The Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory (AHVA) comprises 23 full-time members of faculty (including 13 art historians and 10 visual artists), 11 staff members, and a number of sessional instructors, adjunct professors, post-doctoral fellows, and associates of the department.

The department comprises three streams of research-based learning and practice:

  • Art History (ARTH), with a focus on theoretical and critical discourses (at both undergraduate and graduate levels) concerning the social impact of art and visual representation;
  • Critical and Curatorial Studies (CCST), examining issues in contemporary visual culture and display through research and exhibition projects; and
  • Visual Art (VISA), focusing on art production and academic learning, with a graduate emphasis on preparation for the field of contemporary international art.

The department’s faculty is actively involved in research, and many of our graduates have established distinguished careers in the creative, scholarly, and gallery fields.

The main goals of AHVA are to foster critical and reflexive thinking within an inclusive and supportive environment, to be innovative in pedagogy, and to be international in scholarly perspective.


Art history and visual art were first taught at The University of British Columbia in 1949 when noted Canadian painter, B.C. Binning, was appointed to the faculty of the newly-formed School of Architecture. The then-named Department of Fine Arts was established in 1958 as an independent department within the Faculty of Arts. Since its inception the department has grown steadily, with growing enrolment and a new studio program.

In 2001, the department changed its name to the Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory to better to encapsulate the innovative teaching and interdisciplinary research interests of the faculty.

In September 2017, the first cohort of first-year (direct-entry) BFA students entered our program.