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Message from the Chair


Greetings from the Department Chair

As the new department chair, I’m pleased to introduce the latest departmental newsletter, edited by Adjunct Assistant Professor Imogen Hart. (Many thanks, Imogen!)

First off, I want to thank Professor Patricia Berger for her dedicated work as Acting Chair in 2017–18. Pat’s long and varied services to the campus are as well known and valued as her transformative scholarship and teaching. All of us wish her the best in her retirement. In the coming year, we are searching to fill a new assistant professorship in Chinese art, ensuring continuity in the department’s high profile in this area.

In this newsletter, our faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and alumnae report on their activities. Our many projects are described and illustrated. I’ll comment here, then, on some background topics.

The discipline of art history is undergoing dramatic transformations. We hope not only to be engaging these developments but also to be shaping them.

Art history is a global subject matter, and Berkeley’s identity as a world-class research university enables us to innovate in globalizing our perspectives in teaching and research. To date this has involved, for example, a systematic rethinking of the undergraduate curriculum as well as new courses. One of my goals is solidify and integrate our global connections with partner institutions and scholars in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.

This connects organically with our continuing efforts to diversify participation in all aspects of our programs, and especially to reach out to underrepresented minorities and to respect and if possible to mitigate the precarious situations of many students and staff.

The uses (and abuses) of rapidly evolving digital technologies of image making and analysis create a technological, intellectual, pedagogical, legal, and ethical challenge for departments, such as ours, that depend on them in everything they do. Our reconfigured Visual Resources Center will be emerging as our “laboratory” for all things digital in art history. We will be seeking substantial investments to make and to keep it cutting-edge.

Many of us have strong commitments to ecological and environmental approaches to art and art history. To complement this academic engagement, as chair I hope to find ways to make our departmental operations as eco-friendly and planet-wise as possible.

The study of art transpires in—and contributes to—any number of disciplines and professions. There are “art historians” all over Berkeley, and we will be taking increasing advantage of that fact in formal and informal ways.

Still, professional art historians, curators, and critics possess and transmit special skills and methods relating to the detailed examination of material artifacts and the historical interpretation of artworks in many traditional and new media. Despite ever-changing intellectual fashions, these skills have withstood the test of time. It falls to us, then, to communicate them to the latest generation of students and scholars.

Finally, a warm welcome to new members of the department’s community—undergrads in our courses, major and minors, grad students, new alums, staff, and faculty. Enjoy the news herein!

Whitney Davis
Department Chair, 2019-20

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