In 1959, when the Department of English split into three units, the Department of Humanities and Philippine Institutions was one of the new departments to emerge. This unit was tasked to teach art appreciation in the style of the University of Chicago. The pioneers of the program included Aurelio Estanislao, Eliseo Pajaro, Leticia Ramos-Shahani, Ricaredo Demetillo and Virginia R. Moreno, all distinguished artists and men and women of letters.
In 1964, an A.B. Humanities Degree was instituted.
By 1989, most of the members of the department were at the forefront of research in Philippine Art. There was a dramatic shift in art writing that had been focused on the fine arts. The study of art now includes the creative endeavors of marginalized Philippine communities as well as popular art forms. The faculty changed its name to the Department of Art Studies to reflect the new approaches and paradigms required in these areas, sharpening the focus of the discipline. This shift also signified the movement away from the shadow of Enlightenment aesthetics and towards the more exigent goals of a ‘less Western’ liberal arts canon.
This shift towards a nationalist orientation will be sharply felt in the 1990s when more radical foundational and epistemic challenges took place in the Bachelor of Arts in Art Studies program. In 1993, the first ever curricular workshop after the DAS renamed itself resulted, among others, in the overhaul of the core courses in art history and the institution of the “Arts of the World” series of courses to further check the dominance of Western art histories and in response to the changing borders and boundaries of a constantly shifting world.
Currently, the Department of Art Studies offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Studies with the option to concentrate on Art History, Interdisciplinary, or Philippine Art; and three Master of Arts degrees (Art History, Art Theory and Criticism, and Curatorial Studies). It also offers three General Education courses: ARTS 1 (Critical Perspectives in the Arts), Art Studies 2 (Art Around Us: Exploring Art in the Everyday) and PHILARTS 1 (Philippine Arts and Culture).