While the meaning of a work of art or piece of music is open to debate, there’s no denying the contributions that students in the Department of Art and Music Histories (AMH) make to the University campus.
Housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, AMH is coming off a banner year, with graduates and undergraduates, alike, basking in the afterglow of various honors and awards.
AMH students bring distinction to one of the oldest departments in the country devoted to the interdisciplinary study of art, music, and architecture. Central to AMH’s success is a humanist approach that encourages students not only to study the meanings of artworks, but also the often-complex histories behind their production and reception.
“Syracuse was one of the first universities to look at the arts in multiple contexts—culturally, socially, economically, politically--within a single department,” says Theo Cateforis, associate professor of music history & cultures and chair of AMH. “Today, our students continue to build on this decades-old tradition and, in the process, demonstrate the value of crossing borders and exploring complementary interests within a liberal arts education."
Deanna Acosta '16
A dual major in art history and child & family studies in the Falk College, Acosta was recently inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences. The rising senior is currently setting her sights on a master’s program that will enable her to continue studying these two seemingly disparate areas. Surprising, considering she went her entire freshman year without declaring a major.
“I have always been a fan of the visual arts and decided that studying art history would be fulfilling for me,” says Acosta, who claims Charleston, S.C., and the Bronx in New York City as her twin “hometowns.” “I recently declared my major in child & family studies because working with children has always been my passion.”
Brooke Baerman ‘15
Whereas Acosta is a dual major, Baerman is a double major—specifically, art history and philosophy, both of which are housed in A&S. A proud member of The Renée Crown University Honors Program and Coronat Scholars Program, Baerman belongs to the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, where she served as vice president of the latter.
In May, Baerman was proclaimed a 2015 University Scholar, Syracuse’s highest undergraduate honor. She credits much of her academic success to AMH professors Gary Radke, Romita Ray, and Sascha Scott.
“Without repeatedly having amazing and inspiring professors, I would have never grown so much intellectually during my years as an undergraduate,” says Baerman, an aspiring art historian who minored in German.
This summer, she will return to her native New England to participate in a fellowship program at Historic Deerfield, an authentic 18th-century English settlement in Massachusetts.
Stephanie Breed ‘15
Museums are like a home away from home for Breed, a recent graduate of the art history program.
“I’ve always wanted to work in a museum,” says the Manlius, N.Y., resident. “As a middle school student, my parents took me to Paris for a week. I was enamored with the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay. Museums are places I’ve always felt comfortable.”
Perhaps it’s Breed’s flair for entrepreneurship—she minored in the Whitman School of Management’s top-ranked entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises program—that sets her apart from her contemporaries. Such moxie sparked her recent induction into the Phi Beta Delta international honor society and earned her an honorable mention for the Chancellor’s Award for Public Engagement and Scholarship; an award that highlighted her “Books are Food for Thought” campaign to foster literacy and a love of reading among children with little access to books in the Upstate NY area.
This fall, she will begin graduate studies in George Washington University’s Museum Studies Program, one of the top training programs of its kind, located in Washington, D.C.
Stefanie Chappell G’15
Chappell believes there’s no room for stuffiness in a museum.
“So often, museums are seen as places where only those who know about art can enjoy themselves,” says the New Hampshire native, who has been busily juggling two master’s degrees at the University. “I know how untrue that is, but I want to convince everyone else.”
On the eve of earning M.A. degrees in art history and museum studies (the latter from the College of Visual and Performing Arts), Chappell was recognized by The Graduate School for her scholarly mettle. Such approval is par for the course for the art historian, who previously earned bachelor’s degrees in performance & communication arts and in art & art history from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y.
“I was really drawn to SU because I was able to complete two masters' degrees at the same time,” says Chappell, who hopes to someday work in a university art museum or gallery. “I wanted a well-rounded education, with hands-on museum training combined with learning research and writing skills. The two programs truly provided me with that.”
Bailey Pfohl ‘15
Pfohl is proof of the growing trend to combine art history with material culture. In addition to American and European history, she has been interested in teaching, as evidenced by her minor in education studies in the School of Education.
What’s next for the newly minted alumna? Graduate studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where she will pursue graduate degrees in both art history and museum studies.
“The program first interested me because of the incredible connection it has to the Cleveland Museum of Art,” says the Syracuse native, who also has logged time in Salzburg, Austria and Florence, Italy through SU Abroad.
The arts are something of a passion for Pfohl, who has served as president of and a singer with the a cappella group Main Squeeze; has held a number of positions, including acting coach, with the First Year Players; and has worked for the Office of Residence Life and Point of Contact Gallery, the latter of which is administered by A&S.
When she’s not working in the Chancellor’s Office, Pfohl is part of a popular marketing campaign for Say Yes Syracuse, a chapter of Say Yes to Education, which is a nonprofit foundation committed to increasing high school and college graduate rates for urban students.
“I've been so lucky here at SU, and it is definitely going to be very hard to leave,” she says. “It also feels great to have a plan for the next two years.”