Be they problems of Eurocentricity, a dearth of jobs, challenges to whole-person wellness, or something else, every concern and problem cannot possibly be addressed by any single art history seminar or program. Any effort to create a more inclusive art history course will also still entail exclusions as the process of constructing a syllabus always involves making selections. Recognizing the impossibility of covering every perspective in a single course or a single semester, the syllabus assignment for ARTHIST 590R provides students with one opportunity to identify and study the specific arts and perspectives they would like to highlight in an introductory course as well as experience the real challenges of selection. The variety of approaches students take in their course designs reminds us that no single approach can hold all the answers. It also signals that the present and future do not need to look like the past. Development of ARTHIST 590R for the fall semesters of 2020 and 2021 stemmed from efforts to respond to changing realities within and beyond the discipline of art history even as established and emerging professionals continue to assess critically nuanced reasons for the changes. With this article, we aim to invite readers to envision their own exciting possibilities for the futures in which current students will thrive as they respond to the challenges of their times.
Continuous improvement of a graduate-level methods seminar such as ARTHIST 590R necessitates ongoing and collaborative rethinking of what art history has been, is, and can be. It also requires an understanding that amid constant change, adhering to past approaches does not leave us in the same place relative to the rest of the world. Rather, an unexamined embrace of the past means the rest of the world moves further and further ahead of us, leaving us more and more behind. Realizing a future-facing art history may include acknowledgement and engagement with the past, but it requires openness to constant questioning, reevaluation, negotiation, and reimagining as well.
For the introduction to this three-part article, click here. To read Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi’s contribution, click here; Faith Kim’s contribution can be found here; and for Chelsy Monie’s contribution, click here.