Annika Blake-Howland '15, on Being a Dean's Fellow

December 02, 2014

Annika Howland

Annika is a Dean's Fellow for the college art collection!

What are you studying?

I'm majoring in art history, minoring in history and chemistry and I'm part of the Honors Program.

What drew you to your major?

I knew from Sophomore year of high school that I wanted to be an art history major, but it took me until I got to Simmons to realize that I wanted to go into art conservation (which is why I have a chemistry minor). First year I was able to take Dr. Margaret Hanni's Art of the Gardner Museum course, in which students learn about the Gardner as a historical institution, historical collection and modern museum. In one week, we learned about how the Gardner takes care of its art. I was fascinated. It was art and science at the same time, and for a good cause: protecting cultural property for future enjoyment and study. I realized that this was what I wanted to do, and registered to begin taking the chemistry courses required for art conservation graduate programs.

What's your favorite thing about your program?

My favorite thing about the Department of Art and Music is how small it is, but at the same time, how many different types of students are a part of it. The department encompasses many different majors and courses of study, with only a few students per program. At the moment, I think I'm the only declared art history student, although there are also art administration and studio art students. Everyone knows each other and is really supportive, which is wonderful.

What's it like being a Dean's Fellow working in the college art collection? What type of work do you do?

Being a Dean's Fellow is great! I'm really grateful for an opportunity to apply what I have learned as an art history student to concrete material. Right now I'm primarily doing research on the artists who have work in the Simmons art collection. This means that I'm looking for scholarly articles written about each artist and his or her work, as well as old exhibition reviews and biographical information. I'm reading a lot of curriculum viate's.

What's your favorite part of being a Dean's Fellow?

When I find something unexpected or new. Last week I tracked down the origins of an artist in the collection, listed as W. Webber. I found out that W. Webber is actually Wesley Webber, a native of my home state of Maine. I checked various sources and studied Webber's other works to confirm my suspicions.

What was the application process like to become a Dean's Fellow?

I was asked by Dr. Margaret Hanni if I was interested in the position and I worked with her to fill out grant paperwork. After I was approved for the grant, I began working.

If you could have dinner with 3 artists (living or dead) who would they be and why?

I can pick only three? Okay. I know she's not an artist, but I'd definitely have to pick Isabella Stewart Gardner because I've been researching her since my first year at Simmons. I'd also probably invite John Singer Sargent and Johannes Vermeer, who are two artists I've been focusing my research on as well. They're all associated with each other. Gardner and Sargent were good friends, and they were both very interested in and inspired by Vermeer. I think it'd be a fun dinner party.

What's your dream job?

I hope to either work at the Gardner Museum as an objects conservator or on a cathedral conservation project doing much of the same.

Fill in the blank: I love Simmons because...'s a small community with large community resources.