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Academic Programs

Arts: Visual and Performing Arts

Salem College student taking paint from a palette

Salem College offers a bachelor of arts in the visual and performing arts with concentrations in art history, studio art, pre-art therapy, and music. It also offers minors in: Art History, Studio Art, Music, Visual and Performing Arts, Therapeutic Arts, and Visual Literature. These programs provide students with a solid background in academic training while exposing them to a wide variety of media, techniques, and contemporary issues. The result is a graduate confident in their abilities and clear in their artistic and performing goals.

Jobs and Outcomes

With a visual and performing arts major or one of the six available minors, Salem students are well suited to pursue advanced graduate studies or step into a wide range of professional fields including interior designers, K-12 educators, arts administrators, solo and collaborative performers, music ministers, private music teachers, music critics, professional artists, art gallerists, auction house administrators, and museum curators.

Program Leadership

To meet other faculty, please go to the faculty/staff directory.

Student Experience

Studio Art:

Students in Studio Art spend each semester building their skills in different mediums, techniques, and processes. They master classes in drawing, color theory, art history, painting, and printmaking all with a focus on developing personal voice and individuality. The result is seen from a culmination of their ideas in a concentration of artworks that exude voice and individuality.

Art History:

Students in VAPA Art History enrich their lives and learn how to think about an extraordinary and universal human activity. They learn to discuss, and analyze great works of Western and World Art. They learn about the lives and thinking processes of some of the most creative people in world civilizations, from all time periods. The results for them are internships, jobs in local and national art organizations, and acceptance into many fine graduate programs in the United States and abroad. Senior Vapa Art History students prepare a semester-long thesis/research project on a subject of their choice.


Students in VAPA-Music perform as soloists in Performance Forum, as collaborative musicians through chamber music and choir, and in end-of-semester showcases. The result for them is to gain valuable practice in a performance setting, growing into
skilled and confident musicians, with the potential for employment as church musicians, accompanists, and solo performers as well as the option to pursue graduate studies in music.

Students in VAPA-MUSIC also perform in a senior solo recital, present a lecture-recital or write a senior thesis. The result is a culminating experience as a performer and/or researcher, encouraging them to maximize their potential as a thinking musician and to share their passion and curiosity for music with the Salem community. These senior projects serve as springboards to future employment or prepare students for entering graduate studies in music.

Therapeutic Art:

Through completing a minor in therapeutic art, students obtain a wide perspective on the healing aspects of art making, focusing on how art works with  children and adults in diverse settings. Education in  therapeutic arts can be beneficial to students who desire  to gain general knowledge and skill in creative health and  art in wellness practice. This minor pairs well with degrees in Exercise Science, Health Studies or Critical Health Studies.

Health Leadership Highlights

Studio Art:

  • The Studio Art students are a strong knit community that seeks to serve the Salem Community on campus and beyond. Students volunteer countless hours to our community arts organization, including Sawtooth School for the Arts, Winston Salem Mixxer, and Art Crush Downtown Arts District.
  • Students share how the visual arts enrich their lives through artmaking as a therapeutic activity aimed at healing and life balance

Art History:

  • Art History students develop empathy and visual literacy, skills important for health professionals and anyone whose job requires them to work with people and observe, describe, analyze and interpret visual phenomena.
  • A wide range of Art History courses encourage cognitive empathy, through the study of artworks that represent many different cultural points of view, from Africa and Precolumbian Mexico to the Modern era.
  • All Art History courses also promote emotional empathy. Most periods of World Art are concerned with the visual representation of emotion, often through visual storytelling. Learning to read these emotions in art helps students to practice their own ability to connect emotionally with others.
  • Arth 268:Art and Empathy: Renaissance and Baroque, and Arth 170: Art and Empathy: The Graphic Novel, particularly focus on the study of emotions in the visual arts.


  • In the Special Topics in Music and Health course, students explore a variety of ways in which music and health intersect in our lives, both personally and globally.
  • Student projects include curating playlists that assist with stress management, performing for patients in local hospitals and assisted living facilities, and researching and writing about the latest clinical uses of music to treat patients in hospital settings.
  • In Alexander Technique, students learn to identify and prevent unnecessary patterns of tension during practice and performance. Study of the technique improves coordination, promotes ease and freedom of movement and helps the musician avoid strain and injury, allowing them to maximize their artistic potential.

John Hutton

Success Stories

John Hutton

John Hutton, PhD – Professor of Art History

I came to Salem 33 years ago, in 1990, and never left. I love Salem’s long history, partly because I went to two other very old schools, Princeton and Harvard. I love Salem’s small size and the fact that I can quickly know all my students’ names in a few days, even in my largest...

Illustration of campus by John Hutton

John Hutton Artwork

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