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Testimonials from Current Students

This is a page of stories about the department from various UMass students who are in the department, or who have just taken art history classes with us. These stories were collected as part of the 2016 UMassGives fundraising campaign, and photos that go with them can be found at our Facebook page!

The Department of the History of Art and Architecture reeled me in with its amazing opportunities to learn outside the walls of UMass. My favorite part of the Art History classes I’ve taken so far have to be the museum trips that encapsulate the class and make it come alive. UMass and DHA&A does an astounding job incorporating the art residing in the galleries of colleges like Mount Holyoke and Amherst College. Visiting The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Mead Art Museum allowed me to enjoy local, historically significant and beautiful art, while still appreciating UMass’ ability to give me the opportunity.
- Alexis Sprowl, Economics Major


I have found myself in almost every state in the country over the past few years looking for my next step in life. I finally found it in my own backyard at the University of Massachusetts’ art history program. It was a new home and with support from our undergraduate art history head Nancy Noble the transition for me was exactly what a 24-year-old trying to return to school needed. I received support, but also direction, not towards the easiest path, but to the most beneficial for my personal development. The great leadership in this program is coupled with great teachers that make the degree just that much more substantive. To name a few who have personally helped me on my journey there is Timothy Rohan, Laetitia La Follette, Gülru Çakmak, and Jasper Van Putten. The great part of this list is I know it will only grow as my education continues here. 
- Charles Holt, Art History Major

I have taken many trips to art museums with the Art Department within my two semesters of attending UMass, and have learned so much through them. From New York City, Upstate New York, Central and North Shore Mass, there are so many museums that have so much to offer. Seeing so many different artists and types of art has really opened my perspective and appreciation for different styles of art around the world. The knowledge and fun experiences I have gained from attending these trips have been extremely valuable to my education and I would have had it without the combined forces of DHA&A and the Art Department.
- Angela Caldarone, Studio Art Major

As a child art and antiques were the blood circulating through my veins. Rather than video games and sports I yearned to understand all I could about the world of art and antiques. I had found my passion in life. At the age of 13 I graduated from The International Auction School in South Deerfield, Massachusetts, that same year I opened my very own retail store, selling fine antiques, I was also the youngest antiques dealer to display at the Amherst Rotary Antiques Show in 1983. By 1994 I had opened my own antiques co-operative in South Deerfield, Massachusetts and then in 1998 owned a large eBay based antiques company with storefront in Downtown Northampton, Massachusetts. Today, I am a 44 year old Art History senior at the undergraduate level at The University of Massachusetts, Amherst, I came back to school to finish my degree I had begun in 1989. 
At the age of 9 my mother brought me to my first antique and art auction. During the preview I walked up to a pair of Russian icons, I was encapsulated by their beauty and mystery. I begged my mother to buy them for our house. When seeing this the auctioneer came over to my mother, placed his hand on her shoulder and whispered to her, "Your kid just picked out the most expensive items in the sale!" 
From this moment I was bitten, there was no cure for me or this illness, the thirst of knowledge, to understand, learn and see as much as one could in a lifetime was not enough. Each museum I experienced only led to wanting to see and learn more. The Victoria and Albert, The National Museum in London, The Metropolitan in New York, The MFA in Boston and The Smithsonian in Washington, DC were only a few museums I have visited to quench this thirst. Coming back to the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, after a quarter century of learning, seeing, experiencing and immersing myself in the world of art and antiques catapulted my desire to learn more. Umass strengthens my thirst to understand art. Umass nourishes my soil from where my tree of knowledge grows. Umass Art History professors fertilize the mind, awaken the senses and stimulate the imagination. The Umass Art History Department is where I relocated my passion, recentered my focus and my professors calibrated my transit for yet another exceptional journey into the world of art and beyond. The Umass Art History Department is a school, but we are also a family.  

