Climate and Inclusion in the Department of Art & Archaeology

Introduction

Scope

The Department of Art & Archaeology fosters the exploration of diverse forms of art, architecture, and visual and material culture from all regions of the world, encompassing a wide range of media, and spanning thousands of years. The department’s faculty, researchers, and students study, for instance, the architecture of the Islamic world, the art of the Black diaspora, the archaeology of ancient Greece, modern and contemporary art in Africa, the Latin American avant-garde, Renaissance architectural drawing, art and power in China, Baroque sculpture in Rome, printmaking in Japan, art and sociability in nineteenth-century France, the sonic and haptic registers of Black visual culture, ritual time in medieval manuscript illumination, color in architectural representation, and the relationship between art and other socio-historical formations, including religion, politics, urbanism, and economics. A&A offers courses on a range of subjects, such as the art of the ancient Americas, architecture and war in the early modern period, the history of the modern museum, radical collaboration in contemporary art, decolonizing art history, modernism and gender politics, mimesis and performance in Byzantine art, the visual and material culture of scientific inquiry, the Roman villa, Black vernacular photography, art and engineering, world art history, art history and psychoanalysis, battlefield archaeology, and art and criticism in times of political crisis.

Commitment

As Chair, I want the capaciousness of the field of art history in the twenty-first century to be a model for the Department of Art & Archaeology. I am deeply committed to advancing equity, access, diversity, and inclusion in the department and to creating a community in which everyone feels a sense of belonging. An open, welcoming, and inclusive environment directly supports the pursuit of excellence in research, teaching, learning, and service for students, faculty, staff, and visitors in A&A. This commitment echoes that of Princeton University as a whole. In 2020, the department formed a Climate & Inclusion Committee, responsible for advising the department and its leadership. Both the committee and the Chair work in collaboration with the A&A community and Princeton’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity. The committee serves as one among many initiatives through which the department seeks to advance equity, access, diversity, and inclusion.

The Role of Art History

Art history and art making are tools for thinking critically and imaginatively about the world. Throughout history, the visual arts have encoded and displayed the ever-transforming values and convictions of diverse cultures and the zones of contact between them. Learning how to analyze and contextualize the visual arts, which arise from and materialize myriad forces, histories, and voices, offers a distinctive form of entry into understanding humanity and human behavior. A work of art is by nature interdisciplinary, and the study of art is thus all-encompassing, befitting a liberal arts institution like Princeton devoted to the generation of knowledge and insight in the service of humanity.

—Rachael Z. DeLue, Chair
Christopher Binyon Sarofim ’86 Professor in American Art / Effron Center for the Study of America

Impressionistic mosaic portrait using letters in yellow, red, and orange hues.

Wadsworth Jarrell, Revolutionary (1972), Felton Gibbons Fund, Princeton University Art Museum

Staff Representative

Vibrant abstracted figures collaged together in colorful shapes

Detail: Romare Bearden, Moon and Two Suns, 1971, Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of The American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Childe Hassam Fund

Background

In summer 2020, prompted by the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-racist activism, and student organizing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the Department of Art & Archaeology formed a Climate & Inclusion Committee. Since then, A&A and the committee have actively evaluated the assumptions and procedures that frame the department’s ethos as well as its broader impact through scholarship and the curriculum. The aim is to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are ever-present and integral—truly woven into the fabric of A&A. The following actions and initiatives are examples of this effort and represent a small fraction of the climate and inclusion work that A&A has undertaken in the past several years.

The Climate & Inclusion Committee, which works in partnership with Princeton’s Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity (OIED), fosters dialogue about equity, diversity, anti-racism, and inclusiveness in the department, and makes recommendations to the department Chair regarding constructive initiatives and actions. The first iteration of the committee (2020–2021) created a substantial draft plan for future initiatives (short, immediate, and long-term) in the areas of admissions, hiring, faculty and student recruitment, department culture, community building, outreach, transparency, and communication. This document has since served as an essential guide for the Chair and subsequent committees.

