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Major, minor, and honors in Art

Major, minor, and honors in Studio Art

For those students who comprise the class of 2022 please note the following requirements do not apply to your class. For further information please contact your department advisor or the Chair of Art.

Last Updated: August 25, 2021

Program requirements for Art majors (Course, Honors and Honors Minor) 

Requirement for Admission to the Art Major

  1. Completion of at least one course in art history and one course in art at Swarthmore with grades of B or better.

Requirements for Completion of the Art Major

All Art Majors, in both Course and Honors, are required to take 10 courses (seven credits of art and three credits of art history) to fulfill major requirements.

Five art credits in a chosen medium will form an art concentration. In addition to the five studio credits in one concentration (Painting, Ceramics, Photography, Sculpture), students must complete two additional studio courses outside their area of concentration. Of the three credits of art history, two must be survey courses and the third needs to be an upper level art history course.

  • Five courses in one art concentration (includes Independent Thesis Project)
  • Two elective art courses
  • Two art history survey courses
  • One upper level art history course

Art Majors can complete an art history minor as well with the completion of 4 art history credits in addition to those required by their art major.

  • Four credits in an art concentration must be completed before entry into an Independent Thesis Project.  
  • Up to two credits abroad can count towards the major.
  • Art Majors are required to mount a selection of their thesis work in a group exhibition in the List Gallery. The group exhibitions will be curated in collaboration with studio faculty and the List Gallery Director. In addition to participating in a group exhibition, Art Majors are required to give a public presentation in the form of an artist’s talk. This programming will run concurrently with the exhibitions in the List Gallery. The exhibitions are scheduled during the end of spring semester each year. 
  • Honors Art Majors are required to mount a solo exhibition in the List Gallery and in addition to giving an artist’s talk, all Honors Art Majors must complete a 3750 to 5000 word artist essay, framing their work, influence and process for readers.
  • There is no course minor in art, only an Honors minor in art.
  • CR/NC designations cannot be accepted for courses inside the major (two exemptions: first semester C/NC policy and Spring 2020 C/NC courses)

Art Majors and the 20-Course Rule

It is a college requirement that 20 of the 32 credits required for graduation must be OUTSIDE the major.  This means that one can take no more than 12 courses in the major, unless one graduates with more than 32 credits, in which case the surplus can also be in the major.  

For Art Majors, the required three credits in art history count within the major, but additional credits in art history count outside the major.

Off-Campus Study

The Art Department strongly encourages those with an interest in art and its history to consider incorporating study abroad--either during a summer or a regular academic term--into their Swarthmore program. Important examples of art and architecture are scattered throughout the world, and the encounter with works still embedded in their original context is vital to an understanding of their historical and contemporary significance. Past experience has shown, however, that art courses in most foreign study programs fall considerably below the academic standards of comparable courses at Swarthmore. Students who are interested in bettering their chances of gaining a full Swarthmore credit for a course taken in a foreign program are advised to meet with the Art Coordinator and/or the Art History Coordinator before leaving the campus. Up to two credits abroad can count towards the major.  PLEASE NOTE: to receive transfer credits in art history, you must have taken at least one art history course at Swarthmore (normally before going abroad). 

Honors in Art (Major and Minor)

Requirements for admission to Honors do not differ from those for admission to the Course Major. Students will be expected to maintain an average of B or better in all courses in art. The Honors Art major is an 11 credit major with the additional credit (to the Course Major) added from the required 2 credit art history seminar.  ALL PREPARATIONS FOR HONORS MUST BE APPROVED IN ADVANCE BY THE DEPARTMENT. 


  • An Honors Major in Art will present 2 preparations in art and 1 preparation in art history. The preparation in art history must be a 2 credit seminar.
  • Each of the two art preparations will consist of two paired art courses.  The examiner of each preparation will receive the syllabus for both courses and images representing the body of work produced in them and will examine the student in an individual oral of 30 minutes.
  • Each pair of art courses can consist of an intermediate and an advanced course in a specific medium OR two courses with a different approach to the same medium OR, two related courses  
  • Art courses taken at an institution outside of Swarthmore cannot count towards an honors studio preparation.
  • Only courses taught by regularly teaching faculty in art can be applied towards a preparation. Courses taught by regularly returning adjuncts might be applied pending department approval.
  • Honors preparations approved in the sophomore year must be adhered to.  Any later changes to your program as it relates to preparations, must be approved by the department. 
  • The prerequisite for any art history seminar is 2 previous credits in art history
  • Honors candidates in Art must fulfill the Course Major requirements.
  • Honors study in Art consists of a culminating exhibition of the student's studio work, with an accompanying artist essay of 3750 to 5000 words.  Some of this work may figure in the selections of work presented for one or both of the course pairs described above, but the rationale for inclusion in the exhibition will differ. The artist essay will be sent to both examiners of studio preparations.  A revision of a paper written previously for the art history preparation will be sent to the art history examiner.


  • An Honors Minor in Art will present to the honors examiners one studio preparation which must be a combination of the Independent Thesis Project and another related course.
  • An Honors Minor in Art must fulfill the requirements for the Course Major in art.
  • During the Spring semester of the senior year a minor will write a 2500 word artist essay to be sent to the examiner, along with the relevant syllabi and slides for the two-credit preparation


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