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First-year students working to decolonize art history

Jul 6, 2020

“Works of art history should not be forgotten but instead emphasized within a wider context that might begin to dismantle our society’s engrained western notions of postcolonial nationalism,” said Emily Beall ’24 in a video project presentation. 

Beall was among 250 MIAD first-year students in the spring 2020 semester who looked beyond the scope of Western aesthetics and embarked on independent research projects on decolonizing art history. 

The class project was inspired by painter, sculptor and activist Titus Kaphar, who presented a public MIAD Creativity Series talk in February 2020 about confronting the history and canon of Western art. Kaphar also met with MIAD first-year students and Milwaukee Public School high school students to inspire them to reimagine history and literally paint a more inclusive picture. 

MIAD students analyzed contemporary artwork that rejects Western thoughts or analyzed the story of a historical piece using methodologies such as the critical race theory and postcolonial theory. Here are four of the students’ video presentations showcasing their research: 

Liam Hoey-Kummerow Presentation Image

Liam Hoey-Kummerow’s presentation on Sam Durant’s “Scaffold”

Mikayla Kaufman Presentation image

Mikayla Kaufman’s presentation on Linda Infante Lyons

Emily Beall Presentation Image

Emily Beall’s presentation on Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres’ “Turkish Bath”

Adam Fehring Presentation Image

Adam Fehring’s presentation on Kehinde Wiley

While at MIAD, Kaphar also engaged in conversations about decolonizing MIAD’s curriculum. 

Kaphar is well-known for his TED Talk “Can Art Amend History?” Recently, Kaphar created TIME Magazine’s June 2020 cover and for the first time in history TIME’s signature red border was changed to include the names of 35 victims of police violence. Every purchase of the cover benefits Black-led organizations committed to advancing justice. Learn more.