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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Art History Down to One Tenured Professor


Keli Vitaioli

Art History Prof GraphicSecond-year Abdiel Lopez ’18 returned from spring break to a surprise. His advisor, Professor Vanessa Lyon had resigned from her position at Grinnell while he was away. She is currently on sabbatical leave this semester. Lopez was transferred, along with Lyon’s other advisees, to Professor Jenny Anger, the only remaining tenured professor in the department who now advises all 22 Art History majors.

“The next thing you know I come back from break and Professor Anger is the one who tells us about the news, not Professor Lyon,” Lopez said. “It was very unclear to me and just such shocking news.”

Professor Lyon is only the latest in the rotation of the Art History department. At the end of the spring semester last year Professor Marika Knowles resigned from her position as well. The loss of Lyon less than a year later comes while the search for Knowles’ tenure track replacement is still taking place —  meaning the department is tasked to replace two professors.

Anger believes the changes sound more dramatic than they are due to the department’s size, since there are only three professors to begin with. While Anger admits it is difficult with only one professor on board, it is also the chance to bring in new faculty and areas of study.

“We are in the midst of a tenure-track search for a non-western position which is really exciting,” Anger said. “When Knowles left, Lyon and I made the decision not to replace Knowles in what she did, which was eighteenth and nineteenth century European Art. … We thought this is our chance to get a non-western position.”

To begin the search for a tenure-track position, the process must be started by April of that year, which was postponed by a year in the case of Knowles’s replacement due to the timing of her announcement. However, the search for Lyon’s replacement began before that deadline and will hopefully be filled quickly after the non-western hire is finalized.

Lopez originally considered leaving the major upon hearing the news. He developed a close relationship with Lyon and appreciated the focus on issues of race and gender she established in her curriculum. However, he changed his mind after seeing the great care the department and Anger are taking to make this transition a positive one.

“It was very shocking in the beginning … but [Professor Anger] has been really supportive and helpful and she has guided me already in different ways,” Lopez said. “She is working to really expand the department’s mission and courses. So, yes, it is very sad, but [I’m] looking forward and moving forward there could be a lot of good potential within the department.”

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