Lauren Kroiz Essay in Panorama’s Debut “Bully Pulpit”
The online journal of American art history Panorama features an essay by Lauren Kroiz in a new section that will pair short scholarly and polemical essays with brief responses from academics, curators, critics, and other interpreters of American art and visual culture.
The inaugural “Bully Pulpit” considers a historical question with significant implications for contemporary art history: how have American art historians defined and reconceived their discipline during past moments of severe economic, political, and institutional crisis? The academic status and disciplinary objectives of art history have of course inspired much discussion in recent years. Facing myriad new challenges—including the reorientation of higher education around scientific and technical inquiry, cutbacks in support for arts education, and the intertwined problems of widening income gaps and narrowing access to the fine arts—art historians have begun to question the means and ends of their field with a new intensity.
The section’s lead essay, written by Lauren Kroiz, demonstrates that these crisis-fueled self-assessments have a deep history. Kroiz’s essay, “Parnassus Abolished,” examines the bold arguments for disciplinary reform that Iowa art historian Lester Longman made during his brief tenure as editor of the College Art Association periodical Parnassus (1940-41). As Longman was well aware, and as Kroiz explores, this exercise served as a mirror for bigger debates about American art and art history during the tumultuous interwar years.