Alumni Spotlight: Nichole Rawlings

Nichole Rawlings graduated from American University in 2012 with a focus in Italian Renaissance art. In 2014, Nichole was appointed Gallery Director at the Brenau University Art Gallery, in Gainesville, Georgia. Below, Nichole talks about her responsibilities as Gallery Director, and how her MA in art history at AU has prepared her for this position:

In my role as Gallery Director at Brenau University, I oversee physical gallery spaces and exhibitions as well as a large permanent art collection.  Our collection was begun in the 1980s and has over 6,500 pieces encompassing a number of media, artists, periods, and styles.  The first piece donated to the collection was a William Merritt Chase (1849-1916), and more recently we acquired a number of original Andy Warhol prints – demonstrating the variety of the collection as a whole! Many works are installed around campus to make them accessible to our community, and I am responsible for maintaining them and educating our faculty, staff, and visitors about them.

We have three rotating gallery spaces at Brenau University, and new exhibitions in each gallery every semester.  I am responsible for choosing the exhibitions, installing them or facilitating their installation, and creating programming around them.  This requires developing relationships with artists, collectors, and other institutions.  I work to promote our exhibitions through giving community talks, facilitating a growing docent program, and working with University public relations.

In a number of my day-to-day and long-term activities I have relied on skills I acquired during my time at American University.  The breadth of classes I took in terms of time period and methods have provided me the contextual information I need to speak intelligently and confidently about our collection.  I feel that I have the ability to talk to collectors, organizations, and working artists from a place of appreciation and knowledge of their work.  In general, I am a much more confident scholar and advocate of the arts after my advanced studies in art history.

Brenau University Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings.

Brenau University Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings.

Ties that Bind

Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings welcomes guests to the Ties That Bind reception in Sellars Gallery.

(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

(AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Carmelo Blandino Tours Downtown Center

Brenau Galleries Director Nichole Rawlings shows aritsit Carmelo Blandino the collection at the Brenau Downtown Center.

AU Hosts the 14th Annual Graduate Symposium in the History of Art

On September 24th, American University hosted the 14th Annual Graduate Symposium in the History of Art. Four MA students from the American University Art History program presented the following papers:

–Erica Bogese, “Constructing Citizenship: Jacques Louis David’s Lavoisier Portrait”

–Sarah Hines, “Captivity, Resistance, and Female Empowerment: Narratives of Women’s Strength in the Work of Harriet Hosmer”

–Leah Haines, “The Temporalities of Work and Rest: Camille Pissaro’s Peasant Woman”

–Becca Blader, “Balance and Mirrors in Joseph Jachna’s Landscape Photography”

Each of these papers was drawn from the students’ ongoing or completed thesis projects. Congratulations to all those who presented, and to George Washington’s three speakers for their excellent contributions to the symposium.


AU Students Erica Bogese, Sarah Hines, Leah Haines, and Becca Blader (left to right) pose in Katzen Art Center


Leah Haines presents her paper, “The Temporalities of Work and Rest: Camille Pissaro’s Peasant Woman”


Erica Bogese presents her paper, “Constructing Citizenship: Jacques Louis David’s Lavoisier Portrait”


Professors Juliet Bellow (far left) and Helen Langa (far right) pose with their advisees after the symposium

Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Juliet Bellow organizes “If were”

Over the past year, Dr. Juliet Bellow has spearheaded a new initiative at, the College Art Association’s online reviews journal.  About the project, Dr. Bellow said the following:

“If were” is the first installment of a new initiative at to cover dance, performance, and other time-based media staged in museums and galleries.  The initiative grew out of my participation in a 2015 panel at CAA called “Dance in the Art Museum.”  It occurred to me that ought to seize the opportunity to engage with the increasing number and prominence of live events in the museum setting–and that, in covering such events, the journal could become a venue for art historians to carry on a cross-disciplinary dialogue with scholars of dance, performance, film, and music.  To that end, I commissioned three dance historians to write about Boris Charmatz’s marathon two-day intervention at the Tate Modern last year.  I’m excited not only about the content of those reviews, but also the format.  Wanting to capitalize on the fact that is the only one of CAA’s journals to be published entirely online, we used the digital platform Scalar to create a multimedia piece that includes images, video, and an interactive map.  My hope is that, in the future, all of‘ content can take better advantage of such digital resources!

Check out Dr. Bellow’s introduction to the project by following the link:

Congratulations, Dr. Bellow!



AU Art History Students take a tour at the Walters Art Museum with the Curator of Rare Books

On September 14th Dr. Joanne Allen took her Medieval Art class to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Curator of Rare Books, Dr. Lynley Herbert, first gave the students a tour of her special exhibition ‘Waste Not: The Art of Medieval Recycling.’ The exhibition contains more than twenty objects, such as gold, stone, ivory, glass, and parchment—all drawn from the Walter’s collection—that display evidence of reuse.

Subsequently, Dr. Herbert gave students a private viewing opportunity with the highlights from the museum’s medieval manuscript collection. “I hope visitors will have a new appreciation for the rich histories behind medieval objects, and the cleverness of the craftsmen who made and transformed them,” she commented.

Student Spotlight: Virginia Lefler, Recipient of a Carol Bird Ravenal Award

Virginia (Ginny) Lefler, a second year Master’s student in the Art History program, received a Carol Bird Ravenal Award for international travel to help fund her research trip to London. Below, Ginny shares her experience with us:

“While in England I visited London, Birmingham, and Oxford in order to see several collections of Pre-Raphaelite artwork from the second half of the nineteenth century. For my thesis research I am primarily focusing on a set of Morris and Company tapestries from the 1890s, which are housed at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and depict King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. While the tapestries themselves are in permanent storage, I was able to see several preliminary sketches and other Pre-Raphaelite works in the museum’s collection. I also visited Oxford to see the Oxford Union Murals, a cycle from 1857 that also depicts the quest for the Grail. The Arthurian Revival in Victorian England was a major theme explored by the Pre-Raphaelites, and so many of their paintings, prints, and drawings depict scenes of King Arthur and his knights. In London I spent time at the William Morris Gallery, which owns many of Morris’s early works, and also visited most of the major museums in the city to see as much Pre-Raphaelite work that I could. In all, the trip was an incredible experience: I was able to study the works in person and to develop a fuller understanding of how and why they were made.”

Upcoming Event – Museum Careers: Pathways to Success with an M.A. Degree

On Friday, November 6 from 6:00 – 8:00PM, the AU Art History Program will be hosting a panel discussion with four Art History alumni/ae. Our guest alumni/ae will discuss how they found and gained their positions, how they built their skills and moved up from entry level jobs, and what they like best and found most challenging in the process.

Speakers will include:

Susan Breitkopf, Director of Corporate, Foundation, and Association Relations, National Building Museum (1998)

Paul Ruther, Director of Docent Education, Sackler-Freer Gallery (1998)

Olivia Kohler-Maga, Assistant Director, Luther W. Brady Gallery, GWU (2006)

Elizabeth Willson Christopher, Rights and Reproductions Coordinator, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution (2012)

The panel discussion will be followed by a wine and hors d’oeuvres reception that will give AU Art History alums and current M.A. students the chance to connect and network. Please R.S. V. P. to Professor Helen Langa at