Whether you’ve recently completed your BA in Art History, switched over from Art, English or History or want to complete a Masters in an entirely different subject, Art History is a course worth getting excited about. Despite the easy-going connotations of being a breeze, art history is a mentally and intellectually demanding subject. The coursework requires a great deal of analytical work and independent research. It questions and strengthens your academic writing style. As someone who crossed over from illustration to art history, not entirely knowing what to expect, I feel that these few tips helped me from being overwhelmed from the beginning of my course.
Consider your final dissertation subject early
In my admissions cover letter, I wrote how much I had loved 20th-century illustration during my BA. I had decided this would be my dissertation subject for the following Summer. However, I was lucky to visit a Natalia Goncharova exhibition the Summer before I started my MA, and through some personal research, I decided to switch subjects completely! I am now looking at Russian Avant-Garde art and am enjoying it much more. It feels fresh and new to me. Consider what you’d like to write about in the first few months of the MA. Make sure it is one you will enjoy! Having a rough dissertation subject idea will make it much easier when the time comes to choose a supervisor and find adequate research material.
Make the most of the YMT pass and the Student Art Pass
When you become a student resident in York, you’re eligible to buy the YMT (York Museums Trust) pass. This allows you to to get into York’s museums and art galleries for free. This is an excellent opportunity! Although York Art Gallery isn‘t as big as TATE, it holds touring exhibitions and collections to inspire potential research topics.
The Student Art Pass offers a deal for students at the beginning of every year. Usually, this is a £5 yearly pass, which gives you up to 50% off (and sometimes free entry to) exhibitions in the UK’S leading galleries.
You should also sign up to gallery newsletters. They give you early news regarding upcoming exhibitions, talks and events!
Try not to let art history jargon and theory overthrow you
As a newbie in art history academia, I sometimes find it hard to understand some of the jargon and theoretical terms that come with academic text and journals. Though it is something worth getting used to! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t understand a text, or find yourself reading it again and again. After talking with course mates who also struggled with some of the set text, it was a relief to find I wasn’t fighting alone with this problem!
While some terms and theories may be beneficial for your research, try not to worry about knowing everything there is to know. Especially in such a short space of time. Learn what you can, but don’t berate yourself for not understanding some. After a chat with my supervisor, who told me that simplicity in writing was also affective, I felt much better.
Don’t be fooled by some of the jargon that academic texts use. It is better to understand your work than to try to appear more intelligent by including text that you don’t.
Join the UoY Art History society
Although I haven’t had the chance to attend this year’s social events, the University of York (UoY) Art History Society provided me with an excellent opportunity to develop my academic writing as a guest writer on their blog. They are a friendly team and very easy to get in touch with. They also provide group trips to the art gallery and local Yorkshire art sights including Salts Mill in Saltaire.
The society is also an excellent chance to connect with more students on the BA course.
Start writing independently
If you’d like to practice your academic writing before applying it to your marked dissertations, an academic blog through WordPress or Blogger is an excellent way to develop your style. An independent blog also gives you to chance to write about subjects you favour, not related to the set course subjects, and may even feed into your art history speciality!
Having a blog is also a great addition to any CV, as it shows enthusiasm and a willingness to develop writing skills.
Consider your options upon graduation
A year sounds like a long time, but in full-time study, it can go at an incredibly fast pace. To avoid the penny-drop feeling of stress coming up to graduation regarding the next stop, consider the pathways that you can go down.
There is a suggestion that with an art history degree, you’re prepared to only work in galleries or museums. This isn’t entirely true! An art history degree provides you with the skills to work in positions from auction houses to education to publishing should you wish to pursue those paths. It is essential to keep an open mind, yet have some plan for the future. A chat with the university careers department can help reassure you. Their team can guide you as to which kind of work experience you might need, and how to obtain it.
Anything is worth doing as long as you enjoy it. That’s is why art history students are passionate about the arts and working within the arts and culture sector, even if is it a considerably small market.
As long as you take care to take your options into account, and make the most of the research trips and resources, I’m sure you’ll do brilliantly!
You might want to read Aneeska’s log about What the History of Art department has to offer!