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Twenty International Travel Grant Recipients Attend CAA’s Annual Conference

posted by Ann Albritton and Janet Landay — Mar 12, 2013

Twenty recipients of CAA International Travel Grants, funded by the Getty Foundation, attended the Annual Conference in New York in February. For the second year, CAA’s International Committee, chaired by Ann Albritton, worked with Janet Landay, organizer of this project for CAA, to host a diverse group of art historians—scholars, teachers, and curators from nineteen countries around the world—in CAA’s endeavor to become more connected in our increasingly global art world.

CAA Executive Director, Linda Downs, explains the project in this way:

We developed the concept for a program that would:

  1. introduce individuals who have not had the means to participate in the annual conference to provide travel, hotel and stipends to attend;
  2. attempt to interest individuals who are teaching in relatively small or new art and art history departments to provide access to an international network of people in the visual arts;
  3. to do a good job of hosting them and connecting them to other members of similar sub disciplines and interests (be they US or international members) in order to provide the beginnings of networks that they can build on;
  4. to give them instruction on what is sought by the Annual Conference Committee for vetted session proposals so that they might propose sessions in the future in order to present their perspectives, critical concerns and resent research; and
  5. to start a dialogue with US art historians and artists on their methodology, research, networks and interests.

Each grantee was hosted by a colleague from CAA—members of the International Committee, Board members, or representatives of the National Committee on the History of Art (NCHA)—who introduced them to the conference and scholars in their fields, and also arranged meetings, museum visits and informal gatherings. This year, we were very grateful for a grant from NCHA to support the hosts’ activities.

On February 12, the day before the Annual Conference began, the grant recipients and their hosts met for a half-day preconference about issues in global art history. Beginning with short presentations by the grantees about their research and experiences, the afternoon included a panel discussion on global art history, moderated by Marc Gotlieb, the president of NCHA and professor of art history at Williams College, with representatives from the Getty Foundation (Joan Weinstein), the Getty Research Institute (Gail Feigenbaum), the Clark Research and Academic Program (Michael Ann Holly), and the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (Elizabeth Cropper). Exciting exchanges prompted by the panel discussion as well as the research projects of the grant recipients produced energy that enlivened our discussions for the remainder of the conference. Here’s how one grantee summarized it:

The pre-conference was probably the most useful aspect of this visit as it allowed each of us to get to know each other and to immediately identify people with whom we could network and set up reciprocal projects or research exchanges between our institutions. I have made some wonderful contacts and we are already busy with plans for invitations to speak at conferences and plans to arrange student/staff visits to linked institutions.
—Karen von Veh, South Africa

On Thursday, during a luncheon for the grantees and hosts, James Elkins, E.C. Chadbourne Chair of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, had lunch with the group and shared with them ideas and stories from his international study of the field. This, again, was a highlight for many. In fact, Elkins plans to visit some of them in the near future as he travels around the world.

A whole new range and scope of possibilities have entered my horizon. I think it will open up many opportunities for my students and colleagues as well. But on a personal and human level the conference was a great gathering for creating global understanding.
—Musarrat Hasan, Pakistan

Jean Borgatti, specialist in African Art, commented on her hosting activities for several of the grant recipients from African countries: Joseph Adande from Benin; Peju Layiwola of Lagos, Nigeria; Venny Nakazibwe of Uganda; Ohioma Pogoson of Nigeria, and Karen von Veh of South Africa (and also, at times, Marly Desir of Haiti). A week after the CAA conference, Jean flew to Africa for several months of study and wrote this:

I’m looking forward to actually visiting three of my five grantees in Lagos, Ibadan, and what I refer to as ‘the other’ Benin, since I am currently in Benin City, heart of the old kingdom. During CAA, we had three great outings together: on Monday, Yaelle Biro at the Metropolitan Museum graciously provided a tour of her exhibit on the reception of African art in New York in the 1930s, and then left us with the Met’s archivist who gave us an overview of the various media encompassed by the archive. On Wednesday, we were invited to a private reception for El Anatsui’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and were stunned by the beauty of the objects and thrilled to meet with the artist himself. On Thursday, Susan Vogel, founding director of the Center for African Art, invited the group to her Soho loft for dinner, a nice way to unwind and extend our conversations about ongoing and upcoming projects. A good time was had by all.

In addition to the events Borgatti described, these recipients also attended several CAA sessions, exchanged ideas with other recipients, and met many other CAA members.

The International Committee is delighted with CAA’s travel grant program, not only for bringing international scholars to the Annual Conference, but for the opportunity for us to interact with them: to learn about each other’s research and discuss mutual interests and concerns. We are indeed grateful to the Getty Foundation and NCHA for making this program possible and hope the friends we made this year will come to future conferences to continue our conversations. As one of the grantees put it:

I will be an ambassador for the CAA henceforth and will advise art historians in my country and elsewhere to endeavor to attend their annual meetings.
—Ohioma Pogoson, Nigeria

First image: Parul Mukherji (India) and Ding Ning (China), two of this year’s recipients of CAA’s International Travel Grants.

Second image: Gail Feigenbaum, Elizabeth Cropper, Marc Gotlieb, Michael Ann Holly, and Joan Weinstein participated in a panel discussion on issues in global art history during the February 12 pre-conference for the International Travel Grant program.

Third image: James Elkins, professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, met with the CAA International Travel Grant recipients during the conference. Pictured are Peju Layiwola, Ann Albritton, James Elkins, and Elaine O’Brien.

Fourth image: Jean Borgatti took five recipients of this year’s CAA International Travel Grant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they received a tour from curator Yaelle Biro. Front row: Jean Borgatti, Venny Nakazibwe (Uganda) Back row: Ohioma Pogoson (Nigeria), Karen von Veh (South Africa), Yaelle Biro, Joseph Adande (Benin), Peju Layiwola (Nigeria).