School of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum co-hosts the Seventh Biennial Symposium of Art Historians



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American Endowed Professor of Art Jennifer Greenhill and colleague

The Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Association of American Art Historians was recently co-hosted by the School of Art’s Art History Program and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. More than 150 art historians from across the country and abroad traveled to northwest Arkansas for panels, workshops and lectures held during the three-day symposium.

Events took place both on the University of Alberta campus and at the museum, and incorporated talks from artists and art historians.

This is the first major event organized by the Faculty of Art History and Crystal Bridges. Contributors described it as a chance to build on the respective strengths of everyone, from the museum’s collections and curatorial knowledge to the academic expertise of the School of Art.

“The symposium was a unique collaboration between the Art History Program and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art,” said John Blakinger, Art History Program Director and Associate Professor of Contemporary Art. “The events and program throughout the weekend reflected new changes in the field and embraced both emerging voices and seasoned scholars. But what was most exciting was the opportunity to showcase the growth of arts and art history in Northwest Arkansas to our colleagues in the field.”

This biennial AHAA symposium saw the highest number of registrations ever recorded for an in-person conference for the organization. It brought new members to the AHAA, and for many attendees it was their first time in northwest Arkansas.

“The attendance and interest in this year’s AHAA symposium is strong evidence that bringing the two organizations together is more effective than working separately to make a difference and find broad reach,” said Mindy Besaw, Director of Research, Fellowships and University Partnerships and Curator of American Art at Crystal Bridges.

The content of the symposium embraced Latin American and LatinX topics and encouraged a hemispheric approach to American art. Scholarly sessions spanned time and media, from new readings on colonial painting to post office murals of the 1930s, decorative arts made in Caribbean prisons, and psychedelic posters of the 1960s.

“The events also underscored the deepening relationship between Crystal Bridges and the University of Arkansas through the Tyson Scholars of American Art program,” Besaw added. “The Tyson Scholars Program celebrated the first decade since its inception, highlighting the talent of our scholars and the importance of their research topics while keeping an eye on how our partnership can further strengthen the program’s growth.”

The symposium opened by celebrating this milestone, the 10th anniversary of the Tyson Scholars of American Art program.

The program invites Ph.D. candidates, postdoctoral researchers, and senior scholars from all fields who research American art to apply for fellowships designed to support full-time writing and research. Tyson Scholars have access to the Crystal Bridges Art and Library Collection, as well as the U of A Library and Archives.

The first day of the symposium brought together Tyson scholars for workshops on pressing issues such as art and philanthropy. Additionally, scholars and contemporary artists had lively discussions about the artworks in Crystal Bridges’ collections.

“It’s been such a pleasure to host 10 years of Tyson scholars,” said Jennifer Greenhill, professor of American art and director of museum partnerships with the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. “It was remarkable to see how many books, articles, exhibits and other projects the researchers produced after a period of focused research and writing with us here. As a former Tyson researcher I I myself look forward to the next decade of the program and the new initiatives that we can develop through our partnership with Crystal Bridges.”

As the symposium continued, art history professors including John Blakinger, Jennifer Greenhill and Alexis Salas moderated, led and participated in discussions throughout the weekend. Abra Levenson helped organize the event the previous year.

Faculty and Crystal Bridges curators agreed that this was just the first of many collaborations to come. The School of Art will soon launch the Master of Arts in Art History graduate program with a focus on the arts of the Americas. The program has been developed in close partnership with Crystal Bridges and designed to diversify knowledge systems recognized and cultivated through art history research.

“The collaboration between the School of Art and Crystal Bridges to build such a strong symposium and host so many experts in the field has been a great success,” said Marty Maxwell Lane, director of the School of Art at the Fulbright College of Arts and Science. . “Thanks to the hard work of all faculty, staff and curators, the education of our students continues to be enriched by this innovative partnership. The continued exploration and presentation of new approaches in the field certainly develop a new generation of art historians.”

About Carlos V. Mitchell

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