Bachelor of Arts in Art History

The BA in Art History draws on the depth and diversity of offerings in the scholarly study of art practices that only a major art school connected with a world-class museum can offer.

ANAH Undergraduate Student Group Publication
ANAH: The Undergraduate Student Group Publication hosted by Art History

Substantial coursework in Art History, supported by additional coursework in Liberal Arts and in studio departments define the course of study. In their first year, students complete the studio-intensive Contemporary Practices program and introductory Art History surveys as a foundation for beginning their advanced Art History coursework in their second year. In addition to a sequence of research, theory, and methods courses, BA in Art History students choose two (out of three possible) geographic-area pathways on which to focus (with at least three courses in each area).

The degree culminates in the fourth year with a significant research project written in the two-semester senior research methods capstone seminar. In addition to external applicants and transfer students, interested SAIC students from other degree programs may apply for admittance to the BA in Art History program, usually before the beginning of their junior year.

Please refer to the BAAH Credit Worksheet.

Read and/or download the first edition of ANAH!

Use the accordions (+) below to learn more about the admissions requirements and curriculum.

The BA in Art History program has a special application procedure for both external and internal candidates. All applicants must supply a writing sample (see below) to be considered.

Incoming First-Year Students

The application for incoming first-year students requires a five- to seven-page (1,250–1,750 words) writing sample, TOEFL scores when required (min. 96), letter of recommendation, a high school transcript (min unweighted GPA 3.0), a portfolio of five to 10 pieces of visual work, and a personal statement.

For their first year, BA in Art History students take primarily studio courses as part of the year-long Contemporary Practices program. These courses provide students with foundations in art practice and visual thinking that grounds advanced-level coursework in Art History, which begins in the sophomore year. 

Transfer Students

The application for incoming transfer students requires a five- to seven-page (1,250–1,750 words) writing sample, TOEFL scores when required (min. 96), letter of recommendation, transcript of courses taken at other institutions (min. unweighted GPA 3.0), a portfolio of five to 10 pieces of visual work, and a personal statement. Transfer applicants are considered individually with regard to the acceptance of previous credit and studio requirements.

A minimum of 66 credit hours are required in residence at SAIC, so most transfer students will apply before their junior year. On admittance, transfer students may petition for Contemporary Practices studio courses to be substituted with other coursework. Most transfer students, however, will take at minimum the core and research studio courses designed for transfers by the Contemporary Practices department. 

SAIC Students from Other Degree Programs

Internal applicants are also required to submit a writing sample five- to seven-page (1,250–1,750 words) writing sample, a personal statement, and a transcript of courses at SAIC in order to be considered for a degree change to the BA in Art History. In some cases, an interview may be required.

Because the BA in Art History is substantially different in its credit makeup than other programs at SAIC, most students will have applied for an internal transfer before the end of their sophomore year. Only in exceptional cases will junior-level students be considered for internal transfer.

Internal transfer applicants must submit a single PDF document with contact information, student ID number, personal statement, transcript of courses transferred into and taken at SAIC, and writing sample with illustrations. Unofficial transcripts from the registrar or academic advising are acceptable and should include all courses taken at SAIC as well as those transferred from other institutions. Screen shots or other lists will not be accepted. The transcript should be incorporated into your single application PDF after your cover page with identification, personal statement, and writing sample. This should be sent to the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism’s Undergraduate Coordinator (

Writing Sample

The writing sample is one of the most important parts of the application and should demonstrate applicants' ability to express their ideas and knowledge in written form. Successful writing samples will demonstrate clarity of argument, facility with written language and grammar, and an ability to incorporate and cite research materials. Any expository essay that incorporates research will be considered, and a writing sample in art history is not required (though it is encouraged, especially for transfer applicants). Writing samples should be five to seven pages in length (1,250–1,750 words) for incoming first-year applicants and transfers at the freshman or sophomore level. Any student who wishes to apply for transfer into the BA in Art History program at the level of junior should submit a writing sample of at least seven to 10 pages (1,750–2,500 words). Relevant illustrations and bibliography should be included with the text but are not considered when calculating page limits.

Personal Statement

The personal statement is a short statement (around a page) explaining your curiosities, interests, and plans (in intellectual and/or career terms) and why you think the BAAH program would be a good fit for you.


External students must include a visual portfolio as part of their application. In addition to the writing sample, five to 10 pieces of your best and most recent work must be submitted as part of the portfolio. This collection should reflect your interests, skills, and willingness to explore, experiment, and express yourself.

The BA in Art History program incorporates studio practice as essential knowledge for work in art history, and all BA in Art History students take studio classes while at SAIC. Because the first-year studio foundations experience is shared with all SAIC BFA students, incoming applicants should expect to be immersed in visual and creative practices. While the writing sample and transcript are the most important parts of a BA in Art History application, applicants should use the portfolio to demonstrate their facility with visual making. In addition to conventional studio and design work, students may also submit alternative creative practices (for instance, video blogging, website design, or online curation). Transfer applicants with little experience in studio or design practices are encouraged to consider these alternatives. Questions about what can be part of the visual portfolio should be addressed to the Admissions office.

