ARTH 3401: Art on Trial

3 CreditsArts/HumanitiesCivic Life and Ethics

Why does art so often elicit anger, debate, protest, and vandalism? Arts controversies raise many difficult questions that this class examines: should artists be allowed to use taxpayer funds to create works of art critical of the government or that some find offensive? Should public sculptures commemorate Confederates, slave owners, or colonialists? How do we know when something is obscene? Is censorship ethical? Do artists have the right to control the fate of their work after it is sold? Who should decide what artists are chosen for public commissions, what artworks are selected for public buildings, or how works of art should be interpreted? Does public opinion make bad art? This course trains students in the history of arts controversies in the United States from the 19th century to the present and in the changing social conditions through which art has become a flashpoint for public debate. Assignments focus on discipline-specific research and writing techniques that build toward a group project in which students research, take up positions, and debate the merits of important case studies. The class is primarily designed for students to learn about the arts and arts policy today, i.e., the art world of which they are and will be citizens. They are asked to inspect the sources of dominant cultural beliefs and to gain a deeper understanding of and take responsibility for their own cultural, political, and artistic values.

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All Instructors

A- Average (3.538)Most Common: A (42%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

85 students
  • 3.67


  • 3.35


  • 4.40


  • 4.01


  • 3.77



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