Michelle Greet '93 is Associate Professor of Art History and affiliated faculty in Latin American Studies, Cultural Studies, and Honors at George Mason University.
Tell us about your new book project, Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars. How did you get interested in the topic? Where do you see yourself making a contribution to the scholarship? In what ways does this build on your past work on Andean Indigenous Art and in what ways is it a departure?
Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris between the Wars actually combines two areas of interest of mine. Before attending Bowdoin, I was an AFS exchange student in Belgium, where I participated in an intensive French-language immersion program, lived with a wonderful family and attended a Belgian high school. At Bowdoin I continued studying French, but decided to start studying Spanish as well, which led to my junior year abroad in Ecuador and a major in Romance Languages. Thus, purely on a linguistic basis, the project is a perfect fit. As for the specific topic, while studying Latin American art, I have oftenotn come across references to artists who partook of a period of study or travel abroad in Europe, usually in Paris. These references are usually part of a biography or chronological overview of an artist’s career, but never situated in the context of European avant-garde developments. To date, through extensive archival research, I have identified nearly three hundred Latin American artists living and working in Paris between 1918 and 1939, staying anywhere from several months to several decades. These numbers demonstrate a critical mass that rivaled or even surpassed other groups of foreigners such as Russian Jewish artists in the School of Paris. Nevertheless, the presence of Latin American artists has been overlooked in art historical literature on the period. While numerous scholars have written about the arts in Paris during this period, none examines the participation of Latin American artists in the Parisian art scene even though these artists both contributed to and re-interpreted nearly every major modernist trend between the wars including cubism, surrealism, constructivism, and the more figural modes associated with the School of Paris. This book and accompanying website will examine Latin American artists’ intense interaction with European artists and critics as well as their major contributions to the international art scene in Paris between the two world wars.
Nell Sears '97 is Principal of Paul Cuffee School in Providence, R.I. She graduated in with a BA in History (at the time, Bowdoin didn’t offer a major in Latin American Studies).
An Interview with Nell Sears By Allen Wells, Roger Howell, Jr. Professor of History.
Tell us about Paul Cuffee School and your work there.
Paul Cuffee School is a public charter school in Providence, R.I., founded in 2001 and named for Paul Cuffee (or Cuffe) who was a ship captain in the late eighteenth century. His mother was a Wampanoag Native American and his father was a freed slave, originally from Ghana. Cuffee is credited with founding one of the first integrated schools in the country in nearby Westport, MA. I've been at Paul Cuffee School for eight years; I helped to design and start our middle school. Our school reflects the demographics of the Providence Public School district; roughly 75 percent of our students are Latino, and over 75 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch. It's been exciting for me personally to be able to stay connected with Latin American cultures through my students and their families. We provide an engaging and rigorous academic program with a heavy emphasis on developing a thoughtful and supportive community and fostering in our students the desire and the tools to effect positive change in the world.
How did you get involved with Latin American Studies and the Latin American Students Organization?
When I first came to Bowdoin, I was unsure of what I wanted to study, and what I wanted to do with all of this opportunity. Around this time, my first-year social house buddy, then a co-president of the Latin American Student Organization, told me personally I should consider coming to their weekly meetings. With that, I launched down a path of involvement with the group that has, in many ways, opened my eyes to where my interests and greatest potentials lie. My first year at Bowdoin, I also took a course entitled “Chicano/a Literature After WWII,” which was taught by a visiting Consortium for Faculty Diversity Fellow. The course dramatically heightened my interest in pursuing academic work in addition to the civic involvement with which I was becoming more familiar.
This first year proved to be very positive for me, even though I had the typical anxieties of beginning a college career, because it sketched out a blueprint of the things I could pursue and offered me a strong network of diverse individuals to provide support. Though my years at Bowdoin were spent darting around from class to meeting, and back and forth, it was very much through LASO that I became familiar with the school and its operations, and the students that make it a rich, distinct place.
How did you come to Bowdoin and where are you going after graduation?
I went to a large public high school in Concord, New Hampshire and as a member of the first generation of my family to attend college, I am very grateful to now be a recent Bowdoin graduate with a degree in Latin American Studies and Spanish with a Minor in Teaching!
We loved receiving the following messages from Bowdoin graduates who majored or minored in LAS, or who concentrated in Latin America for some other major.
Due to space considerations, some entries have been edited or condensed.
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