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The Last Art History Convocation Speech

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Art history undergraduate delivered speech in 2020

Catherine (Ellie) Canning

Catherine (Ellie) Canning (AS 20) ​

Editor’s note: Catherine (Ellie) Canning graduated from the University of Delaware in May 2020 with B.A. degrees in Latin American and Iberian studies and art history, with a minor in museum studies. After completing her M.A. degree in art history from George Mason University, she now works as a curatorial assistant for the Dallas Museum of Art.

Ellie delivered her speech for UD’s Department of Art History’s convocation in 2020—the year when the pandemic had its worst impact. For this reason, the 2020 convocation was accidentally left out of the 2020-2021 edition of Insight.

Since 2021, convocations are no longer hosted by individual departments. Instead, they have become larger College of Arts & and Sciences events, organized by discipline. Catherine’s speech is therefore a kind of historical document of a passing tradition, and yet it captures so much about other changes that we all experienced. Even if we may have thought them temporary, they are now very much part of the transformation of humanities pedagogy that lives on.

As many talented speakers and students have said over the last few weeks, this is not the speech I thought I would write. Of all the strange effects of the times, the past participle is having a heyday as we all pour should haves and would haves into our language. I digress, as I am not graduating with a degree in English. I have the great pride to graduate from the best department on campus, in my personal opinion. The Art History department handled the spring semester with grace and calm, and I am glad to have followed their lead. To the chagrin of many, Zoom made the resolution of images even poorer, but image resolution has been the bane of art historians even before the digital age. I at least felt wry comfort that whether through Zoom or in a classroom on campus, image resolution was a consistent battle. I also should acknowledge as a student of art history in 2020 I have never had a run in with a slide projector and I know to be grateful for that.

With all sincerity, I want to celebrate three and a half years on campus. Every time I engaged with an art history assignment- a paper, a project, a speaking presentation, the art history department gathered around me to provide support, listen, provide feedback, and encourage me. I was invited to meet the chair as a prospective student, to discuss pursuing art history which made a huge impression on me. The department hosts career panels in the arts, research tutorials in the library, and field trips. I felt a sense of home and community that extends beyond the fact that Old College is my favorite place on campus. Although I didn’t always interact with the rich community of graduate and doctorate students in art history, I now deeply appreciate their close proximity and active contributions to the university. They model what art history can be, how it can marry with other disciplines and lead to wonderful, unique fields of research. It was my greatest honor to be taught by professors who are educators, historians, and advisors. Professors are superheroes. They are the living embodiment of the field, and they inspire students to see how rich the field of art history is. It goes without saying, the department would be nothing without the administrative staff who keep us up to date, informed, and welcomed in the community. Art history contains myriads of cultures, time, peoples, and stories. There are many ways to teach students to look for those histories (usually with the highest resolution images ArtStor can provide). I am so proud to be treated both as a student and a historian. I know the Art History department will continue to provide exceptional educations for the Blue Hens of the future because the department is full of people who are also caring, curious academics. Thank you for the past four years and may your endeavors prevail.

Speech by Catherine (Ellie) Canning (AS 20) with editor’s note from Ikem Okoye, UD associate professor of art history

Image courtesy of Catherine (Ellie) Canning

September 8, 2021

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Catherine “Ellie” Canning delivered a speech for UD’s Department of Art History’s convocation in 2020—the year when the pandemic had its worst impact.
Art History
 
9/8/2021
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