- Robert Chesnut, Art History Major

Art History 110 has given me the opportunity to explore Renaissance to Modern art in an introductory setting to a field which I had never explored. My interest in art prompted me to take this class; I have learned the history and beginnings to many of the techniques I use in my own art. Additionally, the stories and concepts behind each painting fascinated me and pushed me to dig deeper to further develop my artwork ideas and conceptualization. The basics of art history education learned in this class is extremely valuable to my artwork, and I wouldn’t have had this opportunity without the Department of History of Art and Architecture at UMass Amherst.
- Christine Cavallaro, Marketing Major


As an international student who sometimes gets homesick, I feel that the UMass Department of the History of Art and Architecture is my home away from home, a place where I am truly happy. Seeing the smiling face of a member of the faculty every single morning gives me a feeling of having a family here, a family many thousands of miles from my hometown.
Entering the department has been a turning point in my life, not only because I have met so many intelligent people but also because they have opened my eyes and provided me with a valuable window to the world. I feel so very lucky.
- Aki Kabiri, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture


I am taking Art History 110 this semester. This course is quite interesting. We studied so many paintings and other works of art. We also learned things behind those works. I really enjoy this course. Our professor, Karen Kurczynski, and my TA, Rachel Young, are both beautiful and nice women. They helped me a lot. Whenever I feel confused, Rachel always explains clearly. At classes, professor Kurczynski speaks clearly and makes her course attractive and rewarding. After I submitted my paper, my TA, Rachel, clearly pointed my errors so that I knew how to make my paper better.
- Yuxin Sun, Computer Science Major



 In my art history class two months ago we took a day off from class to attend a field trip to the Smith College Museum of Art. The trip was totally free, and the museum was incredible. There were so many awesome pieces of artwork and it was an amazing afternoon. At the museum were detailed portraits that could've been mistaken for photographs, lifelike landscape drawings, and scenes that told epicstories. There were so many great works of art by several different great artists. Some of the great artists included Diego Rivera, and Jane Hammond. The trip was one of my most memorable art experiences ever and I’ll always cherish it.
- Jake Dacosta, Communication Major



Coming into my first semester, I was not necessarily excited to be taking art history. I was always really into history, but never art. After the first few classes though, I was really interested. I learned that art history was not just the history behind each piece of work, but how the history of the time period was reflected into the art. I was fascinated how both worlds were connected so easily. This fascination led art history to becoming one of my favorite subjects.
- Justin Vicente, Architecture Major


My first semester of college, I took an art history course and a Greek civilization course, both of which I was convinced I would fail. History was not my favorite subject, and it was certainly not one I usually excelled in. But luckily for me, the two related to each other much more than I thought. Things I learned in art history related back to what I was learning in Greek civilizations and that helped me to understand the material better, it made studying much easier, and I did really well on my exams in both. The art we learned about was from the same time and place of the civilizations we learned about in Greek, and it is safe to say because of what I learned in that art history class, I never would have passed Greek civilizations.
- Aleesa Asfoura, Architecture Major



I have been a history fanatic since my preteen years. It started in the seventh grade when my class learned about Alexander the Great’s military tactics, the process of mummification in Ancient Egypt, and about Brutus stabbing his close friend to death. These are the stories I still remember from years ago. But what got me interested in Art History was reading The Da Vinci Code. It is a book that sparked curiosity in my mind using crazy theories yet at the same time using actual history. To me, wild theories are what make art history fun.
- Nabihah Sheikh, Computer Science Major



I’ve always loved creating art, but before I took any Art History classes I didn’t understand or appreciate most art found in museums. Since taking Art History 100 and 110 I have developed a deep fascination and admiration for art I previously thought to be boring or silly. Now I find myself swooning in awe of the pieces on display in museums such as the MET and the MFA. Knowing the technique, iconography and context behind different works of art has forever changed my perspective. Seeing “Dos Mujeres” by Frida Kahlo at the MFA left me close to tears.
- Marissa Mackson, Sustainable Community Development and Studio Arts Major

Going into college I was extremely unsure of what I wanted to major in. I knew that I wanted to become an Elementary Teacher but other than that I was aimless. Art History 100 was a defining class for me, it interested me and kept me asking questions. So I decided to try Art History 110 too, it’s so amazing to learn about how history and art are intertwined. I’m so happy with this class that I am going to declare Art History as my major! Already, I have learned so much and I want to continue learning. I even went to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston over winter break to see the exhibit Steve Martin curated! I’m excited to continue studying Art History!
- Allegra Pericles, Education and Art History Major

I have been to multiple museums but never had a true knowledge of art and what paintings can really mean. Our first group project in the Art History Survey course was a paper and presentation about a work of art at the Smith Art Museum. Our task was to go as a group to the museum and choose a painting we would like to present about. Although I have been to many renowned museums in Europe and the U.S., this experience was different. I was able to apply what I had learned in class to the paintings, and could fully appreciate the craftsmanship. Also by going with my group we could share the experience and compile our diverse views and ideas to get more out of the art. 
- Samuel Ford, Social and Behavioral Sciences Major

