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Art History | Alumni Perspectives

ALUMNI SPEAK OUT ABOUT THEIR ART HISTORY EXPERIENCE


Kathryn Wysocki (BA 2002), PhD candidate/Panofsky Fellow, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU, New York

"The American University Art History program gave me the skills I needed to continue my studies at a competitive graduate program. After deciding to complete a dual major in International Relations and Art History during my junior year, the SIS advisors and the faculty of the Art History program worked with me to establish a program of study that would immerse me in my new field. The Approaches to Art History course was the most useful class I have ever completed — it gave me a wealth of tools to consider both the history of art and the methods and structures underlying scholarly work in many other disciplines. Studying with renowned scholars Mary Garrard and Norma Broude introduced me to needed skills in object-based study and visual analysis as well as modern theories of critical analysis. After the completion of my degree, Professors Garrard and Butler encouraged me to continue my studies through the Alumni Audit program. After five years away from school, I am sure that the alumni audit courses with Professor Butler helped me stay sharp for my new role at the Institute of Fine Arts at NYU! Even after graduation, the AU program offered the valuable link to the world of art and the encouragement to continue to attend the many lectures and exhibitions available in the Washington, D.C,. area. The vibrant, challenging community at the History of Art department of American University was a singular foundation for what I hope will be a long and productive career in this field. At AU, scholarly rigor merges with openness to new approaches, the wealth of knowledge on campus interfaces with the cultural offerings of the Capitol, and the supportive environment of professors and classmates challenges students to ever greater success."

 

Robert Leo Costello (MA 1996), Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia, PA

"AU graduates are well respected in this field because of the academic knowledge that this rigorous program provides. Because the program is so small, and because there are no PhD. students, MA candidates receive the full attention of an extraordinarily distinguished faculty. For MA students to be able to work so closely with scholars of such high profile as Drs. Broude, Garrard and Langa, is a remarkable aspect of this program and one that makes it, to my knowledge, quite unique. Proof of the academic strength of the MA program in art history is the degree to which it prepares students to continue on in their studies in the field. I am now pursuing a PhD at Bryn Mawr College, in one of the top art history programs in the country and was treated with immediate respect during my application process to Bryn Mawr, precisely because of my attendance at AU and the reputation for academic excellence that it has in this field."

 

Sara Day (MA 1985) Washington, D.C.

"Not only was I stimulated and enriched by the courses and seminar I took...but the program also provided me with the impetus to explore the many research resources available in Washington, in particular the libraries at American University, Georgetown University, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian National Museum of American Art, and the Library of Congress. Today, I am a senior writer-editor in the Publishing Office at the Library of Congress, working with the curators to produce a broad range of books about, or based on, the Library's collections and have also been an exhibition curator there. I trace back my particular interest in women's history (I am currently coordinating and editing a multi-author effort to research and describe the Library's American women's history and culture resources) and to interdisciplinary approaches to the study of art to the inspiration provided to me by Mary Garrard, Norma Broude, and Miriam Schapiro (guest lecturer). I was deeply impressed by their commitment to achieving an inclusive history of art."

 

Suzanne Gould (MA 1998), The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

"The most valuable aspect of my graduate training was that I developed from an undergraduate student who merely "executed" assignments into a scholar who learned how to think independently. I made this transformation by becoming an expert researcher, a skilled writer, a confident public speaker, and an analytic thinker. These changes would not have occurred without the careful guidance and training of Drs. Garrard, Broude, and Langa, who run a challenging and demanding art history program. I am currently a curatorial research assistant at The Art Intitute of Chicago, and I would not be successful in this job without the skills I learned from my professors at American University."

 

Elizabeth Barthold O'Brien (MA 1991), Alexandria, Virginia

"I have been employed in the field of historic preservation and architectural history from 1989 to the present, and my first job in the field was the direct outcome of an A.U. internship with another graduate of the program. I believe that my experience at American University far exceeded my expectations for a number of reasons. The small size of the program allowed direct and frequent contact with faculty members who were not only well respected as scholars, but also vibrant and attentive teachers. The integration of the Art History program with the Studio Art program fostered intellectually stimulating friendships and conversations between those studying the art of the past and artists of the present and future. Finally, the program's location in Washington, D.C. allowed access to excellent research facilities and outstanding art collections."

 

Danyelle M. Kensey (MA 1997), Development Associate, Smithsonian Institution

"The program encourages practical application of what is learned in the classroom--particularly through the internship program at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American Art. Students who participate in the program not only gain work experience, but access to one of the most competitive and prestigious job markets in the arts and cultural arena. As with many businesses, museums prefer to hire interns over candidates who have no prior affiliation with or connection to the organization—the Smithsonian is no different. My graduate studies in the A.U. art history program and its partnership with the Smithsonian gave me an edge that many other prospective employees lacked. Not only does the department have an exceptional reputation, but it opens many professional doors to its graduates—from postgraduate study and teaching to work in museums and other arts-related fields."

 

Dr. Sussan Babaie (MA 1984), Assistant Professor, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts

"I received my art history MA at AU in 1984. This was followed by a PhD in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU. I have been a fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and have taught art history at New York University, Rutgers University, and now at Smith College.It was the art history program at AU that laid the foundation for my scholarly and teaching career. I was privileged to receive instruction and advice from some of the best teachers I have ever had. The small size of the program and the dedication of the faculty translated into an intimate and effective learning environment. The high standard of teaching and scholarship of the faculty was a model for the students to emulate.My education at AU was enriched by its international environment, by its proximity to some of the greatest resources for higher learning in the world, and by its personalized and attentive educational approach. I am, above all, most proud of my art history degree from AU for providing me with the foundation and support that made possible the realization of my intellectual pursuits and my professional goals."

 

Trish Ballard (MA 1995), Assistant Slide Librarian, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

"I am extremely fortunate to be a graduate of the American University's art history program. Few other cities in the U.S. offer students such a wide range of museum and arts-related opportunities in which to apply and exercise their academic knowledge. It is because of the support of the department faculty and staff that I found success in locating challenging internships while a student and subsequently found my job at the National Gallery of Art as an alumnus."

 

Lisa E. Farrington, PhD (MA 1980), Senior Art Historian, Parsons School of Design, The New School, New York City

"Coming to AU's art history program from HBCU (Howard University) I had very strong background in African and African-American art but really needed to strengthen my knowledge in western art. At first I felt very handicapped in comparison to the other students, but found quickly that the faculty at AU was incredibly supportive and helpful. Even after so many years have passed, I still remember Professor Broude actually calling me at home to help me prepare for an upcoming comprehensive exam. I don't ever remember getting a call at home from another professor during my school career, either before or since. The brief time I spent at AU created for me a lifelong affection for the rigor, responsibility, and embracing nature of the program and those who populate it."

 

Alumni Making a Difference

Brooke Rosenblatt is co-owner of Art/Engage, a social services organization that provides art and culture appreciation classes to individuals with cognitive disabilities.

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