In researching the relationships between art, power, and cultural history, Tow Associate Professor of Art History Elizabeth Hutchinson explores what artistic objects can tell us about historical and contemporary issues in North America. Her scholarly work focuses on utilizing visual analysis, historical perspectives, and interdisciplinary theories in order to understand the importance of art in cultural events and debates throughout history.
Through her course American Monument Cultures, Hutchinson invites students to examine the intersections between visual art and postcolonial studies and learn about the history of monument culture in the United States. “A monument that celebrates a slaveholder or a colonizer might seem to some to point merely to history, to the past,” Hutchinson said. “But for others who are experiencing the ongoing legacies of those violent histories, these symbols structure their comfort and ease moving through public space.”
Students in Hutchinson’s course study historical contexts to understand the role of monuments in public spaces and created digital projects centering a monument’s impact on a city or town. They also learn how to integrate virtual story maps, timelines, and intensive research skills to produce projects that expand on course content.
Additionally, Hutchinson uses this course to emphasize the crucial link between activism and public visual art. “What I hope students will come to understand is that works of art are powerful and they speak to specific times and places,” she said. “I also want them to know that activism matters and to understand how change can take place in the [public art] landscape.”
To learn more about Hutchinson’s American Monument Cultures course, watch the video above.
— SOLBY LIM ’22