Art is a brush stroke. It is the pattern of bricks underfoot. It is an array of majors and degrees offered at UNC and, ultimately, art cannot be confined to an area of study or career path. Art offers a uniquely creative way to interpret and move in the world.
“When we use the word 'art,' it tends to scare people because we tend to think of it as this highfalutin thing,” said Eduardo Douglas, director of undergraduate studies and undergraduate adviser for the art history program. “But if you think of art as the intention on the part of the human being that is expressed through the way in which that person shapes matter and transforms matter into something different that communicates — that is the whole world around us.”
Douglas has worked at UNC for 11 years and has seen some of his students pursue careers as curators, journalists, art vendors, educators and more. Douglas said he has also witnessed former students become doctors, researchers and teachers — “a little of everything,” Douglas said.
An advocate of art and art history as mediums for cultivation of the mind, Douglas said while he cannot compute physics equations, he doesn’t discount the value of the sciences. Similarly, he said those who do not actively engage with art shouldn’t devalue it.
“Not everyone is comfortable with art,” Douglas said, “but that doesn’t make it any less valid.”
The art department at UNC offers studio art and art history as majors and minors for students looking to become professional artists or well-rounded liberal arts students with a focus on creativity.
According to data provided by Yulianna Aparacio, a student services specialist in the department of art and art history, the average numbers of studio art and art history majors at UNC over the past three years are 450 and 173, respectively.
The art department at UNC is what sold Paige Watts on becoming a Tar Heel. Watts, a junior, is now combining several interests by double majoring in art history and English with a minor in education.
Watts said unlike in the STEM department where classes seem to aim to weed out students, the art history department is a community of professors and students who work together in a positive learning environment.
Watts said she plans to get her master's degree in education as teaching offers better job security. She said she hopes to continue volunteering with art museums and is grateful for her major in art history at UNC.
Art is a reflection of people’s values and offers a lens into what people want to see come to fruition in their lives, Watts said.
These values are present in an array of types of art, including on some of the grounds at UNC, with the “Loud Money” mural on the basketball court outside Morrison Residence Hall and “The Gift” walkway alongside the Student Union in commemoration to the Native American population in Chapel Hill.
Douglas said art and creation are even a part of establishments like grocery stores that are designed to have produce commonly on the left, one of many small phenomenons that signal that the art of design and creation are everywhere.
Better understanding art on a holistic level is a part of the bachelor of arts degree at UNC. A bachelor's is aimed at students seeking a well-rounded liberal arts education and is often pursued by students double majoring in other subjects. UNC students pursuing a bachelor in art most commonly double major in communication studies, journalism, biology, drama and psychology.
Studying and creating art is also more meaningful than just a career path for sophomore studio art major Sidney Hines.
Hines is pursuing art because she said she feels she grows as a person as she creates. It has been a long-lasting passion of hers, and she is currently considering a career as an art therapist. Still, Hines said majoring in studio art is training her to see the world in a new way, a skill that is transferable beyond art-related careers.
“I don’t want to limit myself to something with art in the title,” Hines said. “People sometimes see art as a one-way street, but for me, I incorporate art into everything I do. Even if I don’t do something specifically with art, it helps me with other things, it helps me to think in other ways.”
The First Destination Survey sent out by University Career Services details the diverse paths of art majors at UNC after graduation. Data compiled from the past two years show no obvious trend for students continuing their education, pursuing art or continuing in another field.
There have been seven responses from art history majors and 10 from studio art majors from the survey over the past two years. All respondents stated they were either continuing their education or employed. None selected unemployed. Students reported working as graphic designers, project managers, assistant teachers and media interns. Five reported pursuing their education.
Senior Peri Law said many successful artists she knows earned their master's of fine arts, and she too looks to continue her education after graduating. Law is one of few UNC students to pursue a bachelor of fine arts in studio art with a concentration in art history each year.
This program, along with the more mainstream bachelor of fine arts track, requires 60 credit hours compared to 36 hours for a bachelor of arts. The bachelor of fine arts degree is designed for students pursuing careers as professional artists, according to the program overview on the UNC Art and Art History website.
Law is an intern curator for the Ackland Art Museum. Law said curating classes and her internship have inspired her to look into a career as a curator, though her dream is to own her own studio and to have her art sustain her.
Law will be taking her capstone project in the spring as required by the department. Law said that some friends of hers who have already taken their final semester capstone wished it had been offered earlier to add to portfolios when looking for work earlier in the year.
Now focusing her attention on her senior honors thesis, Law is delving into her own mixed racial identity and is using a virtual platform and physical art made in a studio as platforms to progress a conversation on identity.
“Everyone has a different way of expressing themselves,” Law said. “I figured out mine is art.”
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