Associate professor to spread history to Oxford

By Kaci Watt, Staff Reporter

Patrick Reponse
Associate Professor of Art History and Visual Culture Amy Mooney has been accepted through the Terra Foundation for American Art to be a visiting professor at Oxford University.

Associate Professor in the Art and Art History Department Amy Mooney has a common thread throughout her career: working with the Terra Foundation for American Art. This connection has ultimately led to her newest journey as a visiting professor at the University of Oxford.

The Terra Foundation is dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding and enjoyment of visual arts in the U.S. for national and international audiences, according to its mission statement.

Mooney’s year-long appointment as a visiting professor will begin in September.

Mooney reflected on her career, the Terra Foundation and her next step at Oxford University.

The Chronicle: How did your visiting professor position come to be?

Mooney: This position is sponsored by the Terra Foundation for American Art, and one of their main goals is to ensure that American art and visual culture are examined in a global context. They foster a number of opportunities that help with cross-cultural exchange. For me, it was an opportunity to apply [and] be seen and for faculty development. The application process included a letter of intent, samples of syllabi for courses that I would teach at Oxford, research, samples of my writing and letters of recommendation from my peers. They narrowed it down to a series of candidates, and then they invited me to come to Oxford for an in-person interview. The interview itself was pretty intense. Thatnight, after my interview, they called and offered me the position. It moved really quickly—it’s kind of unusual, I have to say.

What work have you previously done with the Terra Foundation?

The Terra Foundation supported a dissertation completion fellowship through the American Council of Learned Societies, so, when I finished my dissertation, I had the opportunity to present my work through the Terra Foundation.

I had the opportunity, as I advanced in my career, to help Terra by reviewing a number of different applications for grants or fellowships that colleagues were applying for. Then I was able to apply for a Terra Foundation grant through their initiative Art Design Chicago that just ended; this was a beginning grant. I have a new project I am putting together—a digital humanities project with the esteemed photography historian Deborah Willis.This project looks at African-American photographers who were active here in Chicago from the 1890s into the 1930s. I’m really grateful for Terra founding and funding so many things that happen at Columbia.

What will you teach at Oxford?

One class will be a survey of American art for undergraduates. The survey will focus on a nexus of American art and politics. We will look specifically at works of art that sparked controversy and debate. The second course will focus primarily on the research that I’ve been doing and writing for my forthcoming book on portraiture, so it will be looking at American portraits through a global lens.

At Columbia, a course that we offer here called “Portraiture + Self + Society” is a source of inspiration. It looks at portraits and the idea of self-portraiture. Columbia is really interdisciplinary in terms of the student body that it attracts. At Oxford, it will be a bit different because I will be teaching graduate students who are mainly studying art history, so I think the students will approach it differently.

What are you most looking forward to?

The beauty of Oxford, from the architecture to the way they set one period running into the other. The juxtaposition between a medieval friars house right next to a spectacular 18th-century Georgian hall. I really appreciate some of the details, especially from my lovely tour of Worcester College, which is where I will be housed. I was just taken by the aesthetic presence of it and how radically different it is. I love Chicago architecture; I love Chicago modernism. I think our Columbia buildings have all these amazing interesting quirks, but this is a different scene for sure.