But Why? Eight Reasons to take Art History

By: Kevin Hayes –

As a senior, I am close to completing four years of classes here at Seton-La Salle. As I look back at the 30+ courses I have taken (including nine AP classes), I have seen a great deal in regard to the courses this school has to offer. Some I have enjoyed more than others, but there is one that will undoubtedly forever hold a special place in my heart: art history. Juniors, sophomores, and freshmen (yes, we had a sophomore take art history this year) be warned: art history is an amazing class. You are missing out if you opt not to take it at some point during your Seton career. Here is my list of  reasons as to why you should consider taking art history (sarcasm included):

  1. It fulfills your art credit requirement, which is needed to graduate.
  1. It can be taken as an AP class, which has the potential to provide a GPA boost depending on performance in the class.
  1. Small class size – this year, we had a large class with eight students. Last year, there were even fewer. Having a small class size provides for a more personal experience when taking any class, and art history is no exception. By having fewer students, there is never a dull moment. We always have fun, intense, thought-provoking discussions, regardless of the subject matter at hand.
  1. You get to experience the greatest television documentaries ever made. For those unaware, students in art history usually watch Nigel Spivey’s How Art Made the World, John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, and The Right Honorable The Lord Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation. Each series provides valuable insights into the history of art, with fantastic musical scores and easily-quotable clips. How Art Made the World will leave you asking “But why?” to just about everything for the rest of your life. Civilisation goes even further, providing knowledge not just for life, but for eternity. The 13-episode, 650 minute saga (we still haven’t even finished it) transforms its viewers into dental hygiene experts through its hours upon hours of facial close-ups of the host of the series, the Englishman Sir Kenneth Clark. His teeth unfortunately look like “someone shoved a bunch of dinner plates into his mouth and set off a hand grenade”, Sir Clark travels around the world, talking about every piece of art you wish you didn’t have to know about. Fun personal anecdote: my brother and his fellow art history alumni still speak of Civilisation long after taking the class.
  1. You get to look at pretty pictures.
  1. You learn valuable time management skills. The art history syllabus includes, on average, one weekly quiz/test on required readings, including identifying the artwork and artists from said assigned readings. You will learn to study more than just the night before, or else you will struggle dearly on the quizzes. Or you will spend a large amount of time studying beforehand and still struggle dearly on the quizzes.
  1. You get to experience the living legend, borderline deity John Manear. If you think you have met a person with immense wit and humor, just wait until you take art history (or another one of his classes). The man will say some of the funniest things you will ever hear. I personally guarantee it. From fifty years of teaching experiences, he also knows an almost inhuman amount of information about art and art history, which does, unfortunately, sometimes turn the process of making up answers on tests into an extraordinarily difficult endeavor.
  1. You gain an appreciation for art of all eras. I know personally, taking art history has given me the knowledge and experience to be able to walk into any art museum and appreciate the artwork inside, regardless of caliber. The material covered in class is (almost) always interesting, and there is always a new style or artist to discover and learn about. To quote Pocahontas, “you will learn things you never knew you never knew [by taking Art History].” Bonus: in April, as a an art history student, you will get to lead a tour as a docent at either the Cleveland Museum of Art or the Carnegie Museum of Art.

Art history provides an innumerable amount of incredible experiences, and offers something unique to our high school. Regardless of how good or bad it may seem at times, I can promise that you will not forget art history. Some classes may appear or seem as though they teach for the sake of teaching. If there’s one thing I can say with great confidence, is that Mr. Manear and art history, teach for life.


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