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Art history scholarship provides travel, networking opportunities

Tony Miller, last year’s recipient of the Janet G. McCloud Travel Scholarship, visited various art museums across the country to learn about art history.
Image by CJ Bonk
During his month-long trip, Tony Miller traveled to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Fourth-year University of Minnesota art history student Tony Miller traveled to various art museums in the country this past summer as a recipient of the Janet G. McCloud Travel Scholarship in American Painting.

The $5,000 scholarship is awarded to an undergraduate or graduate student studying art history who has a passion for object study, which is the act of observing a piece of physical artwork, such as paintings or sculptures. The scholarship covers both the cost of travel and hotel fees.

The scholarship application closed after March 31, with recipients embarking on a month-long trip over the summer to explore different art museums of their choosing located in the United States.

“I’ve never gotten an opportunity to travel much,” Miller said. “Before the scholarship, I’d only been in less than a handful of places outside of Minnesota. It’s just a great opportunity to see the country that I’ve lived in my whole life.”

An ‘eye-opening’ experience

Miller first heard about the scholarship through his advisor and former professor, Jenn Marshall, who helped him work through the application and prepare for the trip.

“It was very eye-opening,” Miller said. “Most of my experience with art museums has been at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.”

Some of the art museums he visited were the Philadelphia Museum of Art, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago. Miller said each museum was memorable for their distinct art displays, such as cube-shaped gallery spaces and intricate architecture.

It also gave him an opportunity to talk to museum curators about museum operations and artwork. Marshall, who is also chair of the art history department, helped connect Miller to museum curators and worked with him to create a trip itinerary.

“It was quite humbling because they know so much more than I do,” Miller said. “I also got to meet with an artist in New York to get an artists’ perspective, especially in a city like New York.”

Since scholarship recipients travel over the summer, they do not have to work on an active research project for a class or faculty member.

“It’s kind of unusual to have a scholarship that’s really devoted to exposure and travel that doesn’t necessarily require an outcome at the end,” Marshall said. “It is designed to really help you think about what art you want to see.”

Marshall said the scholarship is an opportunity for students to network with professionals in the art history field. Some professionals current art history students connected with were alumni of the University.

“It does take some mentorship and planning and conversations around how to look at art and the patience sometimes it takes to let everything go and be in an art gallery for a long time,” Marshall said.

Miller previously had no interest in American art, which was the primary focus of his study on the trip. He said his interest has grown since returning from the month-long trip and found ways to apply his knowledge as he was making observations.

“In all the museums I went to, I tried to guess if the piece was American or not, and I actually got pretty good at it,” Miller said.

2023 scholarship recipient announced

The art history department recently announced this year’s recipient for the scholarship, second-year student Julia Knudten, who said this scholarship is a “neat” opportunity to expand her newfound interest in art history.

She applied for the scholarship to follow a similar path of art exploration as one of her role models, artist Georgia O’Keeffe, who shares her hometown of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.

“Being a shy artsy kid, I never knew where I could fit in,” Knudten said in an email to the Minnesota Daily. “She inspired me to be more embracing of my creativity. After her husband’s death, Georgia traveled the world, further experimenting and looking for artistic inspiration.”

Knudten said getting the opportunity to visit different art museums would help expand her knowledge on museum exhibition operations because she is currently working with a Weisman Art Museum research team to learn about how exhibitions are created.

She plans to visit the New York City’s Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit on O’Keefe and then travel to New Mexico to visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.

“I’m really looking forward to further educating myself about my childhood icon,” Knudten said. “I hope to learn more about museum structures, what art history can look like, and what my future will hopefully look like.”

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