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.
Research + publications
Penn State Art History students, faculty, and staff are involved in a broad range of research initiatives. We invite you to explore.
Fabrication: Virtual and Material Approaches to Global Textiles
CVMS will focus attention to fibers and fabrics–materials with which most art historians are unfamiliar despite their substantial impact on the arts. The art historical significance of textiles cannot be overstated. Culturally significant ornament and imagery have been woven and sewn since antiquity. Textiles of linen and silk have provided the support for global painting practices for centuries. Patterning of the most delicate and sophisticated variety has appeared in lace and embroidery as much as in sculpture and architecture. Some of the most urgent economic and humanitarian issues of the modern era–the global transit of materials along trajectories of colonial power, the enslavement or exploitation of workers, the gendering and racialization of labor, the swelling of consumer culture–have been most impactful in the context of textile production. https://arts.psu.edu/research/virtual-material-studies/
The September 27th opening celebration introduced the center’s inaugural research theme, “Fabrication: Virtual and Material Approaches to Global Textiles,” and highlighted the research project “Flax: First Fiber of the Arts,” an interdisciplinary research project that combines scholarship with ancient, hands-on methods of growing and harvesting flax to be used in the arts.
Amara Solari featured in Research | Penn State Fall 2022.
“YUCATECAN 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 recipients on Oct. 14
The College of Arts and Architecture will honor its 2022 Alumni Award recipients during an in-person ceremony, open to the public, on Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in the Palmer
Center for Virtual/Material Studies to hold opening celebration on Sept. 27
Art History, IST research project receives second NEH grant to study Constable’s clouds
Associate Professor of Art History
Dr. Zabel teaches courses in modern architecture, with particular emphases on the architecture of the United States, Germany, and Russia. His publications are primarily in the areas of early twentieth-century architecture, bank architecture, Prairie School architects, American public architecture, skyscrapers, and contemporary architects. His essay on Penn State’s architecture was published in This is Penn State: An Insider’s Guide to the University Park Campus (Penn State Press). His current research explores the history of the skyscraper and American popular culture, from P.T. Barnum’s oddities and NY’s Newspaper Row to the cinematic Emerald City of Oz. He is a recipient of the College of Arts and Architecture Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching, Penn State’s Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award, and the Penn State Teaching Fellow Award: The Alumni Association and Student Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr. Zabel served as Head of the Department of Art History from 1998 to 2017, after serving as interim head from 1996 to 1998. In 2019, he founded the Iconic Modern Chairs collection in Penn State’s Architecture & Landscape Architecture Library.
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.