The Department of Art History and Art offers opportunities to study art history, to participate in a broad range of studio offerings and to engage in pre-professional museum training. The Bachelor of Arts degree is granted in art history and in pre-architecture. In addition, the department offers graduate programs leading to the degrees of Master of Arts in art history, in art history and museum studies; and the Doctor of Philosophy in art history.

All art programs are considerably enhanced by close cooperation with and access to the facilities of cultural institutions located in University Circle, in particular The Cleveland Museum of ArtThe Cleveland Institute of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland.

The Cleveland Museum of Art/CWRU Art History Program has been in existence since 1967. The museum’s curators serve as adjunct faculty, and graduate research projects under their direction often result in exhibitions and publications. The museum Studies course and internships provide experience in curatorial practices, connoisseurship, conservation, design, and museum education, and the program has a history of producing leaders in the museum field. Graduate students are exposed to both traditional and newer theoretically based art historical approaches in classes taught by faculty renowned for their expertise in a diversity of fields.


Year-end message from Elina Gertsman, the Acting Chair of Art History and Art

It has been a pleasure and a privilege to oversee the department during this academic year. I think it is fair to say that we have flourished.

Our graduate students have garnered a plethora of awards and fellowships, both external and internal, local and international. They have also presented at a startling range of important conferences, published peer-reviewed articles, curated exhibitions, and took part in archaeological excavations. Our faculty have received a great set of grants and awards as well, have published in some of the flagship journals of the field, have organized high-profile national and international symposia, had curated current and upcoming exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Sears think[box], and had books come out with flagship academic and art presses.

In the meantime, our graduating BAs and MAs are heading to some of the best graduate programs in the US and Europe. It was wonderful to celebrate them at the graduation! We look forward to welcoming our new graduate cohort in August and are excited have a new colleague, Professor Ben Murphy, join us in the fall.

Please click below to read more and see photos from the graduation, the departmental party, and the grad awards ceremony.

I hope you have a fabulous summer—see you in August!

PhD candidates Benjamin Levy and Jillian Kruse Deliver Papers at the 36th Congress of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art in Lyon, France

Congratulations to PhD candidates Benjamin Levy and Jillian Kruse for their superb papers delivered as part of the 36th Congress of the Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art in Lyon, France!


Congrats to Reed O’Mara on organizing an ICMA-sponsored session at the IMC, Leeds!

AFTERLIVES AND LEGACIES / INTERVENTIONS IN MEDIEVAL HEBREW MANUSCRIPTS MONDAY 1 JULY 2024 From Ashkenaz to Italy: The Giant Masoretic Bible in the Berio Civic Library of Genoa Ilona Steimann, Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg Andalusi Prestige and Magical Migration: The Ritual and Diasporic Legacy of the Sefer Ahavat Sara Gardner, Department of Spanish...

Professor Benay Published in Panorama

We are thrilled to share Prof. Benay’s feature article, published in Panorama, the flagship journal of the Association of Historians of American Art! This essay argues for the central role of the Karamu Artists in the cultivation of a midwestern African American art market from the 1930s-1980 and positions printmaking as a prominent, rather than peripheral, medium in the Black Arts Movement. The Karamu Artists will be the subject of a historic exhibition and catalogue (published by Yale University Press) at the Cleveland Museum of Art in March, 2025. The exhibition will be curated by Professor Benay and Dr. Britany Salsbury, Curator of Prints and Drawings, with the  collaboration of CWRU graduate students in a Mellon seminar taught this year.

Can art be autonomous?

The new issue of Perspective, published by the Institut national d’histoire de l’art (Paris), features a debate on the subject, conducted by Claudine Cohen, Brigitte Derlon, Elina Gertsman, Monique Jeudy-Ballini, and Itay Sapir, and led by Thomas Golsenne. Scholars of prehistoric, medieval, early modern, and contemporary art discuss several questions: should we consider art’s autonomy if not illusory, then at least relatively so? When have we started understanding and referring to images and objects as works of art? What are the critiques of this nomination? What are the advantages and disadvantages of speaking about “art” or “a work of art” in different fields of art history? Is art-making always political? What about art criticism?

Read the debate here.

Cleveland Symposium at 50!

Both as a physical dimension and a subjective concept, time defines human existence and experience, evident in visual production across eras and places. Held in partnership with the Cleveland Museum of Art as part of the joint program between CWRU and CMA, this year’s symposium welcomes innovative research papers that explore the themes of time and temporality in the creation, reception, and afterlives of objects and events in the visual arts. Submissions may explore aspects of this theme as manifested in any medium as well as in any historical period and geographic location.

How are objects, scents and memory connected? Find out from Prof. Elina Gertsman’s just-published “Housing Scent, Containing Sensorium,” now available online here! In this special issue of Medieval History Journal, dedicated to materiality in the medieval and early modern eras, Prof. Gertsman writes about extraordinary spice containers used in Jewish home liturgy, teasing out their multisensory potential and exploring the many ways these object elicited cognitive, affective, and physiological engagement with their users. Stay tuned for the next year’s publication of Prof. Gertsman’s guest-edited issue of Convivium dedicated to intertwinement between image and scent in the global Middle Ages, which will feature essays by our very own Sonya Rhie Mace and Reed O’Mara.

Professor Benay’s Chapter “Painting on Walls: Art History and Action in the Rustbelt” Just Published

JUST PUBLISHED! Professor Benay’s chapter “Painting on Walls: Art History and Action in the Rustbelt,” appears in a groundbreaking new anthology dedicated to Public Humanities Scholarship

Fantastic Beasts: Cosmic Zoo after K’zoo

Cosmic Ecologies: Animalities in Premodern Jewish Culture, an international symposium co-sponsored by Case Western Reserve University, the Newberry Library, and the Northwestern University, took place in Chicago last week. Monday sessions–“Beastly Hybrids,” “Animal Capacities,” and Mystic Fauna”–broached a broad variety of subjects, from animals in the Kabbalah to zoomorphic allegories to micrographic beasts to animal imagery in Hebrew and Yiddish manuscripts–with respondents providing contextual comparanda from medieval Christian and Islamic art. On Tuesday, audiences were treated to an extended session on bodies and animalities as well as to a manuscript / rare book study at the Newberry; the symposium concluded with a roundtable.  The joint program was robustly represented by Reed O'Mara, who gave a fabulous talk on the Ambrosian Tanakh; Prof. Elina Gertsman, who co-organized the symposium and gave closing remarks; and Cecily Hughes, Rebekkah Hart, Zoe Appleby, Claudia Haines, Sarah Frisbie, and Ariella Har-Even who were in the audience. Prof. Gertsman was delighted by a surprise visit from Roshi Ahmadian, her very first MA student at CWRU, who now lives and works in Chicago!

Prof. Benay discusses her collaborative, Ohio Humanities Council-funded work on Pressing Matters in CAN Journal

Just published! Prof. Benay discusses her collaborative, Ohio Humanities Council-funded work on Pressing Matters in the most recent issue of CAN Journal.

Maggie Popkin promoted to the rank of Professor

The Department of Art History and Art is delighted to announce that Dr. Maggie Popkin, a specialist in ancient Roman art and architecture, was promoted to the rank of Professor effective July 1. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Popkin on this well-deserved promotion!  

Professor Maggie Popkin awarded Expanding Horizons Initiative Large Experimental Humanities Grant

Congratulations to Professor Maggie Popkin, who has been awarded an Expanding Horizons Initiative Large Experimental Humanities Grant for her project “Embodied Religion and Extended Reality: The Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Humanistic Study of Sacred Space,” co-directed with Professor Tina Howe of the Religious Studies Department.