Art History: An Immersive Education

“The museum is a perfect environment within which to study art, there is none better,” says Dr. Maria Cheremeteff, professor of art history at City College of San Francisco.

Slides are projected onto a screen in a darkened old-fashioned theater

Art History 102: Western Art History, Byzantine Empire to 1800 taught in the Florence Gould Theater

Professor Cheremeteff has been teaching art history classes in the Legion of Honor’s Florence Gould Theater since 1989 when she and Lois Gordon, then director of education, forged a lasting relationship between City College of San Francisco and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Looking back at the program’s pilot course, Professor Cheremeteff recalls her concern that students wouldn’t be willing to drive out to the museum for a 9 a.m. class. “I still remember how apprehensive we were whether anyone would turn up at such an early hour, on a Saturday, and in the summer,” she said. But within the first hour of registration, 125 students signed up to take the course, allaying her fears for good. For these students, the unique learning environment and access to actual artworks represented a tremendous opportunity worth seizing (and getting out of bed early on a Saturday).

A historical painting depicting Jesus and moneylenders.

Peter Paul Rubens (Flemish, 1577–1640). The Tribute Money, ca. 1612. Oil on wood panel. Museum purchase, M.H. de Young Art Trust Fund. 44.11

Cheremeteff said, “Students repeatedly comment on the privilege of hearing lectures in the Gould Theatre and the effect of a museum setting on their study of art.”

In conjunction with Professor Cheremeteff’s lectures, the physical presence of the works sparks art historical discussion and debate, further enriching the students’ learning experience. Professor Cheremeteff is a strong believer in arts immersion as a key part of an art historical education, so she chooses her annual art history lecture topics based on special exhibits and artworks on display in the museum.

A professor stands before a class of students outside the grounds of the Legion of Honor

Professor Maria Cheremeteff teaching a group of City College students as they stand outside the Legion of Honor

Professor Cheremeteff continues teaching art history classes every fall and spring semester. For information on upcoming art history classes at the Legion of Honor visit Professor Cheremeteff's website.