In addition to working with the knowledgeable and supportive faculty in an academically rigorous environment, the opportunities I’ve had as a teaching assistant at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst have been invaluable in shaping my approach to the discipline and my own educational philosophy. Particularly rewarding has been me experience TAing for Art History 190B, an introduction to East Asian art, twice – first with Professor Christine Ho and now with Professor Tiffany Lee. Under the direction and encouragement of these professors, who have generously acted as mentors, I’ve been able to contribute to the class in numerous ways, such as creating assignments, structuring review sessions, and this semester I even gave a lecture on Korean art. This experience has allowed me to gain first-hand knowledge of how a class is run and to reflect on different pedagogical practices, as well. Earlier this semester, Professor Zhongwei Shen, from the Asian Languages and Literatures Department at UMass, gave a demonstration of Chinese calligraphy, and more recently, our class took a field trip to Wa-shin-an, Mount Holyoke’s traditional meditational garden and teahouse, where the students learned about the Japanese Tea Ceremony. The opportunities to participate, along with the students, in experiential and up-close investigations of the art and culture of East Asia, have not only allowed my students to connect with and concretize some of the more abstract aspects of content covered in class, but their enthusiastic responses have also reinforced, for me, the importance of teaching with objects. My experiences at UMass Amherst have allowed me to feel prepared, knowledgeable, and confident as I prepare to embark on a career as an educator.
- Elizabeth Hodges, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

In the midst of my freshman year at UMass, I made the decision to become an art history major. This decision has given me countless opportunities, in particular studying in England over the summer as part of the UMass Oxford Summer Seminar. One of my classes allowed me to tour the city and take in the art and architecture of the many renowned colleges and museums. I climbed scaffolding to the very top of the Trinity College Chapel, which was closed for restoration, and I was able to closely observe the architecture. I looked at a selection in the archives at the Ashmolean Museum of sketches by Raphael, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo, Because of UMass, I am engaging in art and architecture firsthand, and I am gaining lifelong skills not only applicable to the field, but also to every day life.
- Aamani Kottamasu, BA Art History major

After spending seven years working in different museums, I decided to pursue a master's degree in art history in order to advance my career. UMass Amherst has provided me with so many unique opportunities to broaden my skill set and to gain even more experience within the field. During my first year here, I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from a kind, supportive staff and I have gained valuable teaching experience through a TA position. I have also been able to apply what I've learned inside the classroom by going on museum field trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Newark Museum, and by doing assignments which challenge me to really look at and think about the artwork.
- Supriya Sudan, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

During my time in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, I have taken classes with the most supportive group of professors at UMass. My professors encourage me to pursue topics that interest me and have facilitated in my creating the most critically engaging and enjoyable projects I have ever completed in my undergraduate career. Professor Nancy Noble in particular has been extremely committed to my academic studies since the summer of 2015 when I started an independent study researching the 20th American artist Paul Cadmus which evolved into a research paper I wrote in the Fall 2015 and presented at the UMass Graduate History Conference a few weeks ago. Additionally, after accepting a Summer 2016 internship position at the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington DC, the DHA&A has awarded me a generous scholarship to ensure that I can complete the internship with financial security.
-Maria Bastos-Stanek, Art History and Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Major

UMass' Department of the History of Art and Architecture exposed me to the fantastic world of art that has been created throughout human existence. I had done very simple art projects in high school but nothing very serious. After taking art history classes and being inspired by great works of art, I was able to discover that I myself could create artwork that I was proud of. Had I not taken art history classes and had the department's amazing professors as resources, I would not have been able to discover this talent.
- Rose Haznar, Architecture BFA student at UMass Amherst

The Department of the History of Art and Architecture, in particular Professor Karen Kurczynski, has been incredibly supportive of my research interests. Working as Professor Kurczynski’s research assistant over the past year has allowed me to gain critical insight into the research process of a scholar who I greatly admire while expanding my knowledge of contemporary art. As her research assistant, I was also able to attend a fascinating symposium at the New Museum on contemporary and digital abstraction coinciding with an exhibition of Albert Oehlen’s work – an artist I had been reading about at length. Furthermore, Professor Kurczynski and I worked together to develop my own research interests into my qualifying paper on Alan Shields’ environmental and wearable works of art, the project I most value from my graduate career. I am grateful for the close support of faculty at UMass such as Professor Kurczynski.
- Emily Devoe, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

