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Medieval Art History Programs- Advice


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I am looking to apply to MA Programs in Art History for Fall 2022, and I am looking for some advice on which schools would best suit my interests and how I should prepare to apply. My area of focus is Medieval/Northern Renaissance Art, and I am especially interested in Gothic art, tapestry, illuminated manuscripts, as well as Early-Netherlandish painting. Right now, I am interested in applying to Case Western, IFA & Columbia (I've heard that they might be a cash grab and not worth it for MA's, so I'm open to forgetting about them), Courtauld, Williams, Fordham (Medieval Studies with a focus on art history), and potentially York (in the U.K.). Does anyone have experience with these programs who could give me some inside scoop? Are there any great MA programs with great Medieval Art professors that I should also look into? If you've been accepted at any of these schools, what do you think is important to know?

A little about me:

I graduated from the University of Texas with my B.A. in History, and unfortunately, I didn't take any Art History classes there, but I'm trying to make up for that by taking community college classes. Is it possible to take undergraduate art history classes while in an MA program to make up for that? I have done a lot of independent study, but I worry that my lack of art history classes in undergrad might hurt my chances. 

I have 2 years experience working at an art museum, and four years experience working at a fine arts library.

I graduated Magna Cum Laude, with a 3.9 GPA, and I'm a member of Phi Beta Kappa (does this even matter to admissions committees?).

I have foreign language experience but only in Polish. I realize that it will probably be important that I have Latin, German or French (if not all of them?) Do most students come in with this knowledge or do they learn it by taking classes during their program? Should I try to take some classes is one of those languages before I apply? If so, which one? 

My ultimate goal is to be a curator, and I know that I will need a PhD. I don't want to get into a ton of debt (I already have that from undergrad), so funding is really important to me. What schools offer the best funding (I've heard Case Western and Williams do, but I'm not sure)? And which schools are best for the curatorial side of things?

I would LOVE to talk to current or former students of any of these programs. Please let me know if you would be open to that! 

Thank y'all in advance for your help!!



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I just recently went through the admissions cycle for Fall 2021, so most of this is still fresh to me which I think could be helpful to you! Also, I applaud you for planning already this far out. I started planning the summer of 2020, and it definitely helped me to take my time to digest all of this.

Your professional experience would help a lot, generally speaking, in determining an acceptance to an art history MA program. Depending on the program, some boards will value this gallery/museum experience more than others, but it generally is a great addition on your application. You could especially use it to elaborate any research experience you had at those institutions (i.e., curator/client/artist research, even if it's as simple as in support of an exhibition). So I would definitely highlight anything relevant from these two on your Statement of Purpose.

Foreign languages are pretty much required for Art History grad programs, I don't think I've ever actually seen one that does not require any. It's usually expected that you prove your understanding by translating a document (like an academic paper), with the help of a dictionary. It can be 1-2 languages, depending on your specialty or proposed field of interest. You will definitely have to learn either German, French, Italian, and/or possibly Spanish, based off your listed interests. This depends mainly on how you narrow your focus, and will be determined by you and your advisor. I came into mine already having learned French, Spanish, and Italian, so the language requirement wasn't too big a deal for me and my proposed interests.

The B.A. in History will certainly help, although you may want to consider addressing this discrepancy in your statement of purpose briefly. Most programs will note it's not required to have been an Art History major in undergrad, and will certainly either a) Add relevant coursework to your studies to get you up to speed (i.e., Methodologies of Historiography), or b) ask to see some form of interest in art history whether through a few courses like those you're taking now, or through professional experience like your museum/gallery positions. I don't think you'll have enough time to take undergrad courses at the same time as your grad courses. But if you're missing anything in your records, the program would typically have you fill in those classes through their program upon starting anyways.

I'm not too familiar with whether your Phi Beta Kappa membership and its impact on admissions committees. Your statement of purpose for a grad program is greatly different from that of an undergrad application. I'd caution against mentioning anything "extra," unless it is somehow directly related to the program or field.

PhDs are guaranteed funding typically, but the MA is incredibly notorious for not being offered funding. There are programs, however, that can secure funding for their MA students. UC Davis does this, one of my friends got a great funding package from them for her MA in art history. Although they do not offer a PhD. I've heard Columbia is a cash grab as well. Although I never asked them any follow-up questions on funding as I ended up rejecting my offer from them. (NYU was a similar case). One of my mentors went to Williams and she always speaks highly of them, and I know they're another well-respected but also well-funding institution. Unfortunately, it's not very common for MA's to be funded from my understanding. How to obtain it, I'm not too keen on either. The program that was my top choice happened to offer me half the tuition reduced and an assistantship to cover my living expenses, while others in my cohort were offered a similar package but for full tuition waived. You can definitely negotiate funding with a program though, especially if you have some sort of leverage. It's quite common for universities to start hounding their applicants and figure out who else is competing for the student. So once you start getting offers, you can use school A's offer to get more funding from school B if school B is higher up on your list.

I hope this helps. Feel free to privately message me as I'm open to discussing these things in further detail.



Edited by Heideggerian
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Case Western is a wonderful program for medievalists. Tulane and Tufts do also offer funding but might be not so well suited for medievalists. There is also the Institute of Sacred Music within the Yale Divinity Schools which has an MA in Arts in Religion (the Divinity School has some spots as well). And you will be able to take courses from the art history department at Yale (!). In Europe, take a look at Central European University (Medieval Studies), they do offer full funding packages. Reasonably priced MA's can be found in the Netherlands. 

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On 4/2/2021 at 10:40 AM, millefleur97 said:

My ultimate goal is to be a curator, and I know that I will need a PhD. I don't want to get into a ton of debt (I already have that from undergrad), so funding is really important to me. What schools offer the best funding (I've heard Case Western and Williams do, but I'm not sure)? And which schools are best for the curatorial side of things?

Among the schools you listed, as far as I know: Case Western and Williams do offer great funding, Tufts offers partial funding, IFA and Columbia do use MAs as cash cows, check out the recent thread about the horrors of the Courtauld borne out by years of evidence, Fordham is great but financial support is not guaranteed, York has great medieval studies but the programme structure is similar to the Courtauld. Curatorial: Case Western is closely affiliated with the Cleveland Museum of Art, Tufts with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and Williams with the Clark. If you are interested in medieval art and the curatorial side of things, think about these museums’ collections. York, of course, is in a medieval city itself! 

Make sure to get in touch with profs at these schools and ask for emails of recent or current students. 

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