Living in a city of museums, that too, with free admissions to most of them, has spoiled me in many ways. Besides feeling privileged, it also feels wrong when I do not get to wander the halls of at least one museum every weekend. Sometimes I don’t even wait for weekends. The world will understand if I take a mid-day break to gaze at Pollock’s Number 31. No one will judge if, on a Wednesday afternoon, I immersed myself in imagining what life was like for O’Keeffe and Stieglitz. An art lover will know: the artists and their thoughts, no matter what kind of artistic language they used to materialize those, can calm the storm inside many of us.

In many cases, those carefully curated thoughts ignite us to challenge traditional values and compel us to ask new questions. This deep emotional connection between the art lovers and the artists becomes even more meaningful when we know the historical context of the piece, can recognize contrasts of style and form and can understand and appreciate the abstraction. Art appreciation courses do just that, i.e., show us how we can make the most of our emotional connections with the art pieces and their creators. Those who were lucky to take an art appreciation class in college can vouch for my claim. For those of us who did not have a chance to take an art appreciation class can still find ways to quench the thirst for the knowledge of art. Below I have mentioned a few courses available online that I found very helpful. Bonus- some of these are free.

“Why Art Matters” by Khan Academy

Ever had to find yourself in an awkward position in a party or family gatherings where a friend or relative kept asking for the quantifiable value of art? This course form Khan Academy is an excellent way to brush off your talking points in case you are in the same situation again. The course focuses on why art matters at the first place, provides a primer to art history and recommends some tools to understand museums.

Also great:

Modern Art & Ideas offered by Coursera.
Art History: An Introduction to the Joy it Brings

Groundbreaking Contemporary Artists by Highbrow

If you are an avid fan of contemporary art like me, you will appreciate this course that’s about artists like Ai Weiwei, Marina Abramovic, Jeff Koons, Barbara Kruger among others. The best part of this course is that it focuses on artists from different backgrounds who rose to prominence, no more bogged down with Western artists only. Highbrow’s lesson format is a little different as they deliver their lessons through emails. This course takes about five minutes reading a day for ten days.

Also great:

What is Contemporary Art? Offered by MoMA with Coursera
Introduction to Contemporary Art by Khan Academy

“Teaching Critical Thinking through Art with the National Gallery of Art” offered by Smithsonian with Edx

National Gallery of Art (NGA) in Washington, DC paired up with Edx to offer this beautiful course that will tell you so much about creating a culture of critical thinking as you look through arts at NGA. Although specifically designed for educators, this course is an absolute must-have for any art lover who wants to strengthen their critical thinking skills.

Also great:

Leading Innovation in Arts and Culture offered by Coursera

Art & Ideas: Teaching with Themes

Street Artists, You Should Know by Highbrow

Who said art will have be confined within the walls of a museum? In fact, the artists discussed in this course specifically pushed the boundaries of art outside the limits of the museum. Using a variety of methods, artists like Banksy, Vhils, DAleast, C215 and the like have contributed to some of the finest of arts produced. With a rebellious attitude, these artists have pushed back on the idea of art being an elite commodity. Let there be art everywhere!

Also great:

Art of the Mooc: Activism and Social Movements by Coursera
The Modern and the Postmodern

Sohana Nasrin is a freelance writer