Students

A&A students have played a pivotal role in defining the department’s approach. Graduate students formed a Graduate Student Working Group on Racism and Racial Justice, and undergraduate A&A majors conducted a series of conversations about race, racism, and racial justice which informed the department’s initiatives. The C&I committee regularly converses with A&A students to discuss their experience in the department. Along with the formation of the committee itself, student ideas have led to several changes in departmental operations. For example, graduate students have been given a voice in the selection of speakers for the department’s annual lecture series, run as part of ART 502, the Graduate Seminar, which enrolls all first- and second-year students. This is the first time in the history of the department that graduate students have played an official role in selecting a speaker for the series. In addition, over the summer and fall of 2021, the chair and the director of graduate studies worked in collaboration with graduate student representatives to review and revise the graduate representative positions to better serve both the graduate students and the department, to emphasize the advocacy role of the positions, and to make expectations more reasonable and transparent.

Curriculum

A&A endeavors to engage race, racism, racial politics, and the politics of difference in the United States and globally through the transformation of its curriculum. Two new courses were created in 2020 in direct response to anti-racist activism at Princeton and beyond. The first, “Rage Against the Machine: Art and Politics in America,” considered intersections between art and politics in the United States, focusing on racial politics and art and activism amid the presidential election, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the resurgence of white supremacy. The second, “Decolonizing Art History,” drew from decolonial paradigms and foundational texts of critical race studies to analyze and actively reconfigure art historical conventions of field formation, research, and format. In addition, the department’s Curriculum Committee and participating instructors have re-examined the department’s core courses: the undergraduate gateway course, ART 100; the undergraduate methods course, ART 400; and the graduate methods course, ART 500. By broadening geography, voices, fields, and perspectives, the committee has made these courses more inclusive and polyvocal. The Graduate Committee has amended departmental language requirements to better reflect the wide-ranging research and expertise of our students and faculty as well as the increasing cultural and geographic expansiveness of the discipline of art history.

Mentorship

The department has also made mentorship a key component of its commitment to fostering a welcoming and supportive climate. In fall 2021, A&A introduced a faculty mentorship program for all assistant and associate professors. In fall 2022, the department funded a new mentorship program for undergraduates. Designed by A&A graduate students Jessica Womack and Joe Bucciero, the program is staffed and run by graduate students and has encouraged the exchange of knowledge among A&A undergraduates and graduate students, creating a greater sense of community among both cohorts. In addition, the A&A director of undergraduate studies has collaborated with the director of the Visual Arts Program to foster stronger connections among the art history, archaeology, and practice of art areas within the A&A concentration.

Department

The department prioritizes open and accessible communication for all members of the A&A community and beyond. To this end, computing support specialist Julie Angarone is a Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies (CPACC) and is leading the department’s effort to make content maximally accessible for all users. In addition, in fall 2020 the chair introduced regular department meetings to which every member of the A&A community is invited. This is the first time in the department’s history that all staff and students have been included in departmental meetings. Meeting times have been shifted from 4:30 to the noon hour, with lunch provided, to support work/life balance.

The A&A administrative and technical staff members and academic professionals formed a reading group that together reads books about diversity, equity, inclusion, racism, and anti-racism. The list of books includes How to Be an Antiracist; Make Your Home Among Strangers; Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning; Nomadland; Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward; The Personal Librarian; and The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration.

A series of conversations took place in A&A in spring 2021, facilitated by Shawn Maxam, that focused on departmental culture and climate and issues of equity and diversity. Each meeting included a particular departmental constituency: faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, administrative and technical staff members, and academic professionals.

In fall 2021, the department conducted a Climate Survey designed and distributed by OIED. A summary of the results was shared with the entire A&A community. Shawn Maxam facilitated an all-department discussion of the results of the survey in February 2022, and the graduate representatives on the C&I committee held a follow-up conversation with A&A graduate students in April 2022. Discussion of the survey is ongoing and will shape climate and inclusion initiatives going forward.

With these dialogues, the department took critical steps toward sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive climate. The dialogue is ongoing. The department values the perspective of every member of the A&A community and welcomes everyone to take part in the conversation.

Painting of seascape in grey-blue tones with bright moon

Winslow Homer, Eastern Point Light, 1880, Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of Alastair B. Martin, Class of 1938

Round design in shades of teal and black depicting a butterfly

Susan Point and Kelly Cannell, both Musqueam, Transformation, 2005, printed by Eric Bourquin at Seacoast Screen Printing, Princeton University Art Museum, Gift of the Salish Weave Collection of George and Christiane Smyth