Real Estate Development Associate at Plymouth Housing, Seattle, WA
I’ve always been fascinated by what it means to create a sense of home and belonging. I majored in Art History and took architectural history classes because I thought it would be a useful background. Now, I build homes every day for folks who need them the most.
What I do: I am a Real Estate Development Associate at Plymouth Housing in Seattle, WA. Plymouth owns and operates Permanent Supportive Housing for adults experiencing chronic homelessness – folks who have been living on the street for a long time and frequently have severe mental and physical disabilities. My six-person team is responsible for building new buildings for Plymouth. We manage the entire process from finding and acquiring land, to assembling financing from public and private sources, all the way through construction. On a day-to-day basis, I can be doing anything from managing our $30 million construction budget to meeting construction crews on site. The most exciting part is that I always have a hard hat in my car!
My path to my job: My path has made a lot of turns, but all my choices have been tied to an interest on "home" and "place." When I started Bowdoin, I thought I wanted to be a residential architect. I majored in Art History and took architectural history classes because I thought it would be a useful background. I rapidly realized that I didn't want to design buildings, but I was passionate about the study of existing building and art and what they say about the people who interact with them. My interest in old buildings in particular led to urban history classes, which led to an interest in urban historic preservation. So, after Bowdoin, I went straight to grad school at the University of Pennsylvania for a dual professional degree program in City Planning and Historic Preservation. There, as I learned more about present-day social justice issues, my interests shifted again to affordable housing finance and policy. Affordable housing ended up being my professional passion, and when I graduated, I looked for positions at nonprofits that build affordable housing. Now, I build homes every day for folks who need them the most.
How did Bowdoin help me? I'm a very big believer in the liberal arts, and I think Bowdoin helped me most not by giving me particular hard skills but by developing my mind. At Bowdoin, I learned critical thinking, ethics, and how to come to a position and defend it. I learned how to express myself and the ideas I care about passionately and eloquently. These are skills that I use not only in my work, but in everyday life, and in our difficult and complex world, I am thankful every day that I developed these skills at Bowdoin. Bowdoin helped me the most by developing my critical thinking and ability to craft an argument, skills I use every day.
Advice I would give: I would tell Bowdoin students to enjoy their time and take advantage of Bowdoin as an opportunity to explore. Don't worry too much about building hard skills for a particular job; so many hard skills really can't be taught in an academic setting. But excitement about a field or idea and the ability to express yourself are always valuable. Also, focus on building relationships. I have moved all over the country in the years since Bowdoin, often to places where I didn't know anyone. My strong relationships with my friends from college gave me the solid base I needed to take those risks.
What interested me in Urban Planning: My dirty secret is that I was terrified of cities as a child. But, when I started learning about how American cities had developed and the forces that shaped them over time, I started to like them because I understood them. I love that urban studies gives you a window into the patterns that shape everyday life in a city but are unnoticed by many urban people, from the rules that shape the density of housing to how bus routes are designed. Urban fabric is also such an incredible artifact of human lives and relationships, the physical evidence of how we work, shop, eat, and live. I like that urban studies gives the opportunity to understand and honor those physical manifestations and support people and communities by protecting and investing in their environment. Finally, our cities contain so many physical manifestations and perpetuations of injustice against non-white Americans. Working with and changing that urban fabric is an essential tool for breaking the cycle of injustice in America.
Undergraduate is a great place to experiment with what kind of work and experiences you like. Do not feel bound by your major, but once you have identified something you might like to do try to be flexible but deliberate on the way there.
What is your current job (position) and what do you do specifically?
I am a Curatorial Assistant, European Art Department, at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit, MI.I research works of art within the collection, assist in curatorial projects and facilitate administrative responsibilities. I support curators in their work on the DIA’s collection: whether it be helping with new acquisitions, discovering and documenting scholarship on objects or facilitating access to the collection by adding to our object database. I also aid in research for special exhibitions and projects. My job also has a significant administrative component: helping develop, plan, market and coordinate events for the department’s auxiliary groups. It can be a balancing act between the two roles, but I always enjoy the creative ways I can approach my work.
How did you get to your position?
After completing a handful of internships, I found myself well oriented for my current position. At Bowdoin, I spent a summer as a Mellon Summer intern working with the Digital and Computational Studies Initiative which lead to my successful application to digital projects intern at the Archives of American Art. I was a little unsure on how to proceed following the close of my internship, so I consulted with my professors who helped put me in touch with the museum in my native city of Detroit. I was able to gain specific experience as a curatorial intern and apply what I learned and eventually apply for my current position.
