‘Pathways to Art History’ addresses gaps in art history education

While students from affluent school districts are often treated to field trips to museums or AP courses in art history, the same experiences aren’t always available to youth from low-income districts. This unequal access has prompted a new initiative developed by Ananda Cohen-Aponte, associate professor in the history of art department in the College of Arts & Sciences. “Pathways to Art History” seeks to address this exclusion of people of color and underrepresented groups from the field through community engagement and partnerships with grassroots organizations like the Multicultural Resource Center in Ithaca,

“This project allows us to see the contradictions in our education and allows us to place the true value in our education, which is in our own ability to critique it to no end,” said Allison Arteaga ‘21, a student enrolled in Introduction to Latin American Art, who is part of the initiative.

Arteaga and other students in the class are collaborating with Rose Fleurant and Fabina Colón of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) and Ithaca community members to create a series of educational panels featuring Latin American and Latinx art from the pre-Columbian period to the present. The panels will be used to educate middle and high school students in the principles of the discipline. Cohen-Aponte recently received a $5,000 Engaged Opportunity Grant to support this collaborative project.  

“I'm from Ithaca and didn't know about the MRC before taking this class, so I'm glad that it's building more of a relationship with the local teens,” Jenny Yoon ‘22 said. “Stories of resistance in typical high school history textbooks get boiled down, and voices and perspectives get erased. This project will present a much more personal and compelling way of telling these stories, which I think is important.”

The initiative builds on a previous MRC project created by Fleurant, which featured historical artworks and documentary photographs depicting the struggles of people of color around the world. Along with the new panels, the class has also created a virtual gallery where both the earlier and current posters will be digitally preserved. The gallery will provide explanatory text that elaborates on the historical contexts and meanings of the artwork, as well as providing discussion questions to inspire further reflection.

“These posters will be used as a tool for community-based educational programming and will also help supplement K-12 education at LACS (the Lehman Alternative Community School) and New Roots Alternative High School,” Cohen-Aponte said. “Through engaged research and community partnerships, this project seeks to open up pathways for middle and high school youth to pursue art history at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Pipelines to Art History will serve as a pilot project. The final posters were unveiled at the MRC May 7 and the project is undergoing a post-project assessment period, which will help lay the groundwork for future projects.

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 Photo of students working on the "Pathways to History" Project