Art historian Michael Aschenbrenner has taught continuously at MIAD since 2006. His academic interests include the art and architecture of America, the Italian Renaissance, the Northern Renaissance and the Medieval era. Michael has taught two month-long courses in Florence, Italy for MIAD and has lectured at the Milwaukee Art Museum. He is a member of the American Art Society of Milwaukee and holds an M.A. in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His graduate thesis, The Hope of Nation: Frederic Edwin Church’s Our Banner in the Sky and Aurora Borealis encapsulated interests in the philosophical, theological and artistic ideals of the Hudson River School of American painters. It has since been utilized in furthering research conducted on Frederic Church’s Aurora Borealis (1865) at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Teaching in the field of art history is an opportunity to engage with the visual documentation of history’s great cultures. Through the study of works of art and architecture, we are immersed in historical eras of cultural, religious and political influence. Students are challenged to rethink their contemporary world through the study of how others have articulated the past. In this way, art history is a form of archaeology. The classroom is a dig site, where students uncover the artwork and artifacts that define specific cultures. My role, as instructor, is to cultivate the knowledge, methods and new ways of seeing that enable students to unearth the past and connect it to their present.
I came to the study of art history following a series of undergraduate trips abroad where I was able to engage with masterworks of art and architecture firsthand. From the Gothic spires of Germany, Ireland and France to the classical influence of Italy and the revival styles in America, the most impactful experiences I have ever had with history are driven through artistic experience.
In my time at MIAD, I have taught two month-long study-abroad summer courses in Florence, Italy for MIAD students with another planned for the summer of 2015. Florence is a city of messages conveyed through painting, sculpture, architecture and space. Working in this richly historical region has furthered my belief that students in the classroom should feel as though they are in the presence of the actual art and architectural objects presented. This can only be manifest through a combination of broad knowledge, devotion to students and deep passion for the subject matter. I strive for a dynamic approach to the classroom that couples high academic standards with a sense of theatrical revelation. Through lecture, storytelling and connections drawn between historical and modern worlds, I aim to bring art history alive in a visceral way for each of my students.