Academic Courses

Center for Art and Knowledge

The Center for Art and Knowledge offers courses in art history, museum studies, and modern and contemporary art theory and practice. Courses are offered every fall and spring and are in collaboration with regional universities. To enroll in our joint course offerings with the University of Maryland, visit

Spring 2020 COURSES

Colloquium in Art History: Can Art Museums Be Decolonized? A History of Modern Art Display in America
Wednesdays, January 29–May 20
2–4:30 pm

Please note this class takes place on the UMD Campus, in the Parren Mitchell Art Sociology Building - 3834 Campus Drive University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742 (Room 3217)

Instructor: Dr. Alison Boyd

Students will study how collectors, curators, patrons, artists and architects collaborated to display modern art from the late 19th century to the present, particularly in the United States. The course focuses on specific exhibitions and museums (for example The Phillips Collection, MoMA, Barnes Foundation, and Maryland Historical Society) to explore historical contexts for and theories of the display of art. Local museums will serve as an extension of our classroom as we analyze current exhibitions at the Renwick Gallery and The Phillips Collection to understand how museums function as spaces of knowledge building, identity formation, and politics. At the end of the course, we will study how artists have engaged with these spaces with site-specific art works and practices of institutional critique. As a final project, students will propose a new installation of a museum’s permanent collection that reimagines what its works of art can do and what they can mean.

Culture, Media, and the Production of Knowledge
Tuesdays/Thursdays January 28–May 19
3:30–4:45 pm

Please note this class takes place on the UMD Campus, in Woods Hall - 4302 Chapel Lane, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742 (Room 0104)

Instructor: Dr. Marlaina Martin

The social lives, or "cultures" of media will be examined: namely, how people have adopted, adapted, signified, and interacted through media, both in theory and in practice. In this seminar, students will learn about "media anthropology" as a subfield. They will also discuss various media making practices and media forms in relation to issues of racial, gender and sexual identity; self-definition; religiosity; war and intergroup conflict; advertising; and nationalism among others.

Spring 2019 COURSES

Colloquium in Art History - Dead or Alive? Still-Life Painting, 1870-Today
Wednesdays, January 30–May 8
2–4:30 pm

Please note this class takes place on the UMD Campus, in the Parren Mitchell Art Sociology Building - 3834 Campus Drive University of Maryland College Park, MD 20742 (Room 3217)

Instructor: Dr. Ashley Lazevnick

In the late-19th and 20th centuries, modern artists brought an old genre back to life—literally. Still-life painting had emerged in sixteenth-century Europe when vernacular objects were first portrayed apart from portraiture and narrative scenes, and it was exactly the genre’s unsuspecting qualities that made it an arena for formal innovation in the work of Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Georgia O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis, Giorgio Morandi, Jasper Johns, or Claes Oldenburg. This course proposes that the obsessive concentration on the object-world, found in these and other diverse examples from the twentieth century, parallels theories of vitalism and anticipates interest in post-humanism. As the Cartesian distinction between subject and object was being rigorously challenged, still life offered a place for philosophical speculation. What would the world look like without us? Does it exist if we are not watching? Is it possible to imagine a universe only of inanimate things? This course will begin asking these questions by pairing still life with historical writings (by Henri Bergson, William James, and Alfred North Whitehead) as well as current debates in new materialism and ecocriticism. More boldly than previous interpretations offered by phenomenology or psychoanalysis, such methods invite us to treat a picture as a realm entirely beyond artistic control. At the same time, students will not enter that world uncritically, as the course will also probe the limitations of object-oriented thinking, especially in cases where removing distinctions between object and subject threatens to elide issues of human inequality—be it economic or racial or gendered—that still life has routinely disclosed. Over the course of the semester, students will make several trips to The Phillips Collection.

Special Topics in Art History - Art and the Environment
ARTH488G - 
Fridays, February 1–May 10
1–3:30 pm

Instructor: Dr. Joshua Shannon

What is nature? What is civilization? How can the two co-exist? Art has been proposing a series of answers to these questions since long before the crisis of climate change. This course, focusing on Europe and North America since the advent of industrialization, studies art as an important means by which human beings produce and understand such fundamental concepts as nature, wilderness, the human being, civilization, and the world. Looking especially at paintings, photographs, sculptures, films, and songs that represent the landscape, the course will consider the history of these key concepts as they pertain to the sustainability of life on earth. How has art ended up enabling environmental degradation and hastened climate change? How might it model a more sustainable set of relationships between the human and the non-human? Our work will include frequent in-person study of art at the Phillips Collection. The course includes five units: What Does Art Have to Do with the Environment?; Modernity, Modernism, and Nature; Deserts and Desertification; Cities and Suburbs; and Globalization and Climate Change.



