Pandemic Forces Rethinking Dreams, Rerouting Plans

Student at home attending class online.
Anna Ingram attending online classes at Parsons.

The summer of 2019 found rising senior Anna Ingram chasing her dream of studying art history by applying to programs for graduate study. Ingram developed a love of Renaissance art during her undergraduate years as an art history major at UA and by her final year, knew she wanted to continue those studies post-graduation. “I am extremely interested in the study of style and decorative arts in art history,” Ingram said, “I would like to pursue a career in the expression and influence of textiles throughout European art.”

Among those programs that would begin in fall 2020 were the MA in Fine and Decorative Art and Design at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London and the MA in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies at Parsons School of Design in New York.

Parsons, Ingram felt, went beyond the study of a typical art history master’s program, giving her the skills and opportunity to choose from careers in journalism, galleries, museums, historic houses, and more. Sotheby’s, on the other hand, allowed her to study in London, near several Renaissance collections.

When Ingram was accepted to both programs, she realized she had to choose. After a difficult deliberation, she decided that she really wanted to study art history in Europe, so she accepted the offer from Sotheby’s.

After she declined Parsons, at her mother’s urging, Ingram followed up with a second email to Parsons to thank them for the offer and let them know that she was planning to attend Sotheby’s in London. “I will never forget my mom telling me I should tell Parsons my plans because you never know what could happen.” In the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus hit, her mother’s foresight turned into, as Ingram put it, an “unfortunate foreshadowing.” She said, “I found myself in exactly that position.”

Re-evaluating Her Dream

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020 and much of the world shut down, including Europe and the US, higher educational institutions were among the organizations that had to rethink their future programs and events. Sotheby’s announced that they would delay the start of Ingram’s master’s program until January 2021. Then she learned there was a possibility that the program would be delayed further, until September 2021. “At that point,” Ingram said, “I began to worry about the risk of waiting over a year to begin graduate school, but I did not think there were any other options.”

“I was really at a crossroads on what to do — it was my dream to move to London, England, and study European art. But when news spread about the travel ban to Europe and the struggle of obtaining a visa, I began to realize I might need to re-evaluate my dream.” Ingram realized that beginning her art history studies as soon as possible was her top priority. “I did not want to wait for my dream anymore, I wanted to begin it.”

She decided to take a chance and she emailed Parsons to ask if she could still go. “I was delighted to learn I could be readmitted into the program and still receive my original offer. It was a bittersweet feeling, but I knew I had made the right choice, and the director of the program made my transition seamless.”

The program offers the opportunity to study with American as well as European collections in New York. Ingram will also have direct access to the collections of the Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum. She’ll be able to study Renaissance interiors and design objects such as textiles and furniture. Her studies begin this fall, when she’ll take her classes online, including a design survey course in the European decorative arts, and a textile history course that explores European textile artifacts from the Middle Ages through the first half of the twentieth century. Once Ingram gets through her first semester, she hopes to move to New York, to be near the collections she’s always wanted to study – and one step closer to realizing her dream.

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.