Dr. Philip I. Eliasoph is much more than an instructor of art history’s “Visual Culture” class; he is a man who has chosen to live life with an open heart and mind.

In his 38 years of teaching, he has founded the art history program in 1975, Fairfield’s Florence, Italy campus program in 1986, the Thomas J. Walsh Art Gallery in 1991 and the Open Visions Forum town hall public lecture series in 1996.

Eliasoph, who has conducted live interviews with world renowned historians and writers and has traveled to many parts of the world, is a successful writer and is continuously recognized for his activism in political and liberal affairs.

The professor regularly challenges his students to become global citizens.

Eliasoph shocked his students when he presented a pop quiz on the first day of class. The shocker wasn’t the quiz, but rather the fact that it revealed that the top five percent of the American population hardly knew anything about what was going on around them.

“What are we learning? When the top five percent of our generation cannot even tell me where Afghanistan is or its capital when we’ve been in a war for the last 11 years … it’s just callousness, it’s a lack of attention,” Eliasoph said.

He stated, “You’re going out into a world with 7 billion people. You don’t have the same face, don’t have the same experience, I need to make my students as uncomfortable as possible to prepare them.”

Since his childhood, Eliasoph has maintained a traditional relationship with the New York Times. For him, that was his source of information. “Everyone read the paper” he said.

But aside from reading, Eliasoph has also contributed letters to the editor and incorporated the paper throughout his classes as a way of opening students up to the world around them.

This sense of awareness is further demonstrated through his experiences as an activist since the 1960s. Eliasoph has participated in movements regarding nuclear disarmament, early anti-atomic testing, civil rights and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations.

Despite his many interests outside of art history, Eliasoph has found himself cemented in the very subject he was first introduced to as a young child.

“My grandmother taught me to paint since I was a little boy,” Eliasoph said. “I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be Vincent Van Gogh or the quarterback of the New York Giants.”

Because of the heavy influence his “Baba” had on him, Eliasoph found himself contributing to the world of art history where his appreciation of political and historical affairs have intertwined with his love of the arts.

“Art really matters” is the theme of Eliasoph’s class.

His experiences are a demonstration of this theme. From his viewpoint, art doesn’t just matter in terms of paintings or color, it matters in expression of opinion in current affairs.

It’s clear that Eliasoph hopes to mold his students into well rounded individuals capable of giving their opinion on things like healthcare, economics and other important events.

“Art is something that will always give you solace and succor,” said Eliasoph.

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