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Patricia Rubin is Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

In 2010, thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute of Fine Art at New York University inaugurated the Mellon Research Initiative. The initiative’s aim was to investigate trends in graduate education and advanced research in art history, archaeology, and conservation. That investigation took place at a time when those fields faced considerable challenges—financial, institutional, and conceptual. Cutbacks in funding from all sources and the concomitant or resulting instrumentalization of university education, which favors economic rationales for degree structures, department sizes, and disciplinary evaluation, presented explicit challenges to the humanistic as opposed to the “hard” sciences. They continue to do so.

The resulting publication, Pathways to the Future: Trends in Graduate Education, was introduced and discussed during three panels at CAA’s Annual Conference in February under the rubric of “Field/Work: Object and Site.” The Pathways report is the result of four years of consultation, undertaken through a series of workshops, conferences, and committees in which our fieldworkers—graduate students, professors, publishers, and university administrators, among others—were asked about the directions being taken in art history, archaeology, and conservation. These participants considered the resources those fields require to support graduate training and research; how those resources are most meaningfully allocated; and, crucially, how learning is best delivered in curriculum and training programs.

The public workshops and conferences (now available on the institute’s video archive) were accompanied by the work of three committees convened to pose relevant questions and investigate different aspects of our practices as researchers and educators. Unified in aim, the review committees largely operated independently. They shaped their work according to concerns and protocols specific to each field. The form of their reporting varies accordingly. All three committees considered both present conditions and future possibilities.

The examination of the state of our subjects found them to be generally robust. If anything they are stronger than ever before, existing as they do in today’s image-based environment and able to promote critical seeing along with critical thinking. They are inherently interdisciplinary and equally international or global in their inquiry and potential impact. They have direct relation to material understanding, in the recovery and safeguarding of our physical heritage, in interpreting its present condition, and in forecasting future manifestations.

Although based on wide consultation and meticulous deliberation, this report is intended to contribute to vital and ongoing conversations about the disciplines of art history, archaeology, and conservation, about their professional and intellectual situation, and about strengths, weaknesses, and strategies. Their thoughts on those matters are contained in this document, which is available on the institute’s website for downloading and circulating. The institute hopes this document generates discussion and stimulates further thoughts on the topics it raises and regarding training and research in art history, archaeology, and conservation.

The institute is profoundly grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its generous sponsorship, and to all those who participated in the initiative.




The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC) will present a session, called “Facing the Unthinkable: Preparing for the Next Sandy,” at CAA’s 101st Annual Conference in New York on Saturday, February 16, 2013. It will take place from 1:00 to 3:30 PM at the Hilton New York, Concourse C, Concourse Level. This session—which is free and open to the public—is aimed particularly at artists and small-gallery managers and will focus on concrete steps they can take to mitigate the impact of emergencies through planning and preparing for forecasted events, such as storms, and on first steps to take following an emergency. In addition, important health and safety procedures will be outlined, and lists of resources and contact information for assistance will be distributed.

When Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast at the end of October 2012, individual artists and small galleries were especially vulnerable—especially those concentrated in low-lying areas that were eventually inundated with floodwaters. Many prepared as they had for Hurricane Irene a year previously, but the height and power of the water was far beyond what Irene had brought. Lessons learned from this disaster will be covered in the workshop, including the experiences of AIC’s Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) and the current work at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn.

Speakers will include members of AIC-CERT and volunteers from the Cultural Recovery Center: Cynthia M. Albertson, Assistant Conservator, Museum of Modern Art;  Lisa Elkin, Chief Registrar and Director of Conservation, American Museum of Natural History;  David Goist, Conservator in Private Practice, Raleigh, North Carolina; and  Caitlin O’Grady, Department of Art Conservation, University of Delaware.

AIC, which advances the practice and promotes the importance of preservation of cultural property through publications, research, and the exchange of knowledge, is a CAA affiliated society.

Updated on January 28, 2013.




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