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The study of visual culture encompasses the production, use, form, and reception of visual products and cultural manifestations past and present. 

It incorporates the painting, sculpture, and architecture traditionally defined as art history and extends throughout the field of visual imagery beyond the conventional boundaries formerly drawn by the academy. 

The History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) department offers courses covering a wide variety of representations from the cultures of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific Islands including areas as diverse as ritual, performative expression, bodily adornment, landscape, the built environment, installation art, textiles, manuscripts, photography, film, video games, apps, and data visualizations.

Commitment to Antiracism

The History of Art and Visual Culture Department affirms its commitment to recognizing, addressing, and combating all forms of racism, ethnic oppression, and discrimination. The department collectively seeks to empower students, colleagues, and our campus community toward the goal of creating a more inclusive, respectful, and equitable environment. We recognize that racism and xenophobia are not limited to the U.S. These are global challenges that impact a broad range of constituencies. Therefore, as a department, we share an ethical obligation to create a racially and ethnically unbiased environment that addresses the unique forms of bias that affect our diverse and multi-ethnic community.

The HAVC Department recognizes that public-facing statements of support are only one step toward achieving these goals and that consistent action is needed in order for positive change to occur. This is especially true in the contexts of education and the study of visual culture. Both have been used to create narratives that exclude the actions of many, often in service of a politics of marginalization or erasure. In our efforts to resist and oppose such hierarchies we have:

- Changed the name from Art History to History of Art and Visual Culture; re-naming, which was approved for fall 2003, was one of the first steps taken by the department to be more inclusive and less Euro-centric.

- Structured our curriculum around the complex intersections between cultures and identities

- Taken voluntary training in unlearning biases as a united staff and faculty

As a department, we are committed to sustaining efforts to foster change and to consistently acknowledge how race and ethnicity impact our department, campus, and the community at large—while also addressing the unique effects that racial and ethnic insensitivity have on students, faculty, and staff members.

Study and Research Opportunities

The history of art and visual culture curriculum guides students in acquiring skills in critical thinking about art and visual culture leading to a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree.  Each student who chooses to major or minor in HAVC devises an individual study plan with a faculty advisor to help them achieve their academic and personal goals.

• B.A.

• Undergraduate Minor

• Concentration in Curation, Heritage, and Museums 

Annual Planning Guide

Program Highlights


The HAVC internship program encourages students to pursue opportunities to gain hands-on experience in the arts and to explore various career paths. Agency sponsors work with students to define their learning goals, develop their capacity and talents, and support students in examining their career interests. 

Study Abroad

The flexibility of the HAVC program allows students to partake in study abroad through UCSC or other institutions. Through study abroad, students take responsibility for their learning in a global context and become engaged and thoughtful scholars. To find out more, please visit the UCSC Global Learning website.

Faculty Advisors

Faculty are an important resource for learning about the philosophies and foundations of the history of art and visual culture. Faculty advisors work collaboratively with students to develop a specific course of study, support students in mastering course material, and discuss long-term career goals, including education beyond the baccalaureate. With the help of the undergraduate advisor, each student selects a faculty advisor as their mentor during their declaration of major meeting.

Events and Speakers

The HAVC department hosts a variety of guest speakers, faculty and student events, museum field trips, and more. Please join HAVC on Facebook and Instagram to learn about upcoming events.


Career Options

The academic growth and development of critical thinking skills that students receive from the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in history of art and visual culture can lead to successful careers in education, law, business, and social services, in addition to more disciplinary-specific careers in museum curating, art restoration, library and information science, heritage studies, design, criticism, arts education and administration, and advanced studies in architecture, visual culture, and art history.

We invite students to visit the Career Center for guidance and support from UCSC’s Career Coaches. With hard work and engagement with the many resources and opportunities for learning found in our major, all students can have successful careers in the arts.