Through a challenging yet supportive academic environment, and the opportunity to be a teaching assistant and discussion session leader, the MA program in art history has given me a confidence in my voice as both a scholar and an educator, which I have never before had. Summer funding from the department also allowed me to pursue an internship at the Springfield Museums, were I was able to learn firsthand in a professional environment about the challenges and pleasures of working in art museums. As well as learning and honing professional skills, my time at UMass has taught me to think in a new, more critical way, which I have noticed permeating into every facet of my life. Far more than a better art historian, I feel that I have become a better individual, who has the skills, knowledge, confidence, and drive to excel in the field.
- Tyler Rockey, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

Thanks to Gulru Çakmak and her 19th Century European Art class, I've learned how to apply the same levels of energy and passion to museum visits as she gives in her bi-weekly lectures. Though it's not clear in this photo, my excitement over these huge doors was difficult to contain. With the skills I've gained during my first year as a graduate candidate at UMass, my appreciation and understanding of the history of art has enriched my daily life as well as my explorations in the field.
- Zoë Burnett, MA candidate in the Department of theHistory of Art and Architecture

After completing my B.A. in Indiana, I knew that I wanted to move to the east coast to start making connections in the art world. During my first year in the graduate program at UMass Amherst, I've already taken three class trips to New York City to speak with museum and gallery professionals. This fall, my colleagues organized a symposium where Dr. Anne Umland gave a keynote lecture, and I was lucky enough to spend over an hour talking with her about her experience as a curator of Painting and Sculpture at the MoMA. Besides providing me with excellent connections, UMass Amherst has also introduced me to knowledgeable, personable professors who are always challenging me as a scholar and rooting for me to succeed.
- Emily Bumgardner, MA candidate int he Department of the History of Art and Architecture

While in the Dept. of the History of Art and Architecture at UMass I have had so many exceptional opportunities. From working with the exceptional faculty to visiting museums with faculty that had a hand in making that museum come to life, my time here has broadened my horizons in so many ways. One particularly rewarding experience facilitated by the department was the opportunity to work as a curatorial fellow at the University Museum of Contemporary Art on campus. I worked alongside an MFA candidate in the Studio Arts Department to curate an exhibition over the course of a year. I was guided by the staff at the museum as well as my advisor Karen Kurczynski in all aspects of exhibition planning and execution. This hands on experience taught me so many practical and transferrable skills that I will most certainly apply to a future position!
- Gretchen Halverson, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

The Art History department at UMass Amherst has played, and continues to play, a fundamental role in my intellectual and professional growth. I transferred to UMass as a junior in my undergraduate career, and was immediately enthralled with the academic rigor and vibrancy of its art history courses. Working with Professor Monika Schmitter, I had the opportunity to present personal work at an undergraduate research conference, and to pursue an extended independent study that constituted the pinnacle of my undergraduate academic achievements. Although I took several years off from school to pursue other interests, once I decided to return to academia, my requests for guidance and letters of support were met instantly and generously by former UMass Art History professors-all of whom expressed personal interest in my success. The value I place in the program is evidenced by my decision to return to complete an MA, and the encouragement, support and motivation that I continue to receive as a graduate student constantly impels me to challenge myself, and grow as a student of art history.
- Rachel Young, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture

The teaching assistantship that UMass grad program of art history offers is one of the most valuable experiences for me. I have been the TA for two semesters for two art history survey courses (AH 100 and 110) and have been leading 2 discussion sections each semester. It’s a great opportunity to peek behind the pedagogical theory and practices of undergraduate art history teaching. The TA experience gave me a chance to think about some very basic questions regarding art and art history — Why art history is important? How should we approach the teaching of it? How to make art history interesting, accessible, and meaningful for everyone? Beyond these conceptual aspects, the practical processes of planning, grading, teaching, engaging with students also sharpen my interpersonal and communication skills. Of course, TA-ing for the survey courses also helps me to fill in some gaps in my art history knowledge system to prepare for the image exam).
- Lucy Gong, MA candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture