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Letter from the Chair - 2022/23

Karl Whittington Teaching in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome

Greetings to the history of art community, near and far: current students and faculty, alumni of our graduate and undergraduate programs, and friends and supporters of our department. I hope you enjoy reading the second edition of our annual newsletter, where we share the inspiring work that our faculty and students have been doing in 2022. As life has returned to some kind of new normal following the worst of the pandemic, our horizons have begun to broaden again, and it has been a wonderful year of travel, research, and engagement for our students and faculty.

Exciting things are happening in our department this year. The biggest news is that our faculty will grow significantly, with searches currently underway for three new faculty positions in African/Diaspora Art and Visual Culture, the History of Architecture and the Built Environment, and Latinx Art History and Visual/Material Culture. These hires, two of which are part of Ohio State’s Race, Inclusion, and Social Equity (RAISE) Hiring Initiative, are part of exciting new growth happening across the College of Arts and Sciences that will bring dynamic new research and teaching areas to our students. The three positions in History of Art will allow us both to move into new geographic and conceptual directions, but also to re-engage fields of study that were long an area of strength in the department (in African Art and in the History of Architecture, specifically). We are thrilled to be conducting these searches, and we look forward to welcoming new faculty members into our department in autumn 2023; this growth for our department is a wonderful vote of confidence on the part of the university in the work that we are doing to move the discipline of art history in just and equitable directions. Stay tuned for more news as scholars are chosen for these positions.

Over the past year, I think the key theme for our students and faculty has been travel, exploration, and re-engagement with our research. As travel restrictions lifted, students and faculty have moved across the globe to present their work and to visit collections, libraries, and archives, both as part of structured trips and for their individual research. With logistical support from our amazing staff, almost half of our PhD students traveled internationally over the past six months, visiting a range of sites in Europe, East Asia, and the Americas, generously supported by the Cathleen M. Murnane Travel Scholarship and other department and university funds. Hearing about their re-engagement with art objects and archives has been wonderful and energizing.

We also launched other initiatives aimed at helping students access immersive, faculty-led engagement with works of art. For the first time, our capstone research seminar for the History of Art major included a travel component: over Fall Break in October 2022, Professor Jody Patterson led the class of senior art history majors to New York City to visit collections, conduct research, and meet with department alumni working in the field. It was a huge success in getting students out of the classroom and engaging directly with works of art and museum institutions. We plan to continue this travel component to our capstone seminar in future years. A number of History of Art majors also traveled with me to Italy in May 2022 as part of my “Medieval Art in Italy” study abroad course. Assisted by PhD student Margaret Wilson, I led the students around Rome and Florence for 17 days, navigating COVID protocols as we weaved in and out of churches, museums, and train stations. A final initiative that we are proud of is a new undergraduate scholarship, from the Aida Cannarsa Snow Endowment, through which we are now able to provide $2,000 to four history of art majors each year; the first scholarships were awarded this fall based on both financial need and academic merit.

We also continued to increase the number of class-connected field trips to institutions in Columbus and around Ohio. Two current shows at the Wexner Center, “Sharing Circles: Carol Newhouse and the WomanShare Collective” (co-curated by Assistant Professor of Practice Daniel Marcus) and “Carlos Motta: Your Monsters, Our Idols,” have been visited by several courses, as has the current show at the Columbus Museum of Art, “Raphael—The Power of Renaissance Images: The Dresden Tapestries and their Impact” and their show last spring on Roy Lichtenstein. Professor Julia Andrews and several graduate students led a large group of undergraduates from the East Asian Art Survey course to the Cincinnati Museum of Art in October 2022 to see “Galloping Through Dynasties” and objects in their permanent collections. Other classes visited the Dayton Museum of Art, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and the Thompson Library Special Collections. We have been working throughout our curriculum to increase these kinds of engagement and travel opportunities; coming out of COVID, we are all eager for this kind of hands-on experience.

We hosted a number of great events in 2022 as well. To mention just a few highlights, in February we virtually hosted Cécile Fromont of Yale University as our Ludden lecturer. In March we hosted a virtual symposium, “Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art at the Threshold” in honor of the retirement of Professor Barbara Haeger, which was a wonderful discussion of Barbara’s research contributions to the field and a chance to hear new research from her colleagues and friends. In April, our graduate students hosted their Symposium, “On Radical Practice: Representing Politics, Resistance, and Transmission.” And in collaboration with the Columbus Museum of Art, in July we hosted a small symposium, “Raphael and the Dresden Tapestries” in person in Pomerene Hall, featuring Professor Christian Kleinbub and a group of European scholars who worked on the show.

We also have a number of accomplishments to celebrate this year among our faculty, staff, and students. I wanted to acknowledge several significant achievements here. Firstly, Erica Levin was promoted to associate professor with tenure – Congratulations, Erica! And Christina Wei-Szu Burke Mathison, formerly a lecturer in our department, was promoted to associate professor of teaching. Professor Lisa Florman also took on a significant new role at the university: beginning in September 2022, she is now serving as the Vice Provost for the Arts, helping to shape and coordinate research, collaboration, and community engagement in the Arts across Ohio State. This summer, Professor Emeritus Myroslava Mudrak was inducted into the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine, a major honor recognizing her role in championing and researching Ukrainian visual artists throughout her career. And finally, our Academic Program Coordinator, Gabrielle Stephens, was awarded a much-deserved Outstanding Staff Award from the Arts and Sciences Staff Advisory Council.

I also want to thank and acknowledge the many contributions of Professor Christian Kleinbub to our department. Christian decided to resign from his full-time faculty position in August 2022, but he has been named adjunct professor and plans to remain actively engaged with the department, continuing to serve on several students’ dissertation committees and perhaps teaching online courses in the coming years. We owe Christian a debt of gratitude for his mentorship of students, inspiring research, service roles in our department, and so much more. We wish you and Amanda and Angelina the best in New York City.

I hope you enjoy reading through the rest of this year's newsletter for updates on students and faculty, spotlights on graduate student research and undergraduate alumni, reflections on recent travel and research, and a tribute to Professor Emeritus John C. Huntington from a former student. John’s contributions to the field of Buddhist Art are being memorialized at several conference sessions in his honor, as former students and colleagues recognize his immense impact on the field.

As always, please do stay in touch. I particularly love hearing from alumni about what they are up to, so drop by Pomerene Hall and say hi or write me an email (whittington.78@osu.edu).

Over the past year we have also completely redesigned our website, history-of-art.osu.edu, so please take a look — it includes a wealth of new content about what everyone here is up to.

Karl Whittington
Associate Professor and Chair