The Admissions office at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is dedicated to assisting you and your family through every step of the college selection process. We are interested in getting to know you—your work, your expectations for college, and your ambitions for the future. We seek students who wish to immerse themselves in an intense interdisciplinary environment, and we hope to challenge the very notion of what art means to you and to our society. SAIC provides a sophisticated education that hones your unique abilities as a contemporary thinker and maker in a global community.

Interested in learning more?

Visit the  website for information on the curriculum, faculty, and resources offered through the department.

Interested in learning how you can apply?

Visit the undergraduate admissions website or contact the undergraduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or

Existing SAIC students should contact the Art History Undergraduate Coordinator (Professor Jennifer Dorothy Lee) at


Studio 18
  • CP 1010 Core Studio Practice I (3)
  • CP 1011 Core Studio Practice II (3)
  • CP 1020 Research Studio I (3)
  • CP 1022 Research Studio II (3)
  • Studio electives (6)
Art History, Theory, and Criticism 51
  • Foundations
    • ARTHI 1001 Introduction to Art History: Ancient to Modern (3)
    • ARTHI 1002+ Any Introduction to Art History: Modern and Contemporary (3)
  • Research, Theory, and Methods
    • SOPHSEM 2900 Sophomore Seminar in Art History (3)
    • PROFPRAC 3900 Art History Junior Proseminar * (3)
    • ARTHI 4899 Art History Research Methods I: Thesis Methodology Seminar (3)
    • CAPSTONE 4900 Art History Research Methods II: Thesis Writing Seminar (3)
    • Completion of written thesis
  • Area Pathways *
    Two complete 9 credit hour (3 courses) sequences from three possible areas of focus:
              1. Asia
              2. Europe and America
              3. Southern Continents (Africa and Latin America)
    • Area Pathway I
      ARTHI 2000-level survey (3)
      ARTHI 3000-level intermediate course (3)
      ARTHI 4000-level advanced course (3)
    • Pathway II
      ARTHI 2000-level survey (3)
      ARTHI 3000-level intermediate course (3)
      ARTHI 4000-level advanced course (3)
  • Additional courses
    • Art History courses in pre-modern topics, ARTHI 2000-4000 level* (6)
    • Intermediate or Advanced Courses, ARTHI 3000-4000 level (9)

PROFPRAC and CAPSTONE are now required for new incoming students beginning in the 2015-16 academic year.

* A list of courses that fulfill this requirement is supplied by the Department. Each semester, the Department offers two smaller seminar-style courses focused on the application of research methods. These can be in any topic, but professors focus on the practice of research and writing with students in this smaller setting.

BA in Art History students must take at least one of these courses in their Junior year, which will be designated on the course schedule as ARTHI 3900/PROFPRAC 3900. Courses fulfilling the Junior Proseminar requirement cannot also be used to fulfill the Area Pathways requirements. Students may, however, take more than one Junior Proseminar in their time at SAIC, and any additional proseminars may be used to fulfill other degree requirements.


Liberal Arts

  • ENGLISH 1001 First Year Seminar I (3)
  • ENGLISH 1005 First Year Seminar II (3)
  • HUMANITY 3704 History of Philosophy: Hegel to the 20th Century (3) 
  • One course selected from the following: (3) 
    • HUMANITY 3701 Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy 
    • HUMANITY 3702 Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy
    • HUMANITY 3703 Descartes to Kant
  • Humanities (6)
  • World History (6)
  • Social Science (6)
  • Natural Science (6)
  • Foreign Language (6)
  • Liberal Arts Electives (3)


General Electives 12
  • Advanced elective courses (2000–4000 level), any department

    NOTE: In addition to courses in studio, Liberal Arts, of Art History, other opportunities such as internships taken through SAIC's Cooperative Education may count as electives.

Other requirements  
  • BA in Art History students must complete at least 3 credit hours in a class designated as “off-campus study.” These credits can also fulfill any of the requirements listed above and be from any of the divisions (Art History, studio, Liberal Arts, or general electives).
Total Credit Hours 126

Minimum Residency Requirement for Transfer Students

The minimum number of credits required in residence at SAIC is 66 of the total 126 credit hours. Of that 66 required residence credits, transfer students must take, at minimum, the following amounts at SAIC

Art History
  • Two Area Pathways (18)
  • ARTHI Junior Proseminar (3)
  • Senior Thesis Course Sequence (ARTHI 4899 and CAPSTONE 4900) (6)
  • Intermediate or Advanced Courses, 3000-4000 level (12)
  • Studio Electives (3)

Interested in learning more?

Visit the department website for information on the curriculum, faculty, and resources offered through the department.

Ready to apply to an undergraduate degree program? 

Visit the undergraduate admissions website or contact the undergraduate admissions office at 800.232.7242 or

Existing SAIC students should contact the Undergraduate Coordinator in Art History at