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The burgeoning Department of the Arts at the Ben-Gurion University, established in 1999, has gained a reputation of being young, dynamic, and innovative in its definition of the boundaries of the discipline of art history. Without wholly forsaking the historical perspective adopted by the more traditional departments of art history, the Department of the Arts aims to provide the student with the broad interdisciplinary and cross-cultural background that is necessary for confronting head-on the artistic "presence" nurtured by the modern cultural context. This is well attested to by the singular attention given in its curriculum to the concept of visual culture in its interdisciplinary and intercultural dimensions, and the special emphasis placed on subjects that directly engage the artistic "presence" developing around us – in the context of contemporary art in general and Israeli art in particular.
The Department of the Arts at Ben-Gurion University currently encompasses academic activities in three fields: Art History (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.), Fine Arts (B.F.A.), and theory and history of Music (B.A. studies).
In our Art History curriculum, we aim to broaden the strict historical perspective and move toward areas concerning visual literacy, theory, and criticism. We also move gradually toward the adoption of new methodologies of research and study related to other fields such as cultural studies, gender studies, psychology, etc. These areas are intrinsically related to the artistic presence developing around us, in the context of contemporary art in general and Israeli art in particular.
One way of implementing the latter purpose is already in the making. Our advanced students are required to take a course in art curatorship. Their course of studies includes guest lectures by top curators and exhibition designers as well as guided preparation of exhibitions that consist of research, visit to artists' studios, interviews, the writing of catalogue essays, and the physical mounting of the exhibition.
Exhibitions are currently displayed in several locations on our campus (the Avraham Baron Art Gallery, the gallery at the Senate building, etc.). It should be noted that Ben-Gurion University exhibitions are among the very few in the Southern Region of Israel. They play a significant role in the area's cultural life and form a part of the academic activity of the university.