Department ofArt History
Historical + Interpretive Studies
A Humanities Major in the Arts
Students can major or minor in art history, pursue a minor in architectural history, or work toward earning a museum studies certificate. Students have the opportunity to hold internships or assistantships at Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art, known particularly for its strong holdings in American, African American, and contemporary art.
Advanced studies with renowned scholars
Our M.A. and Ph.D. programs provide candidates with the opportunity to pursue advanced study directly with renowned scholars. The department’s faculty are internationally recognized scholars and critics known for their dedication to their students.
Contact + Connect
Research + Publications
Penn State Art History students, faculty, and staff are involved in a broad range of research initiatives. We invite you to explore.
Sad Purple and Mauve: A History of Dye-Making
Please join us for the opening of the exhibition Sad Purple and Mauve: A History of Dye-Making, organized in conjunction with the Center for Virtual/Material Studies. This exhibition will explore the science, art, and history of textile dye-making and dyes and their uses in books and manuscripts.
Curated by Sarah Rich, Associate Professor of Art History and Director of the Center for Virtual/Material Studies. Organized by Clara Drummond, Lead Curator and Exhibitions Coordinator, Eberly Family Special Collections Library.
Join us for the opening reception on Thursday, September 14th, from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. in the Mann Assembly Room, 103 Paterno Library.
All are welcome. No RSVP necessary. Appetizers and refreshments will be served.
Dyestuff: Historical Materials of Color
What do wheat bran, hydrangea branches, oak galls, safflower petals, lotus pods, nutritional yeast, snails, coal tar, and mud have in common? They have all been used to make cloth colorful. Come examine these materials, and learn how they have produced extraordinary colors throughout history and around the world.
Dr. Sarah Rich is Associate Professor of Art History and co-curator of the exhibition Sad Purple and Mauve: A History of Dyes, on view until January 6 at PSU’s Eberly Special Collections Library at University Park.
Collecting the Andes
Amara Solari, professor of art history and anthropology, and Christopher Heaney, assistant professor of history, are working together on the three-part project celebrating Andean peoples and their art, culture, science, and history
Amara Solari Featured in Research | Penn State Fall 2022
Amara Solari and colleagues have scoured the Yucatán peninsula to document and preserve religious murals painted by Maya Christian artists more than 400 years ago, pairing art history with cutting-edge materials science to gain important new insights about these fragile artworks.
“Yucatán architecture and its associated artworks have remained like a time capsule of the 16th century.”
— Amara Solari
News from A&A
College of Arts and Architecture to honor Alumni Award winners on Oct. 5
The College of Arts and Architecture will honor its 2023 Alumni Award recipients on Thursday, Oct. 5, at 5 p.m. at the Penn State Downtown Theatre Center, 146 S. Allen
Learn about flax’s role in the history of art at Ag Progress Days
Thomas to serve as next head of Department of Art History
Professor of Art History and Anthropology
Amara Solari teaches courses in Latin American art from the pre-Columbian through the colonial period. Her research focuses on processes of cultural, visual, and theological interchange between indigenous groups and Spanish settlers of New Spain. She recently received a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in support of her research project, “Maya Christian Murals of Yucatán: Indigenous Catholicism in Early Modern New Spain,” which focuses on fragile religious murals painted by Christianized Maya artists in Yucatán, Mexico, between 1550 and 1750.
Centers + Venues
Palmer Museum of Art
Borland Project Space
Center for Virtual/Material Studies
Brisa Smith FloresB.A. in Art History 2016
Brisa Smith Flores completed her undergraduate career at The Pennsylvania State University. There she worked to earn three degrees, Art History, History, and Global and International Studies, along with three minors in African American Studies, Latin American Studies, and Latino/a Studies. Brisa received a Masters of Liberal Arts degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Her thesis, “The Art of Ethnic Lynching: The Erasure of The Afro-Mexican from the National Identity of Mexico” analyzes how art and visual culture can be weaponized to maintain white supremacy. During her time in Philadelphia, she worked for the Association for Public Art and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Now, she is a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles in the World Arts and Culture/Dance Department, pursuing a PhD in Culture and Performance. Her dissertation topic explores the ways museums are part of the legacy of colonialism and how communities of the African diaspora across the Global South are challenging or reimaging how museums represent culture and identity. She has presented her research at major conferences such as the Association of Black Women Historians Symposium, the Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora, and the International Conference on the Inclusive Museum. Brisa also serves as the Graduate Fellow for the UCLA Prison Education Program, a program that provides interdisciplinary for-credit courses in correctional facilities across Los Angeles.