When embarking on a career in art history, the possible focus areas are endless. Catherine Jolivette (’03 Ph.D. Art History), a native of Great Britain, chose to return to her roots. Today she focuses her research and teaching on British art after 1945 as an associate professor of art and design at Missouri State University.
“I was drawn to British art because I was exploring my own immediate history and culture and gaining insight into the time before I was born, but in living memory of my parents and grandparents,” said Jolivette. “It was also an opportunity to learn more about those works of art that had surrounded me since childhood, and about those artists who had been my teachers and heroes as an art student in Scotland.”
Jolivette studied art history and sculpture as an undergraduate student, but wanted to delve further into the influence of visual culture as a doctoral student. “I wanted to explore in words the ways that the visual shapes our lives and our histories.”
Jolivette said she gained confidence at Penn State, as well as mentors who exemplified what it meant to be a scholar at the highest international level. “What I learned most as a graduate student at Penn State came from my peers and professors, as they treated everyone with professionalism and compassion,” she said. “I learned a lot by just watching and it showed me the kind of teacher and scholar that I wanted to be.”
Jolivette’s current research project, “Art and the Atom: British Art in the Nuclear Age,” is supported by a research grant from the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art. Her latest book, Landscape, Art, and Identity in 1950s Britain, was published in 2009.
A recipient of several teaching awards, Jolivette has been praised for her enthusiasm and commitment. “If you can take a class with Professor Jolivette, she will make you want to be a better person and most likely will make you fall in love with art,” said one student in an award nomination.
According to Jolivette, art history students entering the workforce need to be confident and willing to throw their hat into the ring. “Network, and don’t underestimate the value of the contributions that you have to make,” she said. “In this field, you need to have perseverance, faith in yourself, and a thick skin.”