Special Topics in Art History - African Modernisms
Friday, January 26–May 4, 1–3:30 pm

Instructor: Kate Cowcher, Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland  Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art History 2017/18. Dr. Cowcher recently completed her doctoral thesis, which explored art and visual culture in the Ethiopian Revolution (1974-1991). Her broader research interests include modern and contemporary art in Africa and the Diaspora, African socialism, legacies of the Cold War in African visual culture, cultural exchange between Africa and Soviet/post-Soviet Russia, African cinema, artist collectives and the post-colonial city.

This workshop will introduce students to the debates and discussions around the concept of "global modernism" and its iterations in twentieth century Africa. After some introductory sessions discussing the term "modernism," its familiar Western-centric history, and its relationship to colonialism and anti-colonialism, we will look in-depth at engagements with and productions of modernist art in different national contexts across the African continent, including Senegal, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The workshop will also include a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on April 6, and will involve discussions about exhibitions and displays of modern art from Africa in Western institutions.

Workshops do not post to the UMD transcript and do not count towards a student's academic record. Neither grade nor credit is earned. Students do not receive a University ID card and will not have access to University facilities such as recreation, transportation, and campus events. Workshop students may access UMD Libraries as “Visitors”; see

In collaboration with University of Maryland

ARTH759E. Ecocriticism: A Case Study on Modern Landscape Art at The Phillips Collection
Friday, January 26–May 4, 2-4:40 pm

Please note this course is open to actively enrolled UMD graduate students only. 

Instructor: Joshua Shannon, Associate Professor, Contemporary Art History & Theory, and Director of Graduate Studies. Dr. Shannon is a specialist in the history and theory of art since 1945. His areas of research and teaching interest include photography, art and the city, the landscape, modernist realism, and contemporary visual culture. 

This course offers a graduate-level introduction to ecocriticism in the humanities as well as an opportunity to conduct intensive research on modern landscape art, making special reference to works at The Phillips Collection.

In collaboration with University of Maryland


The Window and the Screen: Space and Surface in Modern Art
Friday, January 27–May 5, 1–3:30 pm

Instructor: Max Rosenberg, Phillips Collection and the University of Maryland Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art History

Addresses the uncertain position of pictorial depth and material surface in modern and contemporary art since 1945. It will focus primarily on abstract painting, Pop art, photorealist painting and experimental film, video and computer art from the fifties, sixties, and seventies.

In collaboration with University of Maryland

Contemporary Arts Purchasing Program
Friday, January 27–May 5, 4-6 pm

Instructor: Cecilia Wichmann, PhD Student, Contemporary Art and Theory

The University of Maryland College Park Stamp Student Union has developed a Contemporary Arts Purchasing Program (CAPP) whose mission is to educate and inspire by exposing the campus community to thought-provoking art created by noted contemporary artists. Now in its tenth year, the program provides a student committee the opportunity to interact with the art world by researching, discussing, and purchasing artwork by emerging and established contemporary artists. CAPP operates on a biannual basis. Students of diverse majors are selected to participate through a competitive application process. Together they embark on a rigorous research and training program, including extensive visits to galleries and artists’ studios in Baltimore, New York, and Washington, DC.

In collaboration with University of Maryland


Art History in the Museum World
Monday–Thursday, January 3–January 25, 9 am–12:30 pm

Instructor: Aneta Georgievska-Shine, Lecturer, Renaissance and Baroque Art, Theory

Introduces students to various facets of museum work and provide guidance concerning the possible ways in which an academic degree in art history can be used for diverse career paths in the museum environment. In addition to meeting at The Phillips College, students visit other museums in the Washington D.C. area for meetings with different professionals. Rather than traditional lectures, class meetings are envisioned as active discussions on specific topics. Topics to be discussed include, but are not limited to the following: curatorial work, management and preservation of collections, design and installation of permanent and temporary exhibitions, fundraising, and outreach and educational programs that promote a more meaningful relationship between museums and their audiences.

In collaboration with University of Maryland


Art in Modern East Asia 
Wednesdays, January 13–April 20, 2016, 1–3:30 pm 

Instructor: Chinghsin Wu, The Phillips Collection–George Washington University Postdoctoral Fellow 2015–2016

This course introduces several crucial transformations and developments in the art and visual cultures of Modern East Asia, including Japan, China, Korea, and Taiwan. The first part of the course will examine the emerging concept of "Art" in East Asia and the related art systems that were established in the wake of successive encounters with Western culture or modern trends. We will focus on several avant-garde art movements that echoed but also distinguished themselves from parallel movements in Europe, including Impressionism, Post-impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The second part of the course focuses on several key trends in the visual culture of modern East Asia, including the reevaluation and innovation of traditional painting techniques, the utilization of Western art media to revisualize historical events and national identities, the emergence of new female images in modern Asia, and development of imperial, colonial, and aboriginal art. 

In collaboration with George Washington University