An art professor is someone who teaches students about art, usually in a collegiate setting. In many countries, the title "professor" is only given by universities to those who hold a departmental chair in their chosen field of study, and it denotes the highest possible academic rank one can receive. An art professor teaches students many different artistic practices based on his specialty. Usually, those who are referred to as art professors specialize in some form of visual art as opposed to performing arts or music. Technically, though, art professors are professors who practice and teach any form of art, which is essentially anything that is intentionally arranged to be engaging to the senses.
The term professor is sometimes used specifically to refer to academics who are tenured. This means that they are hired for life by a university and can only be dismissed with "due cause." A university would tenure an art professor because its administration believes that the artist can advance his field better without having to worry about losing his job. This involves the concept of academic freedom; an art professor could be afraid to practice experimental or controversial art or to teach controversial methods. Without fear of being terminated, he may be able to advance his field significantly.
An art professor needs to provide instruction and guidance to his students, both in and out of the classroom. Typically, art professors are practicing artists who still develop their own artwork using the resources of the universities they work for. They teach various artistic methods in the classroom, from sculpture to painting, based on their specialty. Out of the classroom, their own work and dedication to their field is meant to be an inspiration and a guide to their students.
An art professor could, by the broad definition of art, teach any aspect of the very large field. Visual arts include everything from sketching to theater, though theater and cinema are classified as performing arts as well. Music is a major part of the broad field of art, so a professor of music could also be considered an art professor. No matter what subfield of art the professor teaches, he is doing essentially the same thing: instructing students through his own work and in the classroom.
Instruction of art does not only involve methodology. An art professor also works to expose students to works of art from other influential artists. Part of the job of art professors is imparting on students a broad understanding of the field they are working to teach.