Untraditional Classroom: Taking a Class at the Yale University Art Gallery

Collage created of Ancient Greek statue, flowers, and words with the title displayed

One of the biggest parts of my life here at Yale is my job at the Yale University Art Gallery. I began my position at the Visitors Services department during my first semester two years ago in the fall of 2021 and have been working there since. It’s my favorite place on campus, full of my favorite people, and has been the host to many great memories. What I never expected however, was that this place - which I always considered a mix of a workplace and a home - would also become a classroom.

The outside of a building showcasing an all glass exterior and fall foliage

When I was creating the schedule for my final semester here at Yale, I knew I wanted to enroll in something fun and exciting. Due to my transfer student status and my decision to study abroad, my previous academic schedules were full of courses I needed to take to graduate. While I thoroughly enjoyed all of those previous classes, I finally had the flexibility this semester to explore the interesting courses offered at Yale (and trust me there is a lot). When scrolling and searching through the list of available courses, my eyes landed on a course titled “Seeing, Interpreting, and Describing.” It was an art history course that centered on teaching students how to critically view, analyze, and discuss art and to make it all the better…it was taught exclusively at the Yale University Art Gallery.

Interior location full of Ancient Greek busts and statues illuminated by strong daylight

Every Thursday at 9:25am - before the gallery is open to the general public - my classmates and I accompany our professor inside the gallery to begin our day. My professor curates the daily schedule to include about 2-3 art pieces which we view and then engage in discussion about. Having to engage with each artwork for roughly 35 minutes and attempt to collect your thoughts into an analysis can and has been challenging. But, it’s incredibly exciting and rewarding. I’ve learned how to view art with a critical eye and have come to understand the difference between standing in front of a piece for a few minutes versus looking at an artwork for a substantial amount of time. As someone who knows the in-and-outs of the gallery, it’s been even more fulfilling using the tools I’ve learned through this class and applying them in my job.

Interior on an art gallery with modern paintings displayed and a grand ornate pillar

This class has been particularly special to me because it is an excellent example of the various academic environments Yale offers its students. It’s not every day you can enter an art gallery before the general public does. It’s not every day you can have certain off-view pieces brought out from storage to be shown to you and your classmates. Offering other learning locations apart from lecture halls and seminar rooms makes an academic experience all the more enriching and that has been something Yale continues to succeed in. From taking this class at the art gallery to being taught by a former mayor of New Haven (stay tuned for that blog), my academic trajectory here at Yale has never not been exciting and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

A black and white image of a young woman in graduation gear standing in front of Ancient Greek busts
Thank you YUAG, for being so many places for me.