Professor Ellen C. Caldwell

Professor of Art History



AHIS 1: Understanding the Visual Arts
AHIS 3/3H:
History of Women and Gender in Art 

AHIS 9: History of Asian Art and Architecture
AHIS 11/11H:
History of African, Oceanic, and Native American Art

AHIS 13: World Art and Visual Culture


  • BA — Art History, Santa Clara University (minors in Classics and Environmental Studies)
  • MA — Art History, University of California, Santa Barbara


  • ZTC Pathways Grant Instructional Faculty Coordinator, 2023-present
  • Faculty Association Department Representative, 2017-2018, 2019-present
  • Library Advisory Board, 2018-present
  • Textbook and Instructional Materials Committee (TIMC), 2020-present
  • Education and Technology Committee, 2023-present
  • OER Taskforce & OER Faculty Mentor, 2019-2020
  • Racial Justice Taskforce, 2020-2021
  • Senate Representative, Fall 2019

Biography: Ellen C. Caldwell

I am an LA-born and -based art historian, writer, and educator. My background is in contemporary West African art and I teach and write about visual culture, the arts, identity, gender, and popular media for publications including JSTOR Daily, Art History Teaching Resources, Riot Material, New American Paintings, KCET's Artbound, and other online and academic journals. 


I contributed to the Bloomsbury Handbook to Octavia E. Butler (March 2020), co-authoring a chapter with California State University Sacramento colleague Dr. Christine Montgomery. Analyzing over 40 years of book covers for Butler's best selling novel Kindred, we combine our disciplines of art history and literature, forging new ground in the humanities by melding visual analysis, comparative literature, and speculative fiction to study Kindred as a wholefrom the outside, in. In 2020, I received a Mellon-ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowship to continue working on this research in the OEB archives at the Huntington Library.

In 2022, I was a co-winner of an ASCCC OERI Grant to assist in writing and creating an OER textbook for Introductory Art History survey courses called Introduction to Art History I (for courses such as AHIS 4 here, or C-ID 110 at the CCCs). 


Most recently, I co-edited and contributed to a volume about gender violence, viewership, and art history, titled Gender Violence, Art, and the Viewer: An Intervention, forthcoming with Pennsylvania State University Press in the fall of 2024. I co-authored two chapters, one with Mt. SAC alumni Natalie Madrigal and the other with artist Ria Brodell. The volume was awarded a Millard Meiss Publication Grant from College Art Association in 2023.

Student Collaborations

In the fall of 2018, I began working with art history students on independent writing and researching projects. The following essays were authored or co-authored for Art History Teaching Resources by our Mt. SAC students:

My Teaching Philosophy

I teach and write about art because it has the power to help us all to see life and history through and in an entirely different perspective. As an educator and writer, I see myself as a translator, helping to share the often-unseen or hidden intentions, lessons, and cultural gems of the art with you, my students. 

In my class, you will also become a translator of art and history. You will see how art can give a voice to those who feel voiceless and you will see art history help to illustrate the ways in which artists, of the past and present, have found their voices, fought for change, for rights, and for social justice.


I believe in the power of art, art history, and of storytelling (historical and personal narratives) to change the way we see the past, the way we live in the present, and the way we actualize our future. I teach to pass on my passion for the arts and my access to education, both of which were cultivated in me by a family of educators and artists. I share my passion for art and art history in hopes that you can not only access a similar passion, but also fully realize your own potential in your educational journey as well.