Street: What is Visual Studies?

Gary Hatfield (Head of Visual Studies Dept.): An exploration of the interactions among eye, mind and image. It includes scientific and philosophical approaches to vision, the history of art, visual art–making and interactions among these. It is intrinsically interdisciplinary, and a lot of fun.

Ryna Frankel (Sector C, C'11): The study of visual culture and perception through philosophy, psychology and art.

Adwoa Sey (Sector C, C'11): It’s hard work, but it’s also a lot of fun! Plus, best/worst part of being a VLST major: people’s faces when you try to explain that it's actually a real thing!

Evan Ellman (Sector C, C'11): I cannot even begin to describe what Visual Studies is in a concise sentence or two. I am currently taking a seminar called What is Visual Studies? So as you can imagine, boiling down that information into cold hard facts is near impossible.

Dorry Guerra (Sector A, C'13): Visual Studies is a multifaceted consideration of vision, images, image-making and visual communication.

Street: What do students do with a Visual Studies degree after graduation?

GH: VLST is a liberal arts major that focuses on the visual, and so it prepares students for a number of career paths. For those who immediately enter the workforce, we expect them to do well at finding jobs in the museum and gallery worlds, in companies that focus on visual media and in companies that need managers who can mediate between artists and designers and other segments of the company. For those who want to go to graduate or professional school, Sector A students (Philosophy and Science of Seeing) can, with some additional courses, compete well for medical school admission, or for philosophy or psychology graduate school. Similarly, Sector B students (Art and Culture of Seeing) might go on in art history, and Sector C students (Art, Practice and Technology) might go on in architecture or fine arts (with some additional courses).

RF: I hope to pursue a masters in fine arts.

AS: I have NO idea! I might go to grad school, but otherwise I'm leaning towards something marketing/advertising based.

EE: I am a Visual Studies Major and a Consumer Psychology minor and I felt at the time (and still do) that this combination of disciplines would be very appropriate to a career in the Marketing and Advertising Industry. In an age where consumers are faced with an overwhelming amount of clutter in their visual landscape, I figured my understanding of Visual Studies as well as Consumer Psych would make me uniquely qualified to work in this field.

DG: I’m interested in the retail industry. Visual Studies emphasizes effective communication via visual cues, and this is admittedly germane to marketing, advertising, merchandising and consumer science.

Street: Why major in Visual Studies?

GH: Students who are fascinated by seeing and want to understand it better. Students who want to take an interdisciplinary approach to the history of art and the study of art making. Students who are interested in studio arts and want to pursue this interest as part of a liberal arts major.

RF: I like that it is interdisciplinary because though I focus on art practice I am also interested in science/philosophy. I am also interested in the way we mediate the world through images and globalization, especially through the internet.

AS: I chose Visual Studies because I knew I wanted to study art in some form, but I didn’t want to be a pure Fine Arts major. I felt that major would be too limiting in terms of both what I could do after graduation and what I would learn while here at Penn.

EE: The background for why I went in the fine arts direction is because I was pretty curious when I was in middle school, so picked up Photoshop and starting messing around with it. I guess in the same way that you learn a language, Photoshop became second nature to me. I wanted to try applying that knowledge to my academic studies, so that is why I chose to take Digital Design Foundations that semester. I loved the class so much that I looked into the different majors that could embody digital design.

DG: Visual Studies seems to be a pretty ideal synthesis of art theory, art history and art practice. I like that it's both analytical and practical.

Street: What can students get out of the major?

GH: They should take away a unique combination of skills and knowledge. Skills in understanding information that is presented visually and in analyzing the visual; skills in image and art making; and skills in critical analysis of theories and concepts of the visual. Knowledge of the philosophy and science of vision, of portions of the history of art and of art theory as applied in the making of art.

RF: An understanding of why the tricks employed by artists work visually and psychologically.

AS: I'm probably still going to minor in Fine Arts, but I think by having Visual Studies as my main focus I'll be much more well rounded, especially being in Sector A.

EE: Visual Studies gave me enough flexibility to explore graphic design and other fine arts courses, while also gaining the relevant background in Visual Studies, such as the psychology of seeing and art history.

DG: Visual Studies teaches you not only how to make art forms, but about their history, purpose and the ways in which to use them in order to communicate effectively.

Note: The editors apologize for incorrect names that ran in print.