Fine Arts

undergraduates looking at photos on a camera

A goal of a Catholic liberal arts university is to educate the whole person. As Pope John Paul II has written, “Those who perceive in themselves this kind of divine spark which is the artistic vocation as poet, writer, sculptor, musician, and actor, feel, at the same time, the obligation not to waste this talent, but to develop it, in order to put it to service of the neighbor and of humanity as a whole.”

The aim of the core requirement in the Fine Arts is to encourage every student to benefit from that divine spark and to develop specific knowledge, skills, and experiences for success. Although, traditionally, academics have distinguished between the making of works of art and the study of such works, our contemporary practice, whether in artistic expression or critical interpretation, observes no such boundaries. Art practice and art criticism tend to engage historical, social, and cultural concerns, while theorists regard their expressions and performances as artistic in their own right.

At Notre Dame, students learn about the arts by many means. The courses that approach works of art from critical perspectives enable students to become more fully aware of what is involved in an aesthetic experience as a viewer and/or listener. These courses provide the analytical tools needed to realize the insights and pleasures that artistic texts and works offer. Courses in arts practice that fulfill the Arts requirement focus on works of art by the individual student. The object of such courses is not to produce mastery of a particular field, or simply to provide basic instruction and practice, but rather to produce an understanding how artists interact with their media and how creativity meshes with understanding. Other courses present art in the context of its time, place and culture, and explore its significant ideas, as well as its philosophical, social and spiritual values.

The course in the Arts, then, provides the opportunity for all students to gain some or all of the following learning goals:

  • to share in the understanding of the ways of knowing that the arts offer,
  • to appreciate the importance of the arts as a component of life-long learning,
  • to gain a purchase on the forms of critical analysis and modes of inquiry appropriate and necessary to understand the production and reception of the work of art, and
  • to begin to learn how the arts speak of their societies and how societies speak through their arts

The Fine Arts requirement is the passport for a lifelong journey in the world of creative thinking. In the words of Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he [or she] grows up.”

Approved April 20, 2005, by Academic Council