April 23, 2020
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Sarah McGavran ’03 says one of the more important events in her career was seeing an exhibit of The Blue Riders, a loose association of pre-World War I painters including Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, in a museum outside of Mannheim, Germany, while she was on a Fulbright teaching scholarship. “I just fell in love with this stuff,” she said.
But another key to pursuing a career in art history came from her Kenyon professors. Karen Snouffer, professor of art, Melissa Dabakis, professor of art history, Kristen Van Ausdall, associate professor of art history, and Paul Gebhardt, associate professor of German, all played a role in her continuing her education, which eventually led to a doctorate degree in art history at Washington University in St. Louis.
“As a graduate student, you feel like you’re in perpetual adolescence and so having people whom you really respect, people who have been mentors to you, people who are taking you seriously as an intellectual and are treating you more as a colleague was really encouraging for me,” McGavran said. “I think it helped motivate me to keep going.”
Now McGavran is finishing her Volkswagon Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Institut für Kunstgeschichte and Musikwissenschaft, Johannes Gutenburg-Universität Mainz, Germany. She is working on converting her doctoral thesis about one of the Blue Riders, Paul Klee, and his travels to and representations of North Africa and Egypt, into a book. In June, she hopes to return to the U.S. and teach at the college level.
Art history, she said, was the right major for her because it allowed her to explore art in a more academic framework and broader context than studio art. While she doesn’t rule out studio art in her future, her vision for teaching is clear.
“My experience at Kenyon definitely shaped my career goals in that I want to work at a place like Kenyon and I want to be like my Kenyon professors.”