This year’s recipients of CAA’s International Travel Grants arrived in Chicago on Sunday, February 9, a few days in advance of the Annual Conference. Although the temperature outside was freezing, the mood among the program’s participants was considerably warmer due to their enthusiasm and friendliness. Funded by a generous grant from the Getty Foundation, the grantees (as pictured above from left to right) included: Katerina Gadjeva (Bulgaria), Freeborn Odiboh (Nigeria), Susana S. Martins (Portugal), Kanwal Khalid (Pakistan); Magdalena Nowak (Poland), Adriana Oprea (Romania), Cezar Bartholomeu (Brazil), Daria Kostina (Russia), Eddie Butindo-Mbaalya (Uganda); Lilianne Lugo Herrera (Cuba), Laris Borić (Croatia), Josefina de la Maza Chevesich (Chile), Fernando Martinez Nespral (Argentina), Portia Malatjie (South Africa), Mahmuda Khnam (Bangladesh), Rael Artel (Estonia); Ahmed Wahby (Egypt), Hugues Heumen Tchana (Cameroon), Heba Nayel Barakat Hassanein (Malaysia), and Eric Appau Asante (Ghana). For some, it was their first visit to the United States; for all, it was their first to Chicago and to a CAA Annual Conference.
Now in its third year, CAA’s International Travel Grant Program aims to bring a more diverse and global perspective to the study of art history by generating international scholarly exchange. Over time, the program will build CAA’s international membership and strengthen its connections to an increasingly global art community. The international travel grant recipients were selected by a jury of CAA members from over one hundred applicants based on the following criteria: all had to be art history professors, artists who teach art history, or museum curators with advanced degrees in art or art history; they had to be from countries not well represented in CAA’s membership; and they had to demonstrate that attending the conference would significantly support or strengthen their work.
With additional support from the National Committee for the History of Art (NCHA), several CAA members—including members of its board of directors and International Committee and representatives from NCHA—took part in the visitors’ activities throughout the conference week, serving as hosts and/or participants in a preconference session about international topics in art history. This year graduate students from Chicago-area universities also participated to assist the grant recipients in visiting museums and galleries around town. Through informal conversations, excursions, and meals, these CAA members introduced grantees to colleagues in their fields, advised them about conference activities, and exchanged information about the practice of art history in their countries. For many, the week’s activities marked the beginning of new friendships and scholarly collaborations, to be continued in various countries around the world and at future CAA conferences.
A highlight of this year’s program was the full-day preconference about International Topics in Art History held on Tuesday, February 11, 2014. Each of the grant recipients gave presentations about their work, addressing topics such as art and national identity, international issues in contemporary art, cross-cultural influences on artistic styles, and curriculum reassessments of art historical training. The talks featured a wide range of art, from Renaissance arches to Islamic-Hispanic domestic architecture, from communist-era paintings in Poland and Russia to contemporary art in Estonia, South Africa, and Malaysia. Following the presentations, Rick Asher, professor of art history at the University of Minnesota, led a lively discussion that further explored these topics and related issues about how art history is practiced in different parts of the world. Joining him were Professors Mark Cheetham (University of Toronto), Jennifer Milam (University of Sydney), Steven Nelson (UCLA), and museum curator Joanne Pillsbury (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
“The diversity of the grantees was astonishing, and their respective self-introductions brought very much to the meeting. It was clear that nobody had had such opportunities of meeting colleagues from so many distant cultures and countries as we did that day.”
–Eva Forgacs, professor of Russian and Central European art history and a host for this year’s program
Later in the week, grantees attended a session sponsored by CAA’s International Committee entitled Topics in Global Art History: Historical Connections. The first in a series of sessions on global art history, this year’s panel included presentations by two former grant recipients, Shao-Chien Tseng (Taiwan) and Trinidad Perez (Ecuador). The goal going forward is to solicit proposals for papers from former grantees to reinforce connections between them and CAA members.
CAA’s International Committee remained centrally involved in planning this year’s travel grant program. We are particularly grateful to Ann Albritton, outgoing chair of the committee, for her enthusiastic support. In addition to co-organizing the session on Topics in Global Art History (with committee member Gwen Farrelly), Ann offered guidance on program plans, lined up several hosts, and served as an energetic host herself.
At the close of the week’s activities, grant recipients and hosts met again to report on what they had learned and how it will impact their work in the future. Several discussed preliminary plans to co-organize meetings, guest curate exhibitions, and/or arrange guest lectures at each other’s universities. Their experiences were well-summarized by Laris Borić, who wrote after he returned home:
Personally I was deeply impacted by the enthusiasm and dedication of some of the speakers at the conference, CAA staff and my fellow grant recipients. As I have already said in one of the debates, awareness that we all share a common passion and dedication towards research and teaching made me feel I belong to a common tribe or nation made of art historians wherever they come from.
–Laris Borić, professor of Renaissance art and architecture and grant recipient from Croatia
First: 2014 CAA International Travel Grant Recipients (left to right): Katerina Gadjeva (Bulgaria), Freeborn Odiboh (Nigeria), Susana S. Martins (Portugal), Kanwal Khalid (Pakistan); Magdalena Nowak (Poland), Adriana Oprea (Romania), Cezar Bartholomeu (Brazil), Daria Kostina (Russia), Eddie Butindo-Mbaalya (Uganda); Lilianne Lugo Herrera (Cuba), Laris Borić (Croatia), Josefina de la Maza Chevesich (Chile), Fernando Martinez Nespral (Argentina), Portia Malatjie (South Africa), Mahmuda Khnam (Bangladesh), Rael Artel (Estonia); Ahmed Wahby (Egypt), Hugues Heumen Tchana (Cameroon), Heba Nayel Barakat Hassanein (Malaysia), Eric Appau Asante (Ghana) (photograph by Bradley Marks).
Second: Joanne Pillsbury and Eric Asante (photograph by Bradley Marks).
Third: Fernando Martinez Nespral and Mahmuda Khnam (photograph by Bradley Marks).
Fourth: Deborah Marrow from the Getty Foundation talks with grant recipients at a reception following the preconference (left to right): Eddie Butindo-Mbaalya, Cesar Bartholomeu, Hugues Heumen Tchana, Freeborn Odiboh, Eric Appau Asante (photograph by Bradley Marks).