Art Student Sara-Kay West Continues Learning as a Graduate Student in Art History

Thursday, January 10, 2018

When current USF art history graduate student Sara-Kay West earned her undergraduate degree in art history from USF in 2017, she felt she wasn't quite ready to finish her college career for good. After all, she came to USF with her associate’s degree and finished her bachelor’s degree at USF in just two years.

West is now a second-year art history graduate student at the USF School of Art History deepening her knowledge of the discipline, gaining research experience with expert mentors, and gaining exciting and relevant teaching experience.

“I felt I had so much more to learn,” said West. “I wanted to be able to work with all of [the USF art faculty] and produce really strong research with all of them.”

This past fall semester, West took two seminar classes: one, an up-close look at Kandinsky with Professor Riccardo Marchi, the other, a cross-cultural, global seminar class on premodern Islamic art with Professor Esra Akin-Kivanc.

West also completed a directed study with Christian Viveros-Fauné, art critic and USF Contemporary Art Museum curator-at-large. Throughout the semester, she got to learn more about art criticism by reading criticism and giving her own reviews. Topics included why criticism is important as well as the major scholarly developments made in the discipline in the last century.

“I was doing actual art criticism. ... Just getting a feel for what that's like,” said West. “The level of attention he paid to every single word that I used was incredible. … So my writing really improved from working with him.”

West is also a TA for Professor Pamela Brekka's History of Visual Arts II, a survey class that covers renaissance art, contemporary art, and everything in between. As a TA, she has the opportunity to teach five class days per semester. This brings her in contact with undergraduate students, some in their first year, from all over the campus.

West is also active teaching beyond USF. In November, she was invited to be a guest lecturer in an introductory art history class at the University of Tampa taught by adjunct professor James Cartwright, a recent graduate of the master’s degree in art history program at USF.

She enjoys the freedom to choose topics while lecturing. For some students, it is their first exposure to art history. She hopes to make the field approachable to students.

In high school, West was unsure what she wanted to study. Initially envisioning a career as an astrophysicist, she took a class on physics but then switched gears to focus on writing. When the course material wasn't satisfying her, she took the suggestion of a friend and enrolled in an art history class. She went on to study abroad in Rome through her high school, and her interest in the discipline blossomed.

At USF, she continued to explore her what fascinated her in art history. After her high school trip to Rome, she came to USF fascinated by Renaissance art and eager to learn more. Then she shifted gears again when she later enrolled in a contemporary art class with Professor Marchi and subsequently participated in the USF study abroad in Paris art program. There, she was absorbed by contemporary art, and she came back to nurture her interest by taking a contemporary art class called Contemporary Issues in Art.

“Things were just clicking for me, and I really got into it,” said West.

Upon graduating with her master's, West knows she'll be able to apply her knowledge and skills to a variety of career choices. The challenging program has refined her ability to synthesize information from a variety of sources and present it in a clear manner.

“I think I can apply those skills pretty much anywhere,” said West.