The 43rd Annual Middle Atlantic Symposium in the History of Art


Ms. Catherine Southwick presenting at the Mid-Atlantic Symposium.

The Middle Atlantic Symposium in the History of Art was founded by the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Maryland and is co-sponsored by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art. This year’s symposium (March 8th-9th) marked the 43rd year that top student representatives from the region’s academic institutions assembled to share their latest research.

On Saturday, March 9th in the NGA’s West Building Lecture Hall, American University alumna, Ms. Catherine Southwick, presented her paper entitled “Renoir and the Paris Commune: The Complexity of Class in Ball at the Moulin de la Galette.” Ms. Southwick argued for a more nuanced interpretation of Pierre Auguste Renoir’s works in the wake of the Paris Commune—one not solely based on extreme class divisions nor entirely formalist in aesthetics. Rather, through Renoir’s compositional devices and choice of politically charged sites, found in the Ball at the Moulin de la Galette (1876), the artist juxtaposes his two realities: he acknowledges his working-class background and the bourgeois patrons upon which he was financially dependent. Strange spatial relationships and disjointed figural configurations brought together in the Moulin de la Galette, according to this young scholar, illustrate Renoir’s complex connection with both seemingly oppositional class factions.

This session was moderated by Dr. Abigail McEwen of the University of Maryland. The other members of Ms. Southwick’s session included George Washington University’s Jennifer Grejda, who presented her paper “Interwoven Histories: Chocolate and Jesuits in The Collation, a Tapestry from the Court of Louis XIV”; Bryn Mawr College’s Carrie Robbins, who gave her paper entitled “The Stereoscope as Cheat! (In)Credulity and Oliver Wendell Holmes”; and the University of Maryland’s Andrew Eschelbacher, who delivered his paper “Defying Death: The Animate Tomb of Auguste Blanqui.”

Congratulations to Ms. Southwick and the other presenters for making this year’s symposium such a success. 



Announcing the Fourth Annual
at American University in Washington DC

Friday-Sunday, November 8-10, 2013



Keynote reception at the inaugural Feminist Art History Conference

This fourth annual conference continues to build on the legacy of feminist art-historical scholarship and pedagogy initiated by Norma Broude and Mary D. Garrard at American University. To further the inclusive spirit of their groundbreaking anthologies, we invite papers on subjects spanning the chronological spectrum, from the ancient world through the present, to foster a broad dialogue on feminist art-historical practice. Papers may address such topics as: artists, movements, and works of art and architecture; cultural institutions and critical discourses; practices of collecting, patronage, and display; the gendering of objects, spaces, and media; the reception of images; and issues of power, agency, gender, and sexuality within visual cultures. Submissions on under-represented art-historical fields, geographic areas, national traditions, and issues of race and ethnicity are encouraged.

To be considered for participation, please provide a single document in Microsoft Word (title the document [last name]-proposal.doc or .docx) comprising a one-page, single-spaced proposal of no more than 500 words for a 20-minute presentation, followed by a curriculum vita of up to two pages.

Submit materials by May 15, 2013 to:

Accepted proposals will be notified by July 1, 2013.

Please direct inquiries to:

Keynote speaker: Professor Patricia Simons, University of Michigan

Sessions and keynote will be held on the campus of American University

Sponsored by the Art History Program, Department of Art,
College of Arts and Sciences at American University
Organizing committee:  Kathe Albrecht, Juliet Bellow, Norma Broude, Kim Butler, Mary D. Garrard, Namiko Kunimoto, Helen Langa, and Andrea Pearson

J. Rachel Gustafson and the Return of Opportunity: An Internship Story


J. Rachel Gustafson

Often you hear stories about people who have known their course all their lives. They graduated college (or dropped out due to sheer genius), landed their first job (or started their own business), climbed the allegorical ladder (or built their own), and whammy, they find lifelong happiness and security. They never looked back and never had to hit reset.  I tend to think those are the exceptions rather than the rule. In my case, I had to experience what I didn’t want in order to find what I did.

My story begins (and hopefully will end) with writing. I was a former director in political communications before I left it all behind to make art and writing about art the center of my small universe. After heading back to my undergraduate institution to take night classes in art history, I set off to spend a summer in France before commencing my graduate career at AU. It was in Paris, while sitting in my dorm room, when the AU announcement about an internship opening at the National Endowment for the Arts hit my inbox. When I saw the notice, I hesitated. In my former life, I oversaw a horde of interns and now I was considering being one myself – again.

After a round of emails, interviews and writing samples, I was invited to start with the Federal arts agency in August 2012. Today, I am a part of the NEA’s public affairs department – the leg of the agency that is responsible for communicating the role of the arts to more than 311 million Americans. Less than 20 individuals are responsible for a rather daunting task. I am awed at times when I realize I am one of them. While I am not always doing the glamorous tasks of article writing and conducting interviews, I am still a very real part of the process. Sometimes I transcribe notes or collect relevant news clips on America’s artistic trends, controversies and budgetary concerns. But it all contributes to the larger goal. 

What continues to surprise me is the pure scope of the NEA. My internship allows me to expand my art-based vocabulary beyond the visual arts and into a broad range of art issues that are dominating the country’s attention now. The NEA commits to a vast artistic curriculum and furthers the dialogue about art in America. Perhaps that’s the best part: I get to help tell this story and actively participate in the dialogue. I talk to people who make the arts happen on daily basis. 

During my time with the agency, I’ve spoken with LeVar Burton about the future of children’s literacy; the editors of American Reader about their confidence in Millennials sustained interest in both digital and print realms; and interviewed curators at MoMA about a new exhibition on the Japanese avant-garde movement.

In every interview I conduct, a story emerges that keeps the dialogue about arts in America flourishing. Most graduate school writing endeavors languish in a vacuum of sorts after collecting a final markup. The return of opportunity at the NEA happens when my writing, my interviews, and my thoughts are shared and people hear them. And while I don’t always know that for certain, a random blog comment or retweet confirms that our work—my work—makes a difference. As long as there are fascinating people in the arts, there will be people willing to listen, which means the NEA’s job is never done.

My one-semester term with the NEA has just been extended to a third. While my course is untraditional, it’s the one that has gotten me here. I questioned myself and I hit reset. But that was an investment in myself that I was willing to risk. My internship was, and continues to be, about the return of opportunity. So far, I’m pretty darn pleased with the transaction.