Critical Focus on the Visual Arts: Art and Architecture

Level: Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in fall 2015.
Session: I, June 29–July 17, 2015
Days & Time: Monday–Friday, 10:10 AM–12:00 PM and 2:10–4:00 PM; class sessions will occasionally spill over into the midday activities period because of travel time for field trips.
Stephanie O’Rourke,
Tina Rivers,
Related Courses:

Students interested in this course might also be interested in Introduction to Architectural Design and Theory, Painting: The Painted Image, or Photography: The Camera Craft.

[I have gained] a wider knowledge and appreciation of art history as a whole.— Eliza Davis Beard, 2014

Course Description

A two-course curricular option that provides a concentrated study of aesthetic concepts for students interested in the visual arts. Both courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, skills that will be valuable to students in whatever fields they choose to pursue in college and beyond. Numerous field trips to museums and architectural landmarks throughout the city enable students to take advantage of New York’s vast cultural resources. Both courses meet daily, one in the morning, one in the afternoon.

Architecture and Society: New York’s Built Environment
Tina Rivers

This course introduces students to the visual analysis of architecture. Instead of surveying the history of architecture, we will look at specific New York landmarks to understand how great structures not only fulfill practical needs but also influence our relationship to the physical and social world around us. By studying some of New York’s most notable museums, parks, shopping complexes, houses of worship, government centers, office buildings, sports arenas and more, we will see how these sites reflect and inform different kinds of social experiences. As we learn to “read” these sites closely, we will become familiar with the basic vocabulary of architecture (including light, space, mass, and circulation), and appreciate how architects of different eras and sensibilities have engaged these same basic elements to different ends.

Some of the sites we may explore together include Columbia University’s campus, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Central Park, the Woolworth Building, Grand Central Terminal, Rockefeller Center, the Whitney Museum, the High Line, and the Barclays Center.

Problems in the History of Art
Stephanie O'Rourke

This course covers selected monuments of painting and sculpture from various eras and cultures as well as basic trends and concepts in the history of art. Students learn about art from both the artist’s perspective (focusing on materials and technique) and the art historian’s perspective (focusing on issues of patronage, context, and interpretation), with both ultimately impacting how we view these objects in the modern world.

The goal of this class is to examine specific objects and encourage students to think about formal analysis—understanding the choices artists make, as well as how these objects reflect upon their specific culture and era. Rather than addressing the subject of art history in the traditional survey fashion, this course will be topic-based, with particular emphasis on how curatorial decisions impact the way we view works of art.

While the works examined are not limited to New York-based art, the course does take advantage of the city's many wide-ranging art collections. Class trips include visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, the Frick Collection, the Guggenheim Museum, the Hispanic Society, and the Museum of Modern Art.


Stephanie O’Rourke

Stephanie O’Rourke holds a B.A. from Harvard University and two master’s degrees in the field of art history from Columbia University. She is currently completing her Ph.D. at Columbia, where she specializes in European art from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. Her dissertation focuses on the relationship between art and science around the time of the French Revolution. In addition to teaching Columbia’s Core Curriculum course, Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art, she has taught for courses in eighteenth-, nineteenth-, and twentieth-century art. She recently served as a Mellon fellow at The Museum of Modern Art, and her scholarly work has been supported by the Yale Center for British Art and the Social Science Research Council. 

Tina Rivers

Tina Rivers graduated from Harvard College and holds three master’s degrees in art history and related fields. Currently she is completing her Ph.D. in art history at Columbia University and her dissertation focuses on the New York art world of the 1960s. In addition to teaching Columbia’s Core Curriculum course, “Art Humanities: Masterpieces of Western Art,” she has taught courses on contemporary art at Columbia, the Pratt Institute, and the Museum of Modern Art. Her scholarly work has appeared in publications including Art Journal and Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media, while her art criticism appears on Rivers is also a featured blogger on and regularly lectures to adult audiences around the country about learning to look at art.

Specific course information, such as hours and instructors, are subject to change at the discretion of the University.