Welcome to the Department of Art Theory & Practice (AT&P) at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Northwestern University. The department has both an undergraduate program, offering a baccalaureate degree, and a graduate program, offering a Masters of Fine Arts degree.

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degree requirements | courses | seminars and special topics courses | course schedule | departmental honors | how to enroll

director of undergraduate studies: Michael Rakowitz

Our department believes in the inherent unity between the practice and theory of art. Beyond the development of skills and training in techniques, the study of art involves gaining both an understanding of visual thinking and an awareness of the histories, issues and concepts that bear on the direction and role of the visual arts in our culture today.

Most of our courses are designed to serve all students regardless of their major area of study. AT&P enrolls about 40-60 undergraduate art majors, while approximately 1,000 non-majors take our classes every year. Our undergraduate courses cover both traditional approaches and newer media and alternative strategies. Painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture and photography form the core of the undergraduate curriculum, giving students the opportunity to develop a solid foundation in the field's traditions and established media. The department also looks forward to experimental approaches and future developments in visual art making. We incorporate digital technology, video and conceptual art practice into our curriculum, thus blending newer trends with established practices. Also integral to our program are seminars in art theory, as well as critique classes in which enrolled students present new work for prolonged, in-depth analysis by the class. By the senior year, each department major is encouraged to elaborate his or her own self-motivated, individual studio practice in which artworks are produced independently of classroom assignments.

how to get into an at&p class
We realize how difficult it is for students to get into our undergraduate classes, but we encourage you to try. Every quarter, although our classes start off full, students drop out and we end the quarter under-enrolled. Here's what you do: 1.sign up for the wait list on CAESAR 2. go to the first class (no matter how long the wait list) 3. if you don't get in at the first class meeting, go to the second class. If you have any questions, contact Maura Costa, department assistant.

undergraduate studios
To insure safety and security, undergraduate work areas in 640 Lincoln St. are available only to students enrolled in AT&P courses. Rooms are locked when not in use; see technician for access (technician location posted at 640 Lincoln St, Rm 104).

Josh Ippel
640 Lincoln St, Rm 104

studio hours
Mon-Thurs 9am-10pm
Friday 11am-5pm
Saturday 11am-6pm
Sunday 12pm-6pm

100 Level

Art 120-0 Introduction to Painting
This course addresses various problems in painting and introduces students to modes of visual thinking. Work will be done in a two-dimensional format using oil paint on a gesso-prepared ground on a canvas support. The focus is on acquiring the basic material and technical skills necessary to articulate visual ideas in oil paint, including how to organize compositions using color and value relationships, form and shape, placement and paint application. Although most exercises deal with problems in painting, considerable work in drawing may be required to support studies in the use of color and paint. Assignments may introduce students to a variety of subject matter, such as still life, landscape and the figure in representational and abstract form. Instruction is individualized and students and faculty participate in one-on-one discussions of works in progress. Students also participate in class discussions and critiques to develop the criteria for making their own judgments about works of visual art. Evaluation is based on the degree of growth, attendance, participation and the degree of mastery of painting materials and techniques.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 124-0 Color Theory
This course provides an introduction to color theory with emphasis on its application to the visual arts. Students will learn key terms and the basics of color physics and the physiology of visual perception. We will become familiar with theories of color relationships based on a color sphere incorporating both color and value with primary, secondary, and tertiary colors identified. The course will explore characteristics such as hue, value, and saturation; additive and subtractive color meeting; color interaction; simultaneous contrast; transparency; the relationship between form and color; and the spatial effects of colors. In addition, the distinctions between local and descriptive color versus subjective and expressive color, the psychological effect of colors, and symbolism and cultural associations will be addressed. Each project will be introduced with a lecture/presentation and examples of artwork relating to the problem investigated. Each project will be followed by a group critique of student work.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 125-0 Introduction to Drawing
This course introduces students to the expressive use of various graphic media such as charcoal, pencil, crayon, chalk, pen and ink and/or brush and wash. Specific techniques such as form modeling, spatial illusions and principles of linear perspective may be explored. Through individual critiques and group discussions students develop an awareness of the relationship between observation, technique and expression. Evaluation is based on in-class performance, attendance, ability to absorb and use information and/or a final portfolio.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 130-0 Introduction to Time-Based Arts
Through studio assignments, screenings, readings, lectures, discussion, and/or workshops, students will be introduced to a wide range of time-based art practices as used in the visual arts, including performance, sound and video.
No prerequisites.  P/N permitted.

