Kristin Schwain to Keynote Art History Symposium at UA

Dr. Kristin Schwain, Associate Professor of American Art at the University of Missouri, will give the keynote address at the 22nd Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History at UA on March 3, 2017. Schwain’s talk at 3:45 p.m. is titled, “Establishing an African American Eden: Samuel Albert Countee’s World War II Mural for Fort Leonard Wood’s Black Officers’ Club.”  The symposium, a shared production of the departments of art and art history at The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, will take place this year at the Bryant Conference Center on UA’s campus.

Schwain will discuss African American artist Samuel Albert Countee (1909-1959), focusing on a mural he painted for the Black Officers’ Club at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in the 1940s. She asserts that the mural is a powerful expression of African American equality and distinctiveness in an era and place marked by racism and segregation. Schwain writes that Countee’s academic style and visual references to Greek democracy and the Christian tradition underscore middle-class values shared by European and African Americans alike, while his choice of specific images in the painting underscore black contributions to American life.

Mural by Samuel Albert Countee, Fort Leonard Wood, MO.

Schwain received the PhD from Stanford and is Associate Professor of American Art at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She won critical praise for her book Signs of Grace: Religion and American Art in the Gilded Age from Cornell University Press. Schwain has been guest curator at the Museum of Art and Archaeology, Columbia, Missouri, for several exhibitions including most recently, “Mendive, Chaco, and the Havana Renaissance.” Schwain describes her research: “[It] seeks to complicate the story of American modernism by showcasing that the roots of the twentieth-century art world are mired in the complexities of lived experience and visual culture. I do so by examining the roles played by religion, race, region, and consumption in art’s production, display, and reception.”

Schwain will speak at 3:45 p.m., rounding out a full day of research presentations by graduate students from UA, UAB and from institutions around the country, including George Washington University, Case Western Reserve and the University of Georgia. This year, undergraduate students in art history have been invited to present their research in a poster session. Prizes for Best Paper and Best Poster will be awarded just before the keynote speaker’s address.

This year’s symposium is generously supported by the College of Continuing Studies; Robert Olin, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; Tricia McElroy, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; Roger Sidje, Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences; The University of Alabama Graduate School; the Kirby Endowment (Department of Art and Art History); the Department of American Studies; and Harrison Galleries, LLC.

Download this year’s program here (PDF).

Now in its 22nd year, the Annual Graduate Student Symposium in Art History provides a forum for the presentation of graduate student research drawn from all areas of art history. The symposium also features a keynote lecture by a leading scholar of art history. Previous speakers have included Paul Barolsky (Italian Renaissance art), Allison Kettering (Dutch Baroque art), Michael Yonan (18th-19th century European art), and Graham Boettcher, the William Cary Hulsey Curator of American Art at the Birmingham Museum of Art. The symposium alternates campuses each year.

The Master of Arts degree in art history is offered jointly by The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The MA degree in art history prepares students for further academic study at the doctoral level or for professional careers in teaching, museums, galleries and other arts-related fields. Students may enroll on either campus and must take at least 6 hours of course work on the other campus.

Contact: Dr. Lucy Curzon, Director of Graduate Studies,, (205) 348-6458.
Image credit: 
Samuel Albert Countee (1909-1959), mural, Black Officers’ Club, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Image courtesy of Kristin A. Schwain.