Pinning My Inquietudes/Hopes for Art History
Lately I’ve been revising my Pinterest boards so that they engage key concerns I have about art history. I began using Pinterest, an online customizable set of bulletin boards, last summer when I taught History of Photography. The boards for arth318snapshot served as a resource for my undergraduate students and broader publics. I later started my own artstuffmatters‘ set of boards. Initially it focused mainly on books about various subject areas. I didn’t really do much with it. However, I recently had a “eureka moment” that sparked a different, more passionate direction.
Last fall at the Imagining America October 2012 conference, I heard a presentation that continues to inspire and challenge me. Dr. Marta Vega, Executive Director and Founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center and African Diaspora Institute, centered her address on “inquietudes,” things that make one feel ill at ease, in relationships between academia and the wider world. She argued that many academics don’t engage community organizations as partners or as higher education institutions. Because they don’t value the knowledge and experience of these agencies, these scholars can’t actually engage most people. She urged the scholarly sphere to recognize that it is a part of community instead of promoting hierarchical behaviors. If we are serious about civic engagement and creating enduring social change, we need to foster connections between people. We need to make our arts centers inclusive.
These ideas resonated for me because in my work as a graduate student I sometimes feel apprehensive about scholarly research, dissemination methods, and traditional constructions of the discipline. One of my major inquietudes involves issues of inclusion and diversity. When I hear about diversity in art history, it’s usually in regards to museums careers. In the academic sphere most of this discussion involves courses in art of non-western cultures. While varied course offerings are very important, we need to make this strategy a part of a system that spans types of art, chronologies, and fields. We need to consider full inclusion and diversity in relation to our research and pedagogical methods as well. We should communicate this focus to our undergraduate and graduate students. (I have encountered more than one art history graduate student who mistakenly believes that diversity-related topics only pertain to modern and contemporary art. One person even told me that race is only a relevant topic for those who study African or African-American art.) Our lack of attention to community and vernacular arts compounds this problem. Additionally, we need to consider how we can encourage people of diverse races and ethnic backgrounds to study and teach art history. The discipline sorely lacks diversity in terms of students and faculty members. Addressing these matters can help us to engage broader publics and demonstrate the significance of our discipline and the humanities.
I have created boards for topics I’d like to see more art historians critically engage – diversity, community arts, public scholarship, digital scholarship, teaching techniques, and image use among others. These boards contain links to resources that I would have loved to know about when I started graduate school. I hope students, instructors, and others interested in the arts find this collection helpful. If you have suggestions for the boards, please let me know through the comment feature here or on Pinterest. As I work to create positive change in the discipline, I’ll continue blogging about these inquietudes in future posts because this platform is one way to explore, expand, and celebrate my connection to community.
“Art History Department Explores Diversity, Accessibility” The Oberlin Review, 4/17/2013