This spring, the Graduate School Alumni Association sponsored the first of the new Alumni Conversations program, with the inaugural talk featuring the History of Art Department.

The Zoom session was hosted by GSAA board members and department alumni Carmen Bambach ’81, ’88 PhD, and Stephanie Grilli ’80 PhD, and was spearheaded by department chair Tim Barringer. It introduced alumni to current students, new faculty members, ongoing curricular initiatives, and to the recently opened facilities for object study and laboratory of conservation at West Campus.

As Barringer noted, Yale’s extraordinary collections lie at the core of the department, and the session showcased new forms of collaboration between faculty, students, and curators at the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art, the Peabody Museum and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

“One of the aims of the doctoral program is to ensure that whatever their final research topics, students gain exposure to art of a wide range of media and periods and to a spectrum of methodologies of approaches that ranges widely across time and across global geographies,” Barringer said. “We are committed to the idea that art history is a global discipline.”

To extend that global reach, the Yale History of Art department is training a new generation of graduate students to break through traditional boundaries with innovative research and thinking. Moreover, the department has been working to enhance the diversity of the faculty and student bodies to ensure that innovative research beyond traditional areas of study is enthusiastically supported.

“The diversity of the department’s faculty and of our intellectual interests finds an analog in the diversity of the student body,” Barringer said. “These are related and essential developments.”

Faculty and students joined the gathering to talk about their work and answer alumni questions, and many of the participants stayed on at the end of the presentation for small group breakout rooms to continue the conversation informally.

In addition to sharing information with alumni, Barringer invited those in attendance to become more involved with the department, from sharing information on their career paths with students to informal mentoring and networking with students and other alumni. More than half of the graduates present – including many distinguished scholars, curators, and museum directors – expressed an interest in this kind of engagement with the department, an exciting outcome from the session for both the alumni and the students.

“I’ve reconnected with people that I haven’t been in touch with for ages,” Grilli said, “and I’ve since had chats on Zoom to catch up. Carmen and I plan to continue our outreach to build community and engage fellow art historians with the department.”

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