Why Art History Matters: Katie Ault

Art History asks important questions about how we imagine and comprehend our place in the world, how we relate to each other, how we remember the past and create the future.

My interest in Art History was first sparked many years ago when I was given Gombrich’s The Story of Art for my 11th birthday, although I was more interested in looking at the pictures than reading the text! I went on to study Art History as part of an undergraduate Fine Art course, after which I worked for a number of museums and galleries, and developed my own practice as an artist. Recently I have returned to academic study to renew and deepen my understanding of Art History and I completed The Open University’s Art History MA last September.

The OU’s Art History MA is a flexible part-time course that allowed me to study alongside other commitments. It engages a broad range of topics and historical periods with a global reach, from painting, sculpture and architecture to conceptual art, landscape design and outsider art. In the first year theory is explained and made comprehensible and accessible through case studies involving close visual analysis; the second year builds on and extends these themes and demonstrates their contemporary relevance. Although both years offer research training, there is particular emphasis on research and writing skills in the second year, leading to the final dissertation, which I found particularly useful. Live online tutorials and a Study Day provided opportunities to improve my presentation skills; online forums offered valuable opportunities for discussion with academics and fellow students.

Art History asks important questions about how we imagine and comprehend our place in the world, how we relate to each other, how we remember the past and create the future. As such, the OU’s course material was challenging at times, but it was always rewarding. Through this course I have deepened my understanding of this complex subject, become more confident tackling difficult texts and feel better equipped to critique and construct arguments. As a result I was runner-up for the Association for Art History’s Post-Graduate Dissertation Prize (2017) and am now looking forward to furthering my academic interests with The Open University as a PhD candidate, supported by CHASE (Consortium of Humanities and Arts in the South East).

-Katie Ault, artist, MA alumna, and MPhil/PhD Candidate

For an overview of the MA in Art History, see the Art History Department’s website or take a taster course on Open Learn on Artists and Authorship: The Case of Raphael

2 Replies to “Why Art History Matters: Katie Ault”

  1. Thank you for this very helpful insight into OU’s MA Art History!
    Are presentations a compulsory part of the course, pls?
    If so, I think that’s me out🙁

    1. Hi Deborah,
      No, presentations aren’t compulsory, but it is an MA, so you’re expected to be able to articulate yourself, whether that in your tutor group or in an essay.

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