How has Bowdoin helped you, and what advice would you give to current Bowdoin students?
Museum work is a clear career path from the art history major and it is difficult to overstate the utility of my time at Bowdoin. One area where Bowdoin really helped and I am still developing today is putting together a project and evaluating the results. It is tough assembling and keeping track of lots of moving parts, but having a good body of schoolwork helps me consider successes and areas that needed improvement and how I can get better results in my current work.
A piece of advice that I would give to current students is that undergraduate is a great place to experiment with what kind of work and experiences you like. Do not feel bound by your major, but once you have identified something you might like to do try to be flexible but deliberate on the way there.
Also, your community at Bowdoin is there for you ask when you think you may need help and contribute when you can give.
If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies in art history or any other field, take an active role in your education from the outset, make connections in the field, and work relentlessly toward achieving whatever academic goals you set out.
How did your career start?
My interest in the study of art history began at Bowdoin, in spring 2005, when I took Prof. Wegner’s course on the arts of Venice. Having visited Venice when I was ten years old, I wanted to learn more. I discovered through Prof. Wegner’s course the rich insights that visual analysis and historical contextualization could offer. I completed my degree at Bowdoin in three and a half years with almost half of my credits in art history. I was inspired and stimulated by the courses I took, and I appreciated the love and care with which Prof. Wegner, Prof. Perkinson, Prof. Docherty, and Prof. Olds in particular were teaching. They all instilled in me an appreciation for the study of art history and a desire to pursue a career in the field as an active scholar and dedicated teacher. In their courses, I became fascinated by the potential of art objects and monuments to provide insight into the beliefs, aspirations, anxieties, and struggles of the people who created them in a given era. But it was the study of medieval art in particular that helped me see how art history could bring one to reveal a more nuanced understanding of the past and to kindle an appreciation of the energy and ingenuity of architects and artists. I knew early on that I wanted to pursue a career as a historian of medieval art and architecture. Little did I know then that it was going to take many years of study and training, and support from numerous individuals, organizations, and institutions.
Encouraged by Prof. Perkinson, I applied to the Williams College Graduate Program in Art History. At Williams, over the course of two years, I continued my study of western medieval art, and also began studying Byzantine art and architecture under the guidance of Prof. Peter Low. I became interested in objects and monuments that demonstrate a compound visual rhetoric, and the medieval and early modern artistic production of regions in east-central Europe. I wanted to explore further these interests in my doctoral studies, and luckily the University of Michigan had the exceptional faculty and resources to assist in my scholarly pursuits. The stimulating and rigorous seminars at Michigan, the mentoring and training I received from the faculty, and the incredible resources available at the university stand at the core of my academic successes. Looking back now, I could not have chosen a better graduate program!
After coursework and exams, I spent four years at Michigan working on my dissertation project titled “The Painted Fortified Monastic Churches of Moldavia: Bastions of Orthodoxy in a Post-Byzantine World.” This research that focuses on the artistic production of east-central Europe and the Slavic-Byzantine cultural spheres from c.1100 to c.1600, straddles the artificial divide between the “medieval” and the “early modern” periods, while complementing and also challenging current Anglo-American art historical narratives. The visual articulation of ideas and ideologies at critical historical moments, and the ways in which cross-cultural exchange and translation operated in frontier regions leading up to, and following, historical moments of crisis, stand at the core of my research. My dissertation centers on the painted and fortified Orthodox monastic churches of early modern Moldavia—lying within the borders of northeastern modern Romania and the Republic of Moldova—built in the decades following the fall of Constantinople in 1453. These churches present an unprecedented mixture of western Gothic, Byzantine, Slavic, and even Islamic architectural and iconographic features integrated alongside local forms and developments. On the exterior of these churches, moreover, hundreds of brightly colored religious scenes in multiple registers are interspersed with historical narratives adapted to address contemporary local anxieties.
The monuments have largely been studied by local historians who have formally examined the buildings from archaeological and iconographic standpoints but have not used the resulting material to broach larger issues of cultural contact and assimilation. Western European and North American scholars have paid little attention to the visual culture of this region. To a large degree, this neglect is the consequence of twentieth-century politics. The Iron Curtain created both actual and ideological barriers, rendering certain kinds of cultural and interpretive studies and scholarly exchanges difficult. An important part of my project has been the attempt to develop a critical framework for the evaluation of the Moldavian corpus of ecclesiastical monuments, approaching the material through cultural connections, historically grounded methodologies, and more nuanced interpretive strategies.
