Master of Arts in Art History - University of Houston
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Rex Koontz
Professor
Program Coordinator
E-mail: rkoontz@uh.edu
Office: Fine Arts, 104E

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, MA in Art History 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.

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 Renaissance Art, 17th-Century Northern European Art, Global Modern and Contemporary Art and Design, Latin American and Latinx 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 and conservators further enrich regular course offerings, such as our Object-Based Learning seminar on Latin American and Latinx art taught in situ at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. Graduate students are introduced to art historical methodologies and historiography in small, graduate-only seminars. In their first year, students take a two-semester Methods and Historiography sequence, 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, field trips and learning abroad excursions, object-based learning in local museums and in our Object Laboratory, 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 arts publications. Our graduates have also pursued careers in arts librarianship, arts management, and arts education.

Visiting Speakers

Each year, the Art History Program hosts a distinguished scholar as part of the greater School of Art speaker series. In addition to giving a public lecture, this guest engages students in intimate seminars and workshops, where we have the opportunity to interact closely with their research and pedagogy. We host numerous other speakers throughout the academic year in connection with our curriculum, including art historians, curators, critics, and artists. In particular, we regularly engage students with museum curators and conservators from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston and the Menil Collection.

Recent speakers include: Katie Anania, Claire Bishop, Charlene Villaseñor Black, Cornelia Butler, Douglas Crimp, Thomas Crow, Jamal Cyrus, Moyra Davey, Leah Dickerman, Natalie Dûpecher, Bradford Epley, Allan DeSouza, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Darby English, Harry Gamboa Jr., Julia Guernsey, Suzanne Hudson, Caroline A. Jones, Amelia Jones, David Joselit, Bryan Just, Lewis Kachur, Sergio Prego, Sondra Perry, Christopher Lew, Mia Locks, Anna Lovatt, Megan Metcalf, Kari Dodson, Asa Mittman, Gail Levin, James Nisbet, Peggy Phelan, Laura Phipps, Mari Carmen Ramírez, Vincent Ramos, Matthew Ritchie, Judith Rodenbeck, Steve Rowell, Katy Siegel, Jacob Stewart-Halevy, Gloria Sutton, Alvia Wardlaw, Michelle White.

Faculty

Opportunities for Financial Support

The program provides additional opportunities for financial support including salaried Instructional Assistant positions, which prepare students for teaching careers through involvement with undergraduate education within the Art History program. The School of Art and UH Graduate School also provide competitive travel awards 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. 

Facilities

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. We regularly place students in funded and credited 9-month internships at the Menil Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Blaffer Art Museum, UH Public Art, and the university’s highly-regarded literary journal Gulf Coast

Fellowships and Assistantships

Paid Instructional Assistantships, or grading positions, are available on a selective basis each semester. These positions support our undergraduate curriculum and provide valuable pedagogical experience to those interested in pursuing education positions at all levels. In addition, we offer a portfolio of high-quality Graduate Internships that are compensated on a hybrid paid/credited model. One semester, the student receives a stipend; in the other, they receive three hours of Art History Internship credit. These positions are by invited application only upon entry into the MA in Art History Program.

The Menil Collection Graduate Internship (1 year)

Available to one graduate student in Art History at the University of Houston per academic year (September–May), the Graduate Internship Program offers the opportunity to work 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; applicants with backgrounds historically underrepresented in museum professions are strongly encouraged to apply. menil.org

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (1 year)

Available to one graduate student in Art History at University of Houston per academic year (September–May), the Graduate Internship Program offers the opportunity to work with a Contemporary Arts Museum Houston curator. During the appointment, the intern gains professional museum experience by assisting the curatorial department in the development of exhibitions, conducting art historical research, working with other museum departments, and potentially giving public tours and talks to visitors. Area and field of art historical research are open; applicants with backgrounds historically underrepresented in museum professions are strongly encouraged to apply. camh.org

Curatorial Internship in Contemporary Art, Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston  (1 year)

The graduate intern in contemporary art at Blaffer Art Museum is mentored by curatorial and education staff as they undertake diverse responsibilities in professional-level work at the museum. The intern will hone their applied research skills by contributing to curatorial and education projects and programs at the museum, including various modes of interpretive writing for the public. In the spring semester, the intern will write interpretive texts and assist in organizing public programs for the UH MFA thesis exhibition. The intern will also develop interpretive programs that build and expand engagement with contemporary art in a university setting. Special attention will be directed toward the organization of original programs that connect with fellow UH students, the work of the Blaffer Art Museum Student Association (BAMSA), and/or students at the School of Art. Responsibilities may include: assisting in curatorial research for upcoming exhibitions; assisting in the development of public and online programs; writing interpretive labels for the MFA thesis exhibition; conducting studio visits with artists; conducting research for exhibitions, programs, and/or catalogues. blafferartmuseum.org

Internship in Object-Based Learning, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1 year; open to continuing students only)

Available to continuing students in the MA in Art History Program, the MFAH-OBL intern will be embedded in a curatorial department at the MFAH in concert with the Department of Learning and Interpretation. The intern will work closely with both a curatorial mentor and 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, catalogue entries). Area and field of art historical research are open. mfah.org

Curatorial Internship in the Art of the Indigenous Americas, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2 year; open to incoming students only)

The Curatorial Internship in the Art of the Indigenous Americas, MFAH, is a two-year program for one entering MA student interested in a continuous and intensive experience in meaningful museum work. The chosen student will work closely with Dr. Rex Koontz and the assistant curator in the Art of the Indigenous Americas at MFAH, Chelsea Dacus, learning all aspects of museum research in our area (research and writing on a scholarly catalog of collection, conservation, TMS, provenance, exhibition display, etc.). mfah.org

Assistant Art Editor, Gulf Coast (2 year; open to incoming students only)

The Assistant Art Editor works closely with the Guest Art Editor to commission and edit contributions to the Art section of Gulf Coast. Published biannually, Gulf Coast is a nationally-distributed journal housed within the University of Houston’s English Department, home to one of the US’s top ranked creative writing programs. Gulf Coast differs from many other literary journals in its commitment to exploring visual art and critical art writing. Gulf Coast commits sixteen pages in each issue to full-color visual art features and twenty-four pages to critical art writing; this includes portfolios by two artists, along with short introductions from critics familiar with their work. The Assistant Art Editor also facilitates the annual Toni Beauchamp Prize in Critical Art Writing, whose past judges have included Darby English, Franklin Sirmans, Jenna Wortham, Jessica Lynne, and Wendy Vogel. gulfcoastmag.org

Public Art of the University of Houston System (2 year; open to incoming students only)

The Graduate Internship Program at Public Art of the University of Houston System (Public Art UHS) is available to one graduate student in Art History at the University of Houston for a 2-year academic year appointment. Established in 1969, Public Art UHS is the oldest, most significant and only collecting arts organization within the University of Houston System, the fourth-largest university system in Texas. Through this internship, the appointee will gain professional experience in art historical research, art installation, collection and archives management, and object-based teaching. Potential projects will focus on Public Art UHS’s extensive collection of Modern and Contemporary art—on view across multiple sites within the UH System—as well as planned exhibitions, commissions, and acquisitions. Applicants with an interest in Modern and Contemporary Art are preferred. publicartuhs.org

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