Although this school year is nearing its end, students and teachers have not wasted any time preparing for next year, with schedules, classes and activities. Many rising seniors are especially excited for the opportunity to take new courses, with one in particular that seems to have made its mark: AP Art History, taught by History Chairperson Tim Hornor.
This year’s class was on the smaller side with 14 students, but nearly 40 current junior students had already expressed interest in the class by early April. As a result, the class might have to take place in the Fuqua Presentation Room, better suited for lecture than discussion. All of this interest raises the question of why the course is so popular.
In AP Art History, students specifically investigate around 250 art pieces from prehistory to the present in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the history of art and its impact from a global perspective.
By senior year, students will have taken world history, European history and American history, which all include intellectual and cultural aspects. Therefore, many pieces studied in this course will point to information that students have previously learned in their high school years.
“The kids have been really well prepared in understanding both the scope and sequence of history from ancient times to today,” said Mr. Hornor. Because of this, if students are at all interested in going further in depth about any artistic history that they have previously covered, this course is ideal for them. AP Art History can be considered the capstone of the accumulation of information that seniors have spent their past three years learning.
Another major reason behind the significance of the course is its applicability to everyday life and common knowledge. “If you have ever been to a museum, it is not always an enjoyable experience because you have no idea what is going on,” said Mr. Hornor. “The only thing you are interacting with while looking at a painting or sculpture is ‘do I like it or do I not like it,’ and after a while that gets dull.” A case study done by the Metropolitan Museum of Art tracked how long people looked at the art pieces in their museum and the average was between seven and 14 seconds.
By studying pieces and the contextual history behind their creation, students will be able to apply their knowledge in their travels, museum tours and even dinnertime talks with relatives. “I love learning about the art pieces, especially because they are conversation starters,” said senior Veronica Sandoval.
Mr. Hornor leads an ICGL tour to Germany each year where students have the opportunity to be immersed in Baroque, Rococo and Secessionist styles of architecture and art. Many of his students take this trip to be able to see in person what they have spent a semester studying.
“One of the best parts of the trip was being able to see several pieces of art we had learned about,” said senior Sophia Lochan. “We saw the Ishtar Gate which was amazing to see in person. One of the best moments was when we turned the corner and saw ‘Akhenaten, Nefertiti and Three Daughters.’”
One final aspect of the course is its psychological aspect. Although the visual dimension of AP Art History is significant as the course revolves around what the pieces look like and convey, the psychological element is nearly as significant. “Art is a way of unlocking how humans made order of the world around them; what they thought of it, what they feared, what they loved,” said Mr. Hornor.
Mr. Hornor says that in order to truly understand an art piece, students must look further in depth at the time period and how civilization functioned during that time. By analyzing this, students are able to connect to societies on a more personal level, as art truly expresses emotions in the most pure form. “Art has beauty, and where else do you have a discussion about beauty?” said Mr. Hornor.
Many students in this year’s AP Art History class would agree that the course is something they have loved taking because of its real-life approach. “By the senior year, you want something different but you want to be tethered to something you already know and I think art history gives you all of that and more,” said Mr. Hornor. “What this course does is prepare you for a lifetime of observing, understanding and appreciating art you will see for the rest of your life.”