Program Advisor: Christina Penn-Goetsch

Art to architecture

The pre-architecture program at Cornell focuses on developing your abilities to craft visual styles and to articulate the reasons behind your processes and stylistic choices, which are learned primarily during studio art and art history courses. You'll learn to approach art-making as a means of developing skills in project development, collaboration, and problem-solving skills.

Learning practical skills and utility in studio practice then melds with art history, where you will study the ideas and intentions behind the art and architecture from the Americas, West Africa, and Europe. 

This breadth in approach is an advantage for you if you intend to apply to graduate schools or apply for job opportunities, as employers increasingly demonstrate a preference for employees who have completed a broad undergraduate curriculum that addresses cross-cultural experiences. 

Preparing for graduate school

You can major in any field although many students choose to major in studio art, so they can develop their portfolios necessary for entrance into graduate programs. Art history courses that address architecture—such as Italian Renaissance Art, Medusa's Gaze, or Rome Reborn along with several general history courses, beginning Calculus, and an introduction to General Physics—are great courses to take during your four years on campus. 

Art awards

Art awards range from $1,000 to $5,000. Portfolios of five to 15 pieces of work must be postmarked by Nov. 1, or within one month of applying to Cornell if after Nov. 1. They may be submitted via a portfolio link, as email attachments, as a PowerPoint, or as original work. 

Benefits of One Course At A Time

One Course At A Time offers flexibility in every subject. Artists, in particular, benefit from the physical space that One Course At A Time provides—you will work in a space that is devoted to your particular class, meaning you can leave out your paints or other supplies at the end of the class. In fact, you may choose as many students do, to continue to work in the classroom throughout the day and evening. As a senior studio art major you will be assigned your own studio, with 24-hour access, to work on your senior thesis. 

Off-campus study

In your art history and art studio courses, you may frequently take day trips to travel to museums in the Midwest. You may take an off-campus study art history course where you travel to Mexico or Italy to study architecture in context. Museum studies classes and senior seminars take place in Chicago. Your classroom is never confined to the boundaries of Mount Vernon.

 The Studio Art Senior Thesis project

As a studio art major, you will take part in a yearlong project engaged in sustained creative work. As a senior studio art major, you will receive your own studio space and put on a senior thesis exhibition consisting of entirely fresh bodies of work in the mediums of your choice. You'll propose your exhibition before the department faculty, mount the exhibitions, and advertise and defend your show in front of the art and art history professors. 


The Art Department has exclusive use of McWethy Hall, which features large, up-to-date classrooms, a darkroom, wet room, carpentry shop, and ceramics studio. McWethy Hall is also home to the Peter Paul Luce Gallery, where major exhibitions and senior thesis shows are held. An annex provides space for a computerized kiln and a foundry, and as a senior art major, you will enjoy a private studio with secure 24-hour access as you prepare your senior thesis exhibition. 

Internships and fellowships

Recent pre-architecture students have worked at the following:

  • Mount Vernon Historical Preservation Commission
  • Brucemore, a National Trust Historic Site in Cedar Rapids
  • Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
  • Mexican Museum in San Francisco
  • Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago
  • Philbrook Museum in Tulsa
  • Puerto Rican Museum of Art
  • Rochester Art Center
  • Russian Icon Museum in Boston

Suggested Cornell courses for admission to a graduate program


  • Drawing
  • Ceramics
  • Collage/Assemblage
  • Sculpture

Art History

  • Greek and Roman Art
  • Italian Renaissance
  • Medusa’s Art in the Age of Galileo
  • Rome Reborn: Caput Mundi in Ancient, Renaissance and Modern Contexts


  • Europe: 800-1300
  • Europe: 1300-1700
  • Modern Europe and Its Critics


  • Calculus I


  • General Physics I

Submission of a portfolio demonstrating one's work in studio art plays a critical role in the application process; therefore, energy must be devoted to developing the appropriate studio art skills early in an undergraduate career. Also, courses in art history assist in the process of learning how to talk and write about your work.