The Department of Art and Art History affirms the power of art to transform individuals and society. They are committed to the practice, production and critical and historical study of art within a liberal arts education that encourages experimentation and independence of thought.

Their diverse faculty offer a rigorous curriculum that crosses disciplines and attracts inquisitive, dedicated students with wide-ranging interests, encouraging creative investigation as an essential skill informed by the highest standards of critical thought. 

A hard-hitting amalgamation of critical theory and studio courses, brilliantly transversing Courbet and Marina Abramović, Picasso and Gertrude Stein, Joan Didion and Dave Hickey — the CU Art and Art History Department is the best-kept secret among art schools."

Amber St. Lucia, artist and former graduate student in painting and drawing

Art is more than just a hobby — it is a creative pursuit, and studying it offers the benefits of such. Creative majors are given the space and time to grow as both a creative and a critical thinker through the support of seasoned, talented professionals. Because of that, they are also able to develop the more abstract skills that jobs appreciate, like innovation, analytical thinking, visual literacy, time management, hard work, discipline and an attention to detail or observation.

Art is also the cornerstone of the University experience, and is what makes us human. It and it's history provide social and cultural context and help provoke empathy and understanding. 

The art and art history program in art practices at CU Boulder offers the best professional art training in the Rocky Mountain region. Programs are offered in painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics and electronic media which includes video, photography and digital art. There are opportunities to develop an interdisciplinary emphasis as well. Metal and woodshop facilities are available to support studio activities. 

And the department's ceramics concentration is consistently ranked as one of the best in the nation—ranking #5 in the most recent US News and World report rankings.

The Department of Art and Art History is also home to many award-winning and prolific artistic professionals, including a recipient of the State of Colorado’s Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a Professor of Distinction, that have showcased their art at over 2,500 solo and group exhibitions across the globe, and have won numerous residencies and fellowships at such places as the National Endowment for the Arts, Fulbright and Guggenheim.

The Department of Art Practices and Art History is nationally recognized for several artistic programs, focusing broadly in nine categories: ceramics, digital arts, foundations, integrated arts, painting/drawing, photography, printmaking, sculpture and video.

The art and art history department also encourages interdisciplinary research and education for all students and faculty, and is home to faculty with affiliations across the college, such as Classics, Film Studies, Critical Media Practices and Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance.

Housed in the new Visual Arts Complex, the department is home to the CU Art Museum, which has over 8,000 objects in a wide range of artistic media in its permanent collection, including works by Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Rauschenberg, Rodin, and Warhol, and has over 8,000 square feet of exhibition space with four galleries.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree in art and art history, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • Art and art history majors can apply to write a creative or critical honors thesis, the successful defense of which results in the designation of cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude at graduation. The Honors thesis is an independent project that the student designs by working one-on-one with a faculty director. Information on honors is available on the Classics department website, the Honors website.
  • An internship program provides junior and senior-level students the opportunity to work in art-related agencies and receive up to 6 credit hours while learning how a major in art can lead to a variety of careers that are often overlooked. If interested, you should discuss this program with the departmental internship director.
  • The department offers a visiting artist program that regularly brings to campus internationally recognized artists and critics. Similarly, the department’s visiting scholar program invites leading scholars to campus. Free public lectures by these visitors are regular features of these programs. All students are strongly encouraged to attend.
  • The experience of studying abroad can prove invaluable for you as an art major. Your first-hand experience abroad can provide you with new insights into the fine arts of another country or world region. The university offers more than 100 programs throughout the world. You can earn credit that counts as if you had taken courses here, in some cases fulfilling major and core requirements. You may spend a few weeks to a full academic year abroad, depending on the program you select. Prior language study or other prerequisites are necessary for some programs, so early planning is essential. Further information about study abroad is available from Education Abroad, 303-492-7741 or on the education abroad website.

The study of art is excellent preparation for careers in a wide variety of fields. Some students consider the B.F.A. in practices preparation for life as a professional artist. Curatorial positions in museums and galleries, library work, public relations, commercial illustration, advertising, marketing, and publishing are other areas that utilize skills acquired by art graduates.

With graduate and professional training you may prepare for work in areas of the visual arts or enter fields such as law, education, business administration, architecture, art restoration and conservation, or art therapy, to name a few possibilities.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • the average expected salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in art history is $58,000; and
  • the average expected salary for someone with a BFA in art practices is $53,000, and the BA in art practices is $54,000.

At CU Boulder, art history and art practices graduates earn more than the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. 

art practices

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for art history graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school. Separately, click on this link for the reported estimated median salaries for art practices.

CU Boulder alumni in art practices earn an average annual salary of $55,799, based on a pool of 2199 alumni, whereas alumni in art history earn an average annual salary of $60,312, based on a pool of 805 alumni.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that job growth for the following Art-related fields from 2016-2026 will be: art director, 5%, as fast as average for all fields; craft and fine artists, 6%; graphic designers, 4%; multimedia artists and animators, 8%.

The Department of Art and Art History has an extensive list of alumni, working and performing in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Steve Ells (BA '88) is founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill.
  • Molly Hatch (MFA ceramics, '08) is artist designer for Hatch Designs, LLC, and has sold her work to Anthropologie, Galison, Chronicle Books, Quarry, Graphique de France and more.
  • Ben Jackel (BFA '00) is a sculptor living in Los Angeles who has had solo exhibitions at L.A. Louver and other galleries. In 2014 he was artist-in-residence at Fullerton College, Fullerton, Calif.
  • Willis Pyle ('37) was an animator with Walt Disney Animation Studios who worked on such iconic films as Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi.
  • Dexter Williams (MA '80) is director of Fixed Income Markets in Los Angeles.