Alumni Spotlight: Elise Huff

Art history alum Elise Huff (B.A. '20) explains how an elective art history class at Meadows ignited her passion for the arts and changed the trajectory of her career.

Art history alum Elise Huff (B.A. '20) worked in commercial galleries before founding her own art advisory, Next Up Collectors, focusing on young artists.
Art history alum Elise Huff (B.A. '20) worked in commercial galleries before founding her own art advisory, Next Up Collectors, focusing on young artists.

Elise Huff (B.A. ’20) is this week’s featured alum in our new Alumni Spotlight series for the This Week at Meadows e-newsletter. Each week, a different Meadows alum will be highlighted for their accomplishments post-graduation.



When Elise Huff started at SMU as a freshman, her plan was to study international relations and business to achieve her career goal of becoming a diplomat. It wasn’t until she took an elective art history course that she realized her passion for art and her plans began to change.


“That initial art history course absolutely transformed my way of thinking when it came to art history as a profession,” explains Huff, who also went on to complete her master’s at The Courtauld Institute of Art in London, specializing in Contemporary and Conceptual Art. “I had a gut feeling halfway through my art history minor that I was meant to work in the commercial art world, and without the support of the Meadows faculty, I am not sure I would have ever come to this realization on my own.”


Huff discovered that art history is a discipline that combines the knowledge of foreign affairs, politics, and diplomacy – subjects she was already studying to achieve her original professional goal of being a diplomat – with the stylistic and metaphorical markers of the art industry. This overlap is what solidified her new career trajectory. Throughout her art history coursework, Huff learned how to be an astute observer, a critical thinker, and how to provide accurate contextualization when evaluating a work of art, all skills that translate to working in the commercial art world.


Art history alum Elise Huff (B.A. '20) poses in an art gallery.


After spending some time working for an auction house and a commercial gallery, Huff saw a gap in the market: the art industry was focused on catering to a certain demographic but often eschewed the newer generation of young professionals. This realization led Huff to found her own art advisory, Next Up Collectors, in order to encourage young professionals across industries to learn, support, and ultimately invest in diverse and multi-disciplinary artists who are also in early to mid-stages of their careers.


“Next Up Collectors is an art advisory and membership platform founded in an effort to connect the next generation of art collectors to emerging artists, as well as to offer accessible resources and tools related to the art industry,” says Huff who founded the company in January of 2023.


Though Next Up Collectors was just established a year ago they have already made a splash in the art world, even hosting their first official event in collaboration with Soho House in London in November. In 2024, Next Up Collectors will continue to host happy hours and artist studio visits, panel discussions focused on emerging artists and young collectors, book clubs, social and educative events at blue-chip galleries in London, and more. To learn more about the organization, click here.


“I will always be incredibly grateful to the art history faculty at SMU for identifying my skillset, serving as mentors and encouraging me to seek this out as my full-time career.”


Learn more about Meadows' Division of Art History here.