The Oberlin Stories Project

On being an art history major

Georgia Horn ’12

“Thirteen years later, as a freshman in college, I found the perfect outlet for my misguided artistic endeavors: art history.”

Georgia feeds animals, possibly alpacas, through a fence

Sharpies are a dangerous weapon in the hands of a 5 year old. Brown sharpies especially. Add in a white wall, and you’ve got a sure recipe for disaster.

Here’s the situation: I was 5 and I was bored. I had a rare moment without supervision; I had a brown sharpie; and I had a white wall. The wall happened to belong to my parents, specifically, to their bedroom. It took approximately 10 minutes to create my masterpiece. Unfortunately, what I saw as a masterpiece, my parents most certainly did not. The wall has since been painted over, but my interest in art has increased exponentially.

Thirteen years later, as a freshman in college, I found the perfect outlet for my misguided artistic endeavors: art history. And, I am proud to say, it’s now been 15 years since my last wall-drawing transgression.

For my first winter term, I worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. As an undergraduate, I got the chance to immerse myself in my prospective career and find out what it’s like to work with my passions. Working at the Whitney reinforced my convictions about art history, convictions that my classes nurtured and professors encouraged. Second semester sophomore year, for example, I got into an exhibition practicum, Installation and Interpretation of 17th-19th century Art from the AMAM at the CMA. The class was cotaught by Andria Derstine, a curator at Oberlin’s Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) and Jon Seydl, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA). Assignments for the class included writing wall labels and webtext for pieces loaned to the CMA by the AMAM. Classes consisted of meeting with a diverse array of CMA personnel who specialized in everything from miniatures to wall-mounts. This is just another example of the unique opportunities that Oberlin provides for its students that allows us to contextualize the abstractions of the classroom in the realities of the workplace.

My experience at Oberlin College has been a phenomenal one, and not just because of art history. I began my freshman year at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and transferred last year to Oberlin. I know how hard it can be to enter a foreign community, suddenly faced with a more demanding workload and new social pressures. However, the transition was extraordinarily smooth--a reflection of Oberlin’s welcoming community, professors and students alike. As a member of the Oberlin community, I look forward to sharing Oberlin with all who come here and helping them make as smooth a transition as I did.