Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Conference Report: College Art Association 2014

Every year, I look forward to attending the College Art Association annual meeting in February. It's the largest gathering in the US of artists and art historians and provides a platform for smaller groups to come together and share their passions, interest, and knowledge with colleagues, as well. The conference is several days long and offers the opportunity to hear papers about pedagogy, conservation, technology and art history itself.

Renoir's paint box on display at the Art Institute of Chicago

Over the several days of the conference, I was able to attend a session on "Curatorial and Exhibition Studies: Bridging Theory & Practice"; a special session at the Art Institute of Chicago on the online scholarly catalogue initiative; a session on American collectors; and several other panels and discussions. I attended an off-site visit to the Glessner House and the stunning Second Presbyterian Church. In addition, I was able to further work on a project that I am coordinating (a volume on provenance research in conjunction with scholars throughout the United States. This publication is nearing its final stages of production. Yay!)

Connecting individually with others is an important part of conferences — even those that are as large as CAA. As in past years, this year I talked with scholars and textbook publishers as to teaching, resources, and sharing art history with our students. These kinds of meetings are small gatherings, usually 12-20 folks so that everyone can actively participate. They are often aimed at connecting teaching art historians with resources that students, ultimately, can purchase; nonetheless, they offer a great opportunity for me to connect with other art historians who are teaching at the undergraduate level. How do other art historians teach Edouard Manet and modernity? How do they introduce "visual culture" or "material culture"?

Excitedly, I was able to have dinner with Michael Cothren, a co-author of the textbook that I use in art history survey (yes, Marilyn was there, too!). At that dinner, we discussed some of the complications with image rights and reproductions and how, ultimately, these complications may impact the examples that are printed in textbooks. A further question, that I see, is, "what is the happy medium—between the democratization of images through social media (anything can become as popular as the work of a canonical artist) and the limitations of being able to show and print the work of art that you feel is canonical?" Further, what is the canon, now in 2014? What is its use? Who gets to form it?

Ellsworth Kelly's works with Millennium Park and the Chicago skyline as a backdrop

In addition to meeting up with colleagues from throughout the world, I, wonderfully, ran into (literally) recent alum, Elizabeth who is taking her M.A. in art history/theory at the School of the Art Institute. 

Obviously, I thoroughly enjoyed this conference and all of the ancillary events that I was able to attend. And, I am grateful to Georgetown College's Faculty Development Fund for partially fund this opportunity. I know that I will benefit from it for a long time; and, I hope to share what I've learned with my students and others, too.

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