Course Spotlight: AP Art History 

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Photo Credit: Kate Budinger

AP Art History is a course that not many M-A students know about, but a valuable class for anyone interested in exploring the world through a different type of medium: art. Liane Strub, who has been teaching at M-A since 1995, began thinking about launching an AP Art History course after she spent several years taking M-A students to Europe as part of her English class. For her, those trips “reawakened how much [she] loved art.” Strub had taken several art history courses in college and taught AP European History since 1998 where she found her passion in teaching the art part of history. 

In 2001, Strub began seriously examining the AP Art History curriculum. She took several classes at the College of San Mateo to refresh her knowledge of art history, and it wasn’t until 2005 that she started preparing course materials. Carlmont had taught the course from 2004-2005, so she had some idea of class structure, but as of today, M-A is the only school in the district that has this course offering. In the fall of 2006, it became an offered course for juniors and seniors at M-A. 

Strub said that “the majority of students take [art history] because they love history.” While she does have a couple of artists in her class, she said that most of them are history buffs like herself. The course itself replicates a college course because it is almost entirely lecture-based. Strub cautioned, “If you’re not a person who learns well through lectures, this isn’t the class for you because almost everything I teach is taught through lectures.” However, an upside of it being a lecture-based class is that Strub doesn’t assign textbook reading. For many of her students, art history is foreign, and the textbook can be difficult to understand if you’re not well-versed in historical jargon. 

In total, students have to memorize 250 artworks, but according to Strub, that number comes out to be closer to 356 as many of 250 include multiple artworks under one name. While that number may seem daunting, rest assured that it’s much less than it used to be. Before the course shift in 2016, students had to memorize 1100 to 1500 objects. 

Students visiting San Francisco’s Legion of Honor Museum

Strub emphasized that this class is “what rings her chimes.” For her, “art is a refuge,” and she hopes to bring that sense of clarity and complexity into her classes. Art is an interpretive medium, and it allows for an influx of creative thinking within her classroom. Because she is passionate about what she is teaching, many of her students find her lectures rewarding and valuable. Junior Lilah Chen said, “The class is so distinct because it covers history through art, and offers a creative aspect to studying history.” 

Strub’s favorite part of teaching the class is taking the class to art museums. She said, “I love seeing them in the process of discovery because that is the core of art itself.” This past month, her class went to the Legion of Honor for the day to explore the new Botticelli exhibition as well as sketch various artworks. Chen said, “The field trip was so unique, it was interesting to see a lot of the different artworks that we have been studying.”

Even after teaching the course for eighteen years, Strub still finds something new every year. As the course material is set by the College Board, she doesn’t have a lot of choice in what she covers. However, she found that when they expanded the curriculum from exclusively Western art to global art in 2016, she was able to incorporate more variation in styles and mediums, allowing her students to expand their worldview. 

Strub said one of the most important things about art is, “You can choose what is inspiring to you. It connects students to the art itself and encourages them to find their own meanings and interpretations.” 

Ellen is a senior at M-A and in her first year of journalism. She hopes to write about stories that highlight social issues within M-A’s community. In her free time, she enjoys baking, reading, swimming, and spending time with friends.

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