Careers in Art History

The Art History Department at SUNY New Paltz will host an alumni panel called Careers in Art History on Thursday, Oct. 1 from 7-9 p.m. Along with the Art History Alumni Association, the department invited four alumnae from the program to discuss their professional work after college. These alumnae work in a variety of fields including museum work, library and information science, fine art licensing and academia.

Dr. Kerry Dean Carso, associate professor and chair of the art history department at New Paltz, said that the department received funding for this event from Campus Auxiliary Services, as well as from a grant from the Office of Career Resources. Carso organized the alumni event and asked faculty for recommendations of local alumni in the field. This is the first time the Art History department will host this type of event, she said.

Carso selected the panel’s moderator Jaimee Uhlenbrock, a retired professor and alumn at SUNY New Paltz, because of her extensive career in the field. Uhlenbrock has worked in a variety of unique professions, including legal work and archeological work in Greece, Turkey, Sicily and Libya, according to the department’s official website. Among her peers, she is a well-respected scholar of ancient art.

“She’s the glue that holds this panel together,” Carso said.

Lauren Marcus, one of the three panelists, previously worked as the art history liaison to Sojourner Truth Library (STL) on campus, Carso said. She now works as the senior librarian for the New York State Department of Correction and Community Supervision. She was one of the first alumn who came to mind when Carso and others from her department hunted for panelists. Carso and other faculty from the department knew Marcus well, as she worked with the librarians at STL to create extensive research resources for art history students at New Paltz.

Carso chose Liz Kurtulik Mercuri, another panelist, because of her unique job in the art history field. Mercuri works as a permissions associate at Art Resource, the world’s largest fine art stock photo archive, according to its website. Her job entails granting art history scholars permission to use photographs of famous fine art in their research and academic writing. Carso, who recently worked on publishing her own book, needed to contact Art Resource for permission to use some photos and, to her surprise, she was directed straight to Mercuri.

Carso said Mercuri was a perfect example of unique careers students can have in the field, including careers that might not necessarily come to mind when one thinks of an art history degree. Some may think that an art history degree is not that practical, Carso said, but there are a multitude of opportunities like Mercuri’s work that aren’t so apparent.

Joann Potter, the final panelist, works as the registrar and collections manager at Vassar College’s Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. Since Vassar is nearby in Poughkeepsie, Carso said that many New Paltz students have reached out to Potter and the art center before. According to Carso, Potter has an “encyclopedic knowledge” of her museum’s collection; her profession, a pivotal part of the museum’s ability to function, involves managing the museum’s collection and knowing where and how everything is stored.

Art history and fine arts students were invited to RSVP to this special event, which includes a dinner at 5 p.m. and a chance for alumni to mingle with current students, Carso said.

Ultimately, Carso hopes students who attend this event will receive important advice about internships and careers from the alumni panelists. She also hopes students will be encouraged to make and maintain close friendships with faculty in the department. Carso cited her own studies and work with a professor at her university during her undergraduate art history studies, which she said changed her life and the course of her career.

“[Students] shouldn’t be shy about making those people resources,” she said. “I wish I had known that when I was a student.”