“Art History Careers” Speaker Series Showcases Different Paths for Art History Grads

Next talk on Nov. 18 to feature art attorney Leila Amineddoleh discussing her art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law firm


By Holly Haber

After hearing Sarah Montonchaikul (B.A. Art History ’14) discuss her conservation experiences working with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and several archaeological digs, finance major and art history minor Elle Meneghetti was intrigued.

“I really enjoyed her lecture,” says Meneghetti, who heard Montonchaikul during an “Art History Careers” virtual event presented by the Meadows Art History Department in September 2020. “It made me think about art conservation as a great possibility for a career.”

That’s the point of the Art History Careers speaker series organized by Assistant Professor Stephanie Langin-Hooper, the Karl Kilinski II Endowed Chair in Hellenic Visual Culture at Meadows.

“When I took over as director of undergraduate studies for the Art History Department in fall 2019, I talked to art history majors and minors about what additional support we could give them,” Langin-Hooper explains. “One of the things I heard over and over was about careers. ‘How am I going to get a job?’ There is a huge variety of career paths that art history feeds into.”

The speaker series she launched in 2019 enables any SMU student to hear firsthand from professionals — including many SMU alums — who work in fields related to art history.

Presenters have included curators along with education and internship directors from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art and Meadows Museum, a noted independent fashion historian, and a Sotheby’s vice president talking about auction houses. Meetings are currently held over Zoom due to the pandemic. 

At the next Art History Careers event on Nov. 18, attorney Leila Amineddoleh will discuss her art, cultural heritage, and intellectual property law firm based in New York. To register for the event, contact Ashley Whitt, director of the Art History Department’s Visual Resources Laboratory, at awhitt@mail.smu.edu.

During the hour-long events, the speaker details their entire career path from education through internships, first job, second job, et al. They offer tips and describe experiences that helped them in their careers, which often do not progress in straight lines. Students then have the opportunity to ask questions.

“Guest speaker Sarah Coffey from the Dallas Museum of Art talked about museum education and said that one of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for that career is get internships or summer jobs working with different sectors of the public, such as at a nursing home, an after-school program or a church Bible camp, where you are engaging with the public and learning how to educate them,” Langin-Hooper explains. “Once you’ve learned how to be an effective communicator with kids, seniors, people with disabilities, you can use those skills to help diverse audiences engage with art. It’s really fascinating how a variety of experiences contribute to a successful art history career.” 

Art history major Elsa Li gleaned useful advice from the talk by Aja Martin (M.A. Art History ’11), who has worked as a contemporary art curator and gallery director and is currently a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University. 

“I think the most interesting part of the lecture was how she united all of her life experiences to improve herself and achieve her goals,” Li says. “She really inspired me in how to manage my time and reminded me of the importance of combining the academic training with practical experience, which will definitely help with my application for graduate school.”

Langin-Hooper is eager for other SMU art history alumni to address the students, noting it’s an easy gig.

“It’s not like giving a research talk, and the students are really eager,” she says. “It’s a fun crowd. Just tell your life story, even if your career path is something a little bit different. How has art history opened doors for you?”

For more information, contact Dr. Langin-Hooper at langinhooper@smu.edu.