For art history alumni, a celebratory homecoming
A weekend symposium offered alumni an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater while sharing their current work as Elon University marked the 10th anniversary of its art history program.
It is impossible to celebrate the accomplishments of an academic program without showcasing the successes of those who complete it.
So when Elon University over the weekend marked the 10th anniversary of its art history program, alumni were a prominent part of a symposium that brought international experts to campus for a celebration of the innovative approach Elon faculty members use to prepare tomorrow’s art historians and museum curators.
A half dozen Elon University art history alumni shared graduate school research during the opening hours of the “Between, Among, and Across: Transhistories of the Visual” symposium held Feb. 27-28, 2015, in the LaRose Digital Theatre. Several others visited to support their classmates, reconnect with professors and expand their growing professional networks.
Elon formally introduced its art history minor in the 2004-2005 academic catalog, with an art history independent major graduate in 2007 and the first official art history major receiving her degree in 2008.
“We celebrated our past successes in the attendance of many of our alumni and the scholarly presentations of those who have gone on to art history graduate schools,” said Professor Kirstin Ringelberg, coordinator of the university’s art history program. “But we also looked to the future, whether in the participation of our current students in what was a challenging intellectual event, or the networking opportunities we established for both our current students and alumni in meeting experts in a variety of relevant fields.”
The art history program has graduated 40 majors over the past decade with dozens more students declaring art history as a minor. Alumni Erin Day, Caitlin Glosser, Jess Keough, Farley Sanderford, Sarah Simmons and Rachel Zimmerman made presentations as part of the symposium.
For Simmons, giving a talk on her doctoral work at Florida State University was a way to show gratitude to her Elon professors.
“I value the time and efforts they put into their students,” said the 2009 graduate. “When they invited alumni back to speak, it wasn’t a question. It was an opportunity to give back to them and show how I’ve grown. It was a thank you.”
Alumni in attendance credited their professors and the rigorous curriculum for preparing them to serve as emerging leaders in their fields.
“A lot of what you learn as an art history major is talking about art and being descriptive,” said Melissa Spencer ‘09 G’10, a media technologist at Georgia Perimeter College in Atlanta. “I write a lot of documentation today, and being descriptive - talking about a process - is easier because I was taught how to talk about art.”
Others said their return to campus - in some instances, it was their first trip to Elon since graduation - reminded them of the way their education shaped their professional journeys. Day was one such symposium participant. Though she said she has always cherished the close relationships she forged with art history faculty, she never fully realized the power of her experience on campus.
Until this weekend.
“I was one of those people who left with the mentality that this was a chapter in my life that has ended and I’m not coming back,” said Day, who later pursued a graduate degree in art history theory and criticism from Stony Brook University before taking a curatorial assistant position with the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. “I couldn’t have been more thrilled to step back on the campus again and appreciate my four years here in way I didn’t at the time.”
For more information on Elon University’s Department of Art & Art History, visit www.elon.edu/art.