatorial department at the Menil Collection. During the appointment, the intern gains professional museum experience by assisting the curatorial department in the development of exhibitions, conducting art historical and provenance research on the permanent collection, working with other museum departments, and giving public tours and talks to visitors. Area and field of art historical research are open, and applicants from historically underrepresented in museum professions are strongly encouraged to apply. Applicants for the fellowship must apply through the UH Art History Program.

MFAH Fellowship in Object-Based Learning

Available to graduate students in the Department of Art History, the OBL Fellow will be embedded in a curatorial department at the MFAH and the Department of Learning and Interpretation. The Fellow will work closely with a curatorial mentor and with mentors in Learning and Interpretation to shape and model a set of learning tools that formulate the basis of object-based learning at the university level. The fellow will experience working directly with original art objects, spend time in the conservation labs, hone object-based research techniques, and practice object-based writing for multiple interpretive modes (in-gallery labels, web and app texts, catalog entries). Area and field of art historical research are open. Candidates for the fellowship must apply through the UH Department of Art History.