What does your research focus on?
My research engages with the architecture, image programs, and functions of the Moldavian churches in the context of religious politics and patronage, the Orthodox liturgy, the cult of saints, and the theory of images. As such, I analyze the extent to which these churches aided in the construction of a new sacred landscape in Moldavia at this crucial moment, while presenting visual responses to a series of crises located in the past, present, and future: the events of 1453, the declared end of the world in 1492 as predicted by the Eastern Orthodox Christians, the failed Ottoman siege of Vienna in 1529, and the Reformation unfolding in the west in the early decades of the sixteenth century. Notions of history, cultural memory, artistic integration, spatio-temporal experiences, kinds of cross-cultural rapport and modes of translation are concerns central to my research. My work involves, too, a reexamination of existing periodizations, since “medieval” artistic forms were produced in this eastern European region, and some of its adjacent territories, well into the eighteenth century.
My interest in the rich Moldavian corpus of ecclesiastical monuments began in a seminar on medieval image theory in fall 2011 at the University of Michigan. Prof. Elizabeth Sears led the seminar and encouraged me to delve into the Moldavian material. The project then developed under the tutelage of my doktorvater, Prof. Achim Timmermann, who from the outset was supportive of my interest in pursuing research on the artistic production of east-central Europe, and the little-studied regions of the Carpathian Mountains. Over the years, I have also enjoyed tremendously working with the other members of my committee—Prof. Elizabeth Sears, Prof. Paroma Chatterjee, and Prof. John V.A. Fine—who offered enthusiasm, key advice, and invaluable suggestions at various stages in the process. Their assistance enabled me to think carefully and critically about the works I study, and push my project in exciting new directions.
The incredible resources available at the University of Michigan made my research possible at home and abroad. In addition to numerous grants and fellowships from Michigan, I was fortunate to receive funding from external sources, including a three-year predoctoral fellowship from the Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Foundation, the Twelve-Month Chester Dale Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Rensselaer W. Lee Memorial Grant in Art History from the Renaissance Society of America, the Robert and Janet Lumiansky Dissertation Grant from the Medieval Academy of America, and a research grant from the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture. My project would not have been feasible without this substantial financial assistance from various institutions and organizations, which has supported travel, research, study, and the writing stages of the dissertation.
What is a piece of advice that you would give to current students?
A piece of advice: If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies in art history or any other field, take an active role in your education from the outset, make connections in the field, and work relentlessly toward achieving whatever academic goals you set out. Select a topic of research that will sustain you, and find ways to make it exciting and relevant to the work of others. Engage in conversations with colleagues often, because good scholarship does not develop in a vacuum. And, at the end of the day, remember, that whatever you choose to do and work toward, if you put love and care into it, it will show!
I've been at the Gardner Museum for 3 years now and I feel lucky to have a role that allows me to work across departments and problem solve creatively. I'm grateful for all the advice I've been given by mentors - mentor-ship has been so important to my career path - especially to those who advised me to work a few years before deciding on graduate school.
What is your current job (position) and what do you do specifically?
I'm currently the Planning and Logistics Manager at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The role captures many different responsibilities I spend a significant amount of my time project managing exhibitions and supporting daily operations. Each spring I work alongside the COO/CFO in running the annual budget and operational planning process. I sit on the Museum's management team and support strategic planning initiatives as well.
How did your career start?
My career in the arts started at Bowdoin! I spent the summer between Junior and Senior year working in the Art History department making slides (!) and supporting the department's professors and staff. After graduating, a position opened up at the Museum and I landed the job thanks to faculty support. At the Bowdoin College Museum I worked under Director Kevin Salatino, planning and executing blockbuster exhibitions like Edward Hopper's Maine. Working at a small organization helped me see all sides of running a museum from curatorial research to paint selection and I loved it! After a few years I decided to get my MBA in Boston, with the goal of having a strategic role in an arts organization.
I've been at the Gardner Museum for 3 years now and I feel lucky to have a role that allows me to work across departments and problem solve creatively. I'm grateful for all the advice I've been given by mentors mentorship has been so important to my career path especially to those who advised me to work a few years before deciding on graduate school. As a student I really admired my art history professors (and still do!) and was strongly considering a graduate level degree in art history. However, I learned on the job that my skill-set and temperament are much better suited to project management. As a student it's not always easy to understand what kinds of jobs are out there working for a few years really opened my eyes to the possibilities.
