Motivating Monuments, Reflections on the 2018 Graduate Symposium

Keynote and Response


Motivating Monuments, Reflections on the 2018 Graduate Symposium

Author: Sarah Conell, HAA graduate student

The first weekend of November, the History of Art and Architecture Department (HAA) graduate students hosted our bi-annual symposium entitled Motivating Monuments: Defining Collective Identities in Public Spaces. We were honored to have as our keynote Jacqueline Jung, associate professor at Yale University. Her talk, “From Cathedral to Monument: Abundant Histories at Reims & Naumburg,” was delivered at the CMOA Theatre, and unfolded the biographies and stakes of two architectural examples in relation to local and global communities. A rich discussion unfolded, thanks in large part to the keynote respondent and HAA professor, Kirk Savage. This valuable conversation kicked off an inspiring event, including the impressive work of ten graduate students and post-doctoral fellows who traveled nationally and internationally to participate. Together, we had the opportunity to reflect on some of Pittsburgh’s own local monuments, including a tour and discussion of the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning. 

When we began to develop the idea of this symposium, we found it useful to organize thematically around the moments of creation, modification, and destruction of works in public spaces. What emerged when organizing the sessions, however, were richly engaging approaches to temporalities, the built environment, and the body. These groupings are a product of our broader Constellations model in HAA. The faculty respondents to each of the sections (Christopher Nygren, Jennifer Josten, and Shirin Fozi respectively) teased out the rich connections within these themes and brought together, into fresh and timely dialogue, the presenters’ topics that spanned time periods and geographies. 

The event was a rewarding success as a product of year-long planning and organizing. With a delegation structure, a website hosted on university servers, and new relationships with local vendors, we have established a transparent foundation for future organizers, building on the pioneering work for the Debating Visual Knowledge symposium of 2014. We have reworked the website begun that year, to be more useful for future graduate student organizers of varying levels of proficiency in website design and management. We have worked with local Pittsburgh printmakers to strengthen artistically minded bonds in our own city. By refocusing and clarifying the procedural and planning knowledge, which is passed down through graduate student generations, we hope our efforts this year will continue to bear fruit as future symposia continue to shape the University of Pittsburgh as a fertile institution for current, diverse, and gainful conversation–an international hub for scholars. 

Learn more about the Collecting Knowledge Pittsburgh initiative here

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