posted by CAA — Dec 03, 2019
My name is Lara Ayad, and I am an Assistant Professor of Art History at Skidmore College in upstate New York. I specialize in the arts of Africa, with a focus on modern Egyptian art – both topics which many people either misunderstand, or know little about. Just as I use my teaching and research to challenge stereotypes of a “primitive” African art, I envision service on the College Art Association’s Board of Directors as a prime avenue for shifting the state of art historical study.
CAA is one of the key global institutions to disseminate and shape the stories people tell about art and its meaning. I look forward to bringing a wider range of sociopolitical perspectives on issues of gender, race, and class inequalities into the influential fold of CAA’s emerging work. My current teaching and research at Skidmore College deal critically with canons of art and the role they play not only in historicizing and categorizing African art, but also in racializing art of the continent. I analyze modern Egyptian art by pairing a sociohistorical approach with an intersectional feminist lens, as well as a unique focus on fine art representations of Egyptian and Sudanese masculinity created between the World Wars. If assigned as a Board liaison to the Committee on Diversity Practices, I would help to enhance CAA’s international reach and the ability of its membership outside the United States to help achieve institutional goals. My ongoing connections with historians, practitioners, and curators of art from Africa and the Middle East will also carry out CAA’s Strategic Plan by helping to build the organization’s global profile at the decision-making level.
CAA’s well-respected annual conference and peer-reviewed publications provide scholars, artists, and critics worldwide with a window onto some of the most pressing issues in the visual arts and museum fields today. I will use my position as a new Assistant Professor at a small liberal arts college to serve the organization’s mission of supporting its membership, particularly junior scholars and students currently working in an arts field that is undergoing rapid changes. And as a Board member, I would welcome the chance to devote time and resources to work with the Committee on Students and Emerging Professionals to develop the Strategic Plan’s proposed online mentorship program and look forward to exploring the possibilities of a professional-development webinar series or online streaming sessions.
Although I have only begun my career less than two years ago, my collaborative service experience in personnel, admissions, research program, museum curatorial, and curricular decisions equip me with the skills needed to serve on the Board of Directors. Over the past year, I have served on the Skidmore Art History Department’s search committee for a tenure-track faculty member in Renaissance and Medieval art and represented the department at major admissions events. Part of my role as an Art History faculty member has been to assess the effectiveness of general education requirements in order to collaborate and plan for future general education program developments at the departmental and college-wide levels. In 2017, I co-chaired a panel on art exhibitions in Egypt and South Africa for the Arts Council of the African Studies Association’s 17th Triennial Symposium held in Ghana. Part of my time as a graduate student at Boston University was spent collaborating with my cohort from other departments in order to create the vision, goals, and program for the African Studies Center’s Annual Graduate Student Conference. Furthermore, I am familiar with the duties, concerns, and needs of art museum and gallery curators who make up an important part of the CAA community because I regularly work with curators and staff at Skidmore’s Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum to fully integrate the art collection in course research and pedagogical objectives. I have also served as Assistant to the Director of the Sharjah Art Gallery at the American University in Cairo in order to help create curatorial, publication, and public relations programs between 2014 and 2015. My role as the new television host for WMHT’s AHA! A House for the Arts will also be an opportunity to connect with artists and curators working in the New England and upstate New York region, and I look forward to the possibility of developing CAA’s community outreach in this local arts scene.