I’m currently Publications Coordinator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The support of my professors and peers at Bowdoin helped me expand my intellectual curiosity and increased my confidence to explore – in my studies and also in the wider world. The opportunity to be able to ask for advice on grad school, career, etc. from my former Art History professors continues to be a huge benefit.
What is your current job (position) and what do you do specifically?
I’m currently Publications Coordinator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A team of five full-time employees, MFA Publications publishes eight to twelve books a year based on the Museum’s exhibitions programming or research into the permanent collection. My role is threefold: providing administrative support to my department (budgeting, fielding internal and external inquiries, etc.), working with book projects as they develop (image research and permissions, author contracts, proofing portions of the books), and finally promoting the finished books (writing sales and marketing materials, working with our distributors to announce new titles to the trade). I work with colleagues in almost every other department at the Museum and am always learning something new since MFA Publications publishes books on every area of the collection, from Japanese prints to American silver. No two books are the same, no two days are the same!
What interested you about the major?
I’ve loved art museums since I was little (thank you, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler!), but I fell into museum publishing by accident. I worked or interned at several arts institutions (during a year off, summers in college, during graduate school) in different departments, but never really found my niche. I originally thought I was headed down the curatorial track but realized I could not face specialization; it was simply too narrow. However, I need a certain amount of scholarly content to keep me engaged. It was through networking that I learned about other options in a museum setting that would satisfy my intellectual curiosity – such as publishing.
Bowdoin’s Art History department and museum collections nurtured my love for the field. To be able to study works of art themselves was an incredible opportunity and one that mimics researching and writing as a museum employee. One of my favorite things I have ever written was an assignment on a Henry Ossawa Tanner print of Tangiers in Bowdoin’s collection.
The support of my professors and peers at Bowdoin helped me expand my intellectual curiosity and increased my confidence to explore – in my studies and in the wider world. The opportunity to be able to ask for advice on graduate school, career, etc. from my former Art History professors continues to be a huge benefit.
The Bowdoin network is strong and full of passionate people in every field, so USE IT. Do not be afraid to take someone to coffee. In my experience the sense of community that thrives on campus exists in the wider alumni community too. Also, do not be afraid to stray from the career path you thought you wanted. Sometimes even what you think is trivial experience (I was a cater waiter for a while!), helps your character shine through to a potential employer or teaches you something about yourself and what you are after.
Katie is currently the executive director of the Yarmouth (ME) Historical Society and was featured in the June 2017 issue (Vol. 11, Issue 2) of the Maine Women Magazine.
Katie Worthing knits through the centuries. "It's sort of meditative, you get a rhythm going and you're watching the stitches come off the needle."
As a kid from rural Maine, I had visited exactly one art museum before Cliff Old’s ranging and poetic Art 101 convinced me that the study of art history was a means to connect with the history of all human endeavor.
What drove you to study Art History at Bowdoin?
Melanie Taylor, Director, Exhibition Design, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY
As a kid from rural Maine, I had visited exactly one art museum before Clif Old’s ranging and poetic Art 101 convinced me that the study of art history was a means to connect with the history of all human endeavor. As my advisor, he also insisted that making art would help me to be a better art historian several studios later I possessed a keener eye and a direct understanding of craft, process, and ingenuity.
I first encountered the exhibition design profession during my final year at Bowdoin, when the Museum of Art hired a designer to refresh the original galleries. At the time I was struggling to figure out what to do with the art history education I adored. With uncanny timing, the exhibition design process at the Museum revealed to me a whole other way of being with art, one that could combine the scholarship of art history with the sensitivity and creativity of design.
Ultimately, I moved to New York to complete a three-year Master of Architecture degree. While I was the only art historian in my class, the rigor and abstraction of my art history education gave me immediate entry to and advantage with the conceptual processes of graduate work.
Now as the Director of Exhibition Design at the Guggenheim Museum, I work with curators, conservators, lighting/media/art technicians, fabricators, builders, and living artists to design and implement ambitious installations in the iconic Frank Lloyd Wright spiral. Each time I step out under the oculus on the topmost ramp, I’m grateful for the innumerable gifts bestowed by the VAC faculty: Clif Old’s mellifluous lectures, Mark Wethli’s exacting print studio and Linda Docherty’s fervent expectations and encouragement among them.