UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 09 Winter 18 Library
Carmenita Higginbotham (Credit: David Woody)
Art History

Welcoming Carmenita Higginbotham as Chair

The McIntire Department of Art recently welcomed noted Associate Professor Carmenita Higginbotham as its new chair. Higginbotham, who joined the UVA faculty in 2005, is an author and scholar whose teaching at the University spans the Art department and the American Studies program. She regularly lectures on the history of American art, popular visual culture, and art film. Higginbotham has also made a name for herself by exploring how, in early 20th Century art, the concept of the city has had an impact on representation. She explored this topic and more in her book The Urban Scene: Race, Reginald Marsh and American Art, which considers complexities of African American representation in 1930s realist, urban painting. Higginbotham’s range of academic interests also extend into the world of Disney. She teaches UVA courses on Disney’s impact in American popular culture and was featured in the PBS American Experience documentary on Walt Disney in 2015. Higginbotham is greatly looking forward to the opportunity before her. 

“It’s an incredible honor,” she said, “especially given the reputation of the department and the amazing group of colleagues with whom I work. This is an exciting time for the department, and having the opportunity to help lead our efforts as a department, to push it forward, is truly humbling.” Higginbotham is also very conscious of what it means to students and to colleagues to see her in this leadership position. “It is not lost on me that I am heading a department as both an African American and a woman. It means something to be a voice for a variety of individuals who can then go on to see similar possibilities for themselves.” Higginbotham began working immediately to connect with students in an effort to promote all the department has to offer. “I look forward to exploring creative ways to remind student of the significance of art, and the ideas that shape our engagement and understanding of visual culture. Art matters. It shapes and influences our understanding of the world, and I want students to continue to experience the amazing things we do in Fayerweather and Ruffin Halls.” As for leading her colleagues, Higginbotham sees her work as chair as an extension of the work they have done together for the past 13 years. “From the time I arrived at UVA, the culture of the Art department has been defined by listening to ideas, and thinking rigorously about what it is we do and how we do it. What I get to do now is continue that process – with a lot more paperwork and meetings!” 

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