Art 140-0 Introduction to Sculpture
This course is a basic introduction to sculptural concerns and issues of three-dimensional form. It includes instruction in traditional modeling techniques in clay, plaster and woodworking. The teaching method includes slide lectures, demonstrations of techniques and individual guidance on studio projects. There are occasional group critiques and discussions of exhibitions or readings. Evaluation is based on the quality of the completed studio projects, participation in group critiques and attendance.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

Art 150-0 Introduction to Photography
This course concentrates on extensive darkroom instruction focusing on the production of high-quality black-and-white prints. Class sessions are devoted to lecture/demonstrations and group critiques that address both technique and content. Students work during class sessions as well as independently and students should be prepared to work in the photo lab outside of scheduled class meeting times. Evaluation of student performance is based on attendance, ability to absorb and implement information and a final portfolio.
No prerequisites. P/N permitted.

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200 Level

Art 272-0 Critical Methods for Contemporary Art
This slide-lecture survey course is designed to give both art majors and non-majors an introduction to the myriad forms and concerns of art from the 1960s to the present. We will begin by examining the rise of pop and minimal art, and the challenge these movements - along with the earthworks, conceptual art, and performances that followed them - posed to the idea of modernism and the traditions of painting and sculpture. The question of postmodernism will be important to the course both thematically and chronologically. The second half of the course will focus on the issues raised by the return to representation in painting, by photography and other technologies of reproduction, by new media and genres like video art and installation, by shifts in concern regarding audience and public art, and by increased pluralism and globalism and their impact on our definitions of mainstream and avant-garde.
No prerequisites.  P/N permitted only if course is not used either as a general distribution or departmental requirement.

Art 280-0 Studio Practice
This course is designed for art majors in their junior year who have already taken multiple courses in the department and are working towards building a self-directed practice. The emphasis is on practice as the material basis of an artist's creative activity, a set of concrete working behaviors, processes and strategies that may include, but is not limited to, forms of sketching, questioning, brainstorming, self-imposed challenges, chance operations, material investigations, devising and executing of tasks, juxtaposing, copying, repeating, revising, compiling, ordering, editing and research. Throughout the quarter, students will investigate different strategies and modes of exploration and experimentation so that each student may discover what works best in the development and expansion of her or his own daily working process. We may also look at established artists for possible models of active studio practices.
Junior in the major or permission of the instructor.

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300 Level

Art 372 Seminar

Seminar courses vary quarter to quarter. See the current list of available seminars here.


Art 380-0 Studio Critique
This course is designed for advanced students who have already taken multiple courses in the department and are somewhat self-directed in their studio practice. In order to develop their own works, students will regularly present completed works or works in progress to the group for critique, advice and suggestions. This course helps students to develop their skills of interpretation and analysis, to become more articulate in their discussions of their own work and the work of others, and to learn to apply critical language effectively. Towards these ends, a great deal of class time will be spent on intensive group discussion of student work. The class may also discuss how to effectively and professionally document and install works of art and the writing of an artist’s statement. Prerequisite: Art 280, Junior or Senior Status in Major or permission of instructor.

Art 390 Special Topics

Special Topics courses vary quarter to quarter. See the current list of available special topic courses here.


Art 399-0 Independent Study
Independent study is designed for advanced students who will work one-on-one with a faculty advisor to develop a specific independent studio project. Independent study students are accepted only by permission of the instructor, who must be a member of the full-time faculty, and by permission of the department chairperson. The teaching method varies somewhat with each individual faculty advisor, but generally students meet privately with their advisor on a bi-weekly basis.

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