Department Head: Ijlal Muzaffar
Formerly the department of History of Visual Art & Culture (HVAC), The Theory & History of Art & Design (THAD) department offers thought-provoking courses focused on a wide range of media, spanning time periods from ancient to contemporary and embracing diverse critical perspectives. Generally based on reading, close examination of actual works and small group discussions, courses emphasize critical thinking and analysis, clarity of written and verbal communication, and an understanding of the value of artistic expression across cultures and throughout time.
Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, THAD courses are rich and varied, taught by faculty scholars with fabulously diverse interests. Behind-the-scenes access to the RISD Museum’s extraordinary collection of 85,000 works of art provides students and faculty with unparalleled opportunities for in-depth research.
In addition to its strong disciplinary focus, THAD offers comparative examinations of the critical dialogue among art historians representing various cultural traditions. Interdisciplinary approaches also invite further exploration of the artistic traditions of the world, critical theory and visual culture, art historiography, aesthetics, object conservation, and the histories of art and design in various media, among other broad topics.
“Whether we know it or not, history is the medium that all artists and designers must mediate: embrace or refuse, emulate or parody. Courses in THAD treat the medium of history: we ask why we remember some stories and forget others. We ponder the ethics of materials and the gendering of concepts. We consider the politics of medium and the spaces of viewing. And we write. We write essays and criticism and letters to the past; we write footnotes to received history; we speculate on the future; and we mark up maps with shifting lines of discourse.” - Leora Maltz-Leca, Department Head 2017-2021