Exams are over! Lets celebrate and appreciate the art history on campus and in York

The first thing I have to mention is all of the flooding that happened in York over the Christmas holidays! The uni itself is completely fine, thanks to being on the right side of a hill, and most of the students were okay too. For the few that were affected the uni gave plenty of support and made sure those who needed help had it.

Coming back to uni is never easy for me as I tend to be babied at bit home. I do love the freedom of being an adult again though. It is worth noting that as a student you will end up coming back to uni with so much more stuff than you took home, which inevitably doesn’t fit anywhere in your room; no matter how big it is.

New term,  new modules

Anyway all this being over, on to Second year, term two for a History of Art student. This means that we leave two old modules behind and start two more which leaves me with mixed emotions as I really enjoyed the previous two. New modules for me are to do with Spanish Art in the 17th Century and Art of the Avant Garde but these were just two of the many options on offer for this term.

Architecture on campus

Heslington Hall on campus
Heslington Hall on campus

The department isn’t the only benefit to studying at University of York. As an Art Historian, I notice the architecture on campus as I walk around all of the time. It is not to every ones tastes but like marmite, some love it and others hate it! A personal highlight for me, highlighted in fact in the The English Country House module I chose last term, is Heslington Hall. We are lucky enough to have a house from the 16th century on our campus, surrounded by 60’s architecture. The hall itself has a beautiful exterior yet it is not as easy to see the original interior due to its purpose being changed over the years.

The campus is not only home to architecture, but sculpture too

Untitled by Austin Wright (1967)
Untitled by Austin Wright (1967)

Many treasures are hidden around the university – click here to see the art on campus – my favourite piece of sculpture being Untitled by Austin Wright. This was once on one of the most popular routes around campus which you would have to walk around and view from different angles to get to the library. Now the addition of two staircases make getting to the library easier but mean the work is now not as appreciated. Plus, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park isn’t far away for the sculpture lovers amongst you. This adds to Heslington Hall and of course Kings Manor, which I haven’t even mentioned yet, as another beautifully designed attraction the university can add to its collection.

Out and about in the city

There are so many other examples of amazing architecture around the city that are great for helping with my modules. The history that goes with these buildings in all senses of the word mean that I haven’t even scratched the surface of things to learn about, even after having been here for nearly a year and a half now. Tourist attractions such as Castle Howard and York Minster are obvious ones to look at but you can find some nice gems in quaint buildings like old shops in town and pubs around York.

York is an art historian’s dream, with its importance in so many different periods in time. It all started Pre-Vikings, and has since been affiliated with the English country house and played a huge part in the development of Christianity. Constantine (now the name of a York college) was based in York just before he was called to be an emperor. When in power he personally followed Christianity and made it legal for others to follow it to. Religion was high on his priorities and has been with many other important people in York, hence the vast number of churches and other religious links. One of these, St Mary’s Church to be precise, is now a contemporary art space with seasonal exhibitions. The previous exhibition Finding the Value opened my mind even more to contemporary art. I have always had a passion for this area of art but I personally love the fact that the modern work is presented on a backdrop of ecclesiastical history. You can see more information about the exhibition here.

If contemporary art isn’t your thing…

Castle Howard
Castle Howard

…Castle Howard, Fairfax House and the Mansion House are excellent examples of architecture. The latter is my now personal favourite, I love being able to see their growth from Country to Town houses. Accurate Palladian design seen in Lord Burlington’s York Assembly rooms (now an Ask Italia) shows how venues of historic beauty are now being used functionally. Much like Fairfax House that is now being used an open house.

If architecture also isn’t your thing…

…there is of course the York Art Gallery in the city centre and Norman Rea Gallery which is actually on campus! The Norman Rae Gallery is a hands on student-run gallery showing mainly Student work and work of artists from within the local area. Its great experience for anyone looking at a career in curating or even just as as part of the History of Art society. Find out more here.

There is also the York Minster and the Yorkshire Museum, two things that attract tourists from far and wide. Need I say much about the beautiful piece of architecture which is York Minister, the stain glass windows are a beautiful and awe inspiring work that makes you want to understand the biblical stories depicted. The Yorkshire Museum is an archeological and natural history type of museum yet there are lots of Roman artefacts to enjoy. Jewellery is well displayed there and is an interesting alternative for many Art History students who might not usually think to look. The Yorkshire Museum grounds themselves offer a lovely place to visit with the ruins of St Mary’s Abbey as a backdrop. Events throughout the year such as York Illuminations and plays in the summer mean there is something to do all the time, there is also an observatory for anyone who is interested in space.

Basically what I’m trying to say is, in my opinion there is no better city to study Art History in than York because in York you’re living in Art History, be it on campus or in the City, rather than just studying it!

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