Letter from the Chair - 2021/22

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Karl Whittington on a research trip to Florence, Italy

Greetings from Pomerene Hall, the home of the Department of History of Art at Ohio State. I am the new interim chair of the department, and I want to announce our first annual newsletter. We wanted to begin this newsletter so we could share the news, accomplishments and opportunities of the department with our students, alumni and friends. We hope you enjoy reading about what we have been up to in 2020 and 2021.

The past year-and-a-half has been challenging for the department in many ways because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Classes were moved online, research projects and travel were paused and we all struggled to adjust to the isolation that accompanied the pandemic. Despite all of this, our students and faculty have remained committed to and engaged with our department’s mission: to share with our students an art-historical practice that is ever-evolving, inclusive, intellectually rigorous and culturally rich. As I compiled the various updates, news and features in the newsletter, I was struck by how our faculty and students’ commitment to their objects of study and fields they love appear only to have deepened during this challenging year, as they have sought out new ways of engaging in their teaching and research.

As we moved to an online format in 2020, we formed community through faculty sharing work in progress with each other and with students. In a series of Zoom presentations and discussions during the 2020-2021 academic year, Associate Professors Karl Whittington and Namiko Kunimoto, Professor Andrew Shelton, and Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Chair of Art History Jody Patterson shared their work in process on Italian, Japanese, French and American artists, and we were able to engage from the many locations where we were sheltering in place during the pandemic’s early days. This continues this year with online presentations from other faculty members. At the same time, faculty and graduate students made the most of the fact that national conferences, talks and symposia were moved online, attending far more events and engaging with a wider variety of scholars we would normally meet through typical conference travel. This ability to present and attend talks across the globe, which we have all taken advantage of, has been one of the bright spots of a challenging year.

During the pandemic, our department has also continued and even expanded its public outreach through curatorial collaborations across Columbus. These have taken place at the Wexner Center for the Arts, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Hopkins Hall Gallery and the Urban Arts Space, among other venues, and have involved every group in the department, from faculty to graduate and undergraduate students. In spring 2021, for example, at the height of the pandemic, our students and faculty collaborated to create two shows at the Columbus Museum of Art that are featured in this newsletter: “A Primer on the Commons” and “Partially Buried: Land-Based Art in Ohio, 1970-Now.” Future opportunities for research and curatorial collaboration are planned for the Columbus Museum of Art and the Pizzutti Collection 2022, partially funded by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Discovery Theme at Ohio State. These collaborations with local museum institutions create rich laboratories for our undergraduate and graduate students to gain curatorial and research experience that we believe really set our department apart and help prepare students for a wide range of career opportunities.

As restrictions have begun to loosen this fall, students and faculty are taking advantage of the ability to travel again. I traveled to Italy in June 2021, the first month Italy reopened to travelers from the U.S., to conduct research for my current book project, and other faculty have made trips nationally and internationally. Graduate students have begun applying for funds to travel to research sites in Lebanon, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In the classroom, multiple groups are traveling to museum collections in the Midwest, including faculty traveling with students to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh, and Miller Institute for Contemporary Art at Carnegie Mellon. These kinds of classroom and research trips are made possible in large part by generous donations made to the department, and we are grateful for their ongoing support.

For alumni who have been away from the department for a while, you will notice several changes to our faculty in recent years. We have welcomed Jody Patterson, the inaugural Roy Lichtenstein Foundation Chair of Art History, and Daniel Marcus, recently appointed as assistant professor of practice in the department in addition to his position as associate curator at the Wexner Center for the Arts. We have also welcomed several new exceptional visiting professors and lecturers to the department, including Ravinder Binning (a specialist in Byzantine art), Tim Griffin (art writer and curator) and Sarah Schellinger (a specialist in ancient Egyptian and Nubian art and archaeology), who have helped us expand our courses and methodologies. The department also celebrates the accomplishments of Barbara Haeger, our longtime specialist in Northern Baroque art, who retired at the end of 2020. An online event, “Northern Renaissance and Baroque Art at the Threshold: A Symposium in Honor of Barbara Haeger,” will take place in early March 2022.

The department also mourns several significant losses in the past year. Three beloved emeritus faculty, Frank Richardson, Howard Crane, and John Huntington, passed away in 2020 and 2021. They will be greatly missed. We have a remembrance of Howard by one of his students included later in the newsletter, and future newsletters will include other testimonials.

One of the greatest challenges, but also opportunities, for our department is to advocate for the value of the humanities and arts and to show the relevance of our work not just to the field of art history but to our broader values of citizenship, inclusion and community engagement. We want this newsletter to play a role in this process. Our alumni have much to contribute as we explain to our institution and students the many professional paths that can be taken with an art history degree — from the arts to law, entrepreneurship, publishing, non-profits, government and education. We want to bring our current students more in dialogue with our alumni so they can forge concrete connections with alumni across the country but also so we can share your unique accomplishments and careers with them.

If you are a history of art alum, whether you graduated in 1970 or 2020, I would love to hear from you — please write to me any time at historyofart@osu.edu. What are you up to these days? What messages can you share with current or prospective art history students, whether graduate or undergraduate? Is there any way you would like to be involved or engaged with our department? We need to share stories of your success with our students as we help them navigate their own careers.

Please do be in touch — drop me an email or come by the main office in Pomerene if you’re local to Columbus. If you’re interested in receiving periodic updates on what’s going on in the department, please email historyofart@osu.edu and ask to be added to our community listserv. I look forward to hearing from you.

Karl Whittington
Associate Professor and Chair