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Hunter College
Department of Art and Art HistoryMission Statement

Robert Motherwell, 1950


The Department of Art and Art History is a union of three distinct areas: The History of Art, Studio Art, and the Galleries. Students can study the history, theory and practice of art. Beyond research in the established fields of art and art history, practical experience can be gained by assisting with all organizational aspects of curating an exhibition, for example, write accompanying catalogue essays, or help with the presentation of art works in the gallery setting. This holistic approach to the arts offers a manifold of educational experiences for the students, which together with their exposure to the vibrant New York cultural scene and its world-famous museums and galleries is profoundly formative to their development. The global art world – an integration of production, curating, and historical analysis – is at our doorstep and is part of daily life at Hunter. Faculty, artist teachers all with their own expertise, is actively engaged in these art-rich environments and courses are shaped to reflect and to incorporate learning goals, thus creating the fruitful conditions for a vital, continually evolving program.



At Hunter, we believe that the study of art is a multi-faceted enterprise comprised of studio practice and research in the history and theory of art. Programs offer Ba, BFA and MFA degrees, which are open to all media. Candidates select one field of concentration in studio art: drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, printmaking, photography, ceramics clay and casting, and combined media.

The community of students represents a wide range of art interests, nationalities, ages, and backgrounds. On the MFA level, each student works in an individual studio located in the MFA Building at 205 Hudson Street in Tribeca. There, every student has the opportunity to exhibit their work in the gallery for the culminating Degree Show. Students are actively involved in their own education and a number of student-initiated groups are important additions that complement the formal program, such as   MFASO, The Photography Collective, ACE Curatorial Collective (MFA and MA students) and The Digital Media Collective.


Hunter College was founded in 1870 in order to provide a liberal education to young women who wished to become teachers.  It was first known as the Normal College of the City of New York, "normal" as in école normale, a school for the training of teachers.  The founding of the College was part of a master plan for free higher education for all the citizens of New York City.  This system eventually became the largest municipal system of higher education in the United States.  It led to the establishment, in 1961, of the City University of New York, of which Hunter College was a founding member. 

The Normal College was intended to provide specialized teacher training but it gradually developed and expanded its curriculum until it became a fully accredited liberal arts college for women.  In 1914, its name was changed to Hunter College of the City of New York to honor Thomas Hunter, its first president.  Male students were admitted to the previously exclusively female student body beginning in 1964, but its importance to the education of women accounted for its national reputation.  By 1970 more American women who had earned Ph.D.'s had received their undergraduate education at Hunter College than at any other institution in the United States.  It is no exaggeration to say that in its first century of existence no college in the United States contributed more to the education of women than Hunter College.

As the College grew the curriculum expanded to include new disciplines.  The Art Department had been a part of the curriculum since the early 1900s.  The early part of the century saw the development of  art history as a part of the Liberal Arts in American higher education and in the 1930s Hunter began to offer courses in art history taught by its studio faculty.  In 1958 a new chairman of the Art Department was elected, the art critic Eugene Goossen, and he elevated the level of professionalism in the discipline by bringing into the faculty an array of art historians and critics.  Among Goossen’s hires in art history were William Rubin, later Director of the Museum of Modern Art, Leo Steinberg and Janet Cox-Rearick.  

Within the decade of the 60s the department offerings expanded to a full range of subject areas in the History of Art: Ancient, Medieval, Islam, Renaissance, Baroque, Nineteenth Century, and the Modern Period.  The department’s continuing commitment to excellence is reflected in its professors throughout its history: Rosalind Krauss, Linda Nochlin, Wayne Dynes, and William Agee, among many others, have been members of the faculty at Hunter.   It continues to offer its undergraduate and graduate students a full range of courses in the Western tradition, and now is embarking on a campaign to expand these areas and to include non-Western faculty as well.


The department functions in two main Manhattan locations, the main campus at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue and the MFA Studio Building at 205 Hudson Street in Tribeca. The main campus at 68th Street houses the administration, the Leubsdorf Art Gallery, and the Zabar Art Library with extensive databases including Artstor, a digital source of over one million images in the arts and humanities. It also houses fully equipped workshops on the 11th floor for audio & video production, photography, printmaking, metal, wood and plaster, as well as a computer lab and painting and drawing studios. The basement of Thomas Hunter Hall, the adjacent building, houses the clay workshop.
The MFA Building is a large, unique facility that plays a significant role in the life of the college and, indeed, the city as a whole. The building houses a number of workshops and labs including photography, wood, metal, printmaking and ceramics studios, as well as digital audio and video production labs.


The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, located at the main campus, houses professionally organized exhibits that support the educational programs of the Department of Art & Art History at Hunter College.The gallery at 205 Hudson Street is home to each semester’s MFA thesis exhibitions and other exhibitions supporting the department’s educational mission. Students in both the MA and MFA programs have opportunities to make curatorial and research contributions to shows mounted at the Hunter College Galleries.