Skip to main content

C of I art professor selected for art history seminar

June 14, 2017

As a graduate student, College of Idaho art professor Garth Claassen once spent a summer taking a class at Yale University, where he spent his days visiting the extensive galleries of the Yale Center for British Art. Now an art educator himself, Claassen will return to New Haven, Connecticut from July 24-28 to attend a special week-long seminar designed to provide new context to teaching European art history.

“What’s really nice about it is you get to talk about these issues in a way that’s more like a graduate school level,” Claassen said about the upcoming seminar. “You’re talking with experienced teachers who have got their Ph.D. It’s a real professional development opportunity, a way of providing us with a network we can connect with for support and new ideas.”

The seminar, organized annually by the Council of Independent Colleges as part of its “Teaching European Art in Context” series, is designed for faculty members from smaller colleges and universities as a way to introduce new techniques and perspectives for their undergraduate art history classes. Claassen is one of 25 professors selected from around the country to participate.

“Strengthening the teaching of art history at colleges and universities—many of which have limited faculty resources in art history—is critical,” CIC President Richard Ekman said. “The seminar will have significant value for the faculty members who participate, the colleagues with whom they will share their new knowledge, and the students who enroll in their courses.”

Each year, the CIC holds the seminar in different locations with different topics. This year, the seminar will be hosted at Yale and led by Tim Barringer, chairman of Yale’s art department. The faculty will explore “Landscape and Identity in Britain and the United States (1770-1914),” which will include classes in a seminar style setting as well as trips outside the classroom to examine works from some of the best known landscape artists of the period, including Thomas Gainsboough, John Constable, Thomas Cole, Frederic Church and J.M.W. Turner.

“The theme is interesting to me,” Claassen said. “When I was in graduate school, people were starting to look in fresh ways at how landscapes were represented. Instead of just saying how realistic a landscape appears, people have been really interested in what that landscape is saying about the land itself, and what it could imply about the attitudes of the artist. It has become more ideological.”

This will be the second seminar Claassen has been selected to attend by the CIC, which reaches out to faculty members at each of its 768 affiliated colleges and universities. He previously attended a 2013 seminar focused on 17th century Dutch art. Claassen said he was inspired by that experience, which he used to develop a classical art class based around the work of the prolific Dutch painter Rembrandt.

Although he is not yet sure if he will develop a class based around American and British landscapes, Claassen said he is looking forward to the atmosphere of the seminar, which he finds gives him new perspectives on the material he teaches in his courses at the C of I.

“The experience of going is what’s really stimulating,” Claassen said. “It’s a shot in the arm. I already teach some of the material in some of the classes I’m doing in Romantic art, but it’ll give me much more depth and breadth overall.”

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit