Greetings from the Borland Building at Penn State! I am happy to update you on the Department of Art History’s activities and events over the past year, both on campus and within our broader community of alumni and friends. It’s a pleasure to share the great work being done, and I’m very grateful for the support of students, colleagues, and alumni in pulling together this snapshot of the past year.
Last year, Lauren Taylor joined our department as assistant professor of African Art and Lindsay Cook as assistant teaching professor of architectural history. This past spring, we bade a bittersweet farewell to Ethan Robey, associate teaching professor, who left for UC Irvine and Diana Malcom, administrative support assistant, who took a different position at Penn State. This fall we welcomed Emily Sikora, who joined our office staff, and Anne Cross, assistant teaching professor of American art. Elizabeth Mansfield completed a remarkable five-year term as department head in June. We are all deeply grateful for her leadership.
Last year the department graduated 59 Art History majors and minors. Seven graduates also received Museum Studies certificates. Our student marshal in May was Abby Mikalauskas, who is now pursuing an art history graduate program at the University of Oklahoma with a specialization in Native American art. We also celebrated two M.A. and two Ph.D. students who received their degrees. This fall we welcomed new undergraduate majors and pre-majors, as well as a cohort of five new graduate students.
As life began to resemble its pre-COVID normalcy, many students studied and researched abroad. Art History-affiliated programs in Todi and Salerno took students back to Italy after several years’ hiatus. The Susan W. and Thomas A. Schwartz Dissertation Research Fellowship enabled Emily Hagen to spend the year in archives and libraries in Rome. The Babcock Galleries and Francis E. Hyslop Memorial funds supported Kyle Marini’s research in Peru and Spain. Babcock and Lousie D. Purcell Memorial funds allowed Ariana Ramirez to conduct research in the Yucatan. Arielle Fields used a Drew Popjoy Architectural History award to conduct research in the United Kingdom, and Arunima Addy used Townley funds to advance her research in Kolkata.
Class field trips also resumed with gusto. Last spring Elizabeth Mansfield took her undergraduate seminar to the Museum of Modern Art in New York while Aaron Ziolkowski’s contemporary art class visited Dia Beacon. Dan Zolli took his graduate seminar to Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This fall, Chang Tan’s contemporary art class went to the Guggenheim to see Only the Young: Experimental Art in Korea. Finally, I accompanied a group of graduate students to see Making Her Mark: A History of Women Artists in Europe, at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Alumna Theresa Kutasz Christensen, who helped research, organize, and curate the show, kindly gave us a guided tour.
On campus, the department wrapped up its Mellon Foundation-funded Sawyer Seminar on the topic of Contagion and Containment in the Early Modern World with lectures by Marcy Norton, Nicolas Roth, Niall Atkinson, and Alex Hidalgo. These events capped a rich year-and-a-half of programming. The seminar’s postdoctoral scholar, Beatriz Véliz Argueta, a specialist in spaces and landscapes in postcolonial Guatemala, helped organize these last lectures before taking up a position at the University of Erfurt in January. The Harold E. Dickson lectureship resumed its in-person programming with lectures by Christine Ho in March and Miriam Said in October. In 2022, we welcomed back William Eisler as our Alumni Award recipient and this fall presented the 2023 award to Ilenia Colón Mendoza.
Our students continued their extraordinary record of presentations at national and international conferences. Art History majors presented at the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Art History Symposium last April and the SECAC conferences in 2022 and 2023. Graduate students gave presentations at the CASVA Middle Atlantic Symposium (Washington DC) and the annual conferences of the American Society for Ethnohistory, the American Society of Eighteenth Century Studies, the College Art Association, the Renaissance Society of America, the Sixteenth Century Society, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain.
The Center for Virtual/Material Studies continued its vibrant work, exploring the material history of textiles and blazing new trails in digital art history. The work of the center, unique in our field, has garnered external grants and resulted in lectures, workshops, and an exhibition this past year. This fall the center’s director, Sarah Rich, co-curated the exhibit “Sad Purple and Mauve: A History of Dye-Making,” in the University Libraries' Special Collections Library.
Like all members of the Penn State community, we eagerly await the opening of the new Palmer Museum of Art in 2024.
As ever, we are immensely grateful for the strong support of our alumni and friends who make so much possible. We are grateful for the part you play in the life of our department and express our deep and sincere thanks. I send warmest wishes for a joyous holiday season.