Ifill Scholar Kate Benton ’24 Pursues a Global Approach to Art History
What professors have helped you pursue your goals?
I would like to acknowledge Assistant Professor Asiel Sepulveda and Associate Professor Sarah Leonard for their support throughout my academic career thus far. Both professors have pushed me to sharpen my critical thinking, visual, methodological and theoretical thinking skills in disciplines of History and Art History.
Professor Sepulveda has provided me with invaluable insight into the writing, thinking, and direction in which Art History as a discipline is turning in preparation for my own contributions to the field. His curriculum allows us to think about Art History in a global context, challenging the way in which we view art through Western scholarship and aesthetic biases. With his help, I have been able to investigate the prospect of a “Global Art History,” a question that has occupied my mind for the past year, and that I am excited to explore further.
Professor Leonard has allowed me to sharpen my historical and theoretical analysis skills and hone my writing skills. In her classroom, she has enlightened my interest with the narrations of ordinary people of the past, proving that history is not only shaped by the hands of the elite, but those of the people as well. She has brought me to understand the deeply complex nature of the past, what it means to untangle it, and that oftentimes you’ll end up knee-deep in a gray area with more questions than you started off with — but that is what makes it exciting.
What does the Ifill Scholarship mean to you?
I feel incredibly honored to represent Gwen Ifill’s legacy and voice of passion as a woman of color. Being awarded the Ifill Scholarship has been an important reminder that not only is my hard work being recognized, but that it matters. I plan to focus my studies in an incredibly specialized area and admittedly I have felt that looming sense of hesitation. However, I am reminded that the work I am contributing is significant on a broader scale, nonetheless.
As you look to the future, how do you hope to connect your passion to a lifelong purpose?
My passion for history and art is driven by the desire to represent and carry on the memory of histories that have been silenced. Being born Chinese but raised by a set of Irish Catholic parents, my story as a transracial adoptee is tangled in loose threads. I looked to histories of my culture and people as a means to fill the spaces missing in my identity, but my textbooks provided only brief paragraphs or footnotes. I am not unfamiliar with stories lost or left untold and I hope I can bring to light the histories of those that have been long forgotten.
Representation and globalization of history is immensely important for young minorities as a means of understanding the true value of culture, histories, and influence that members of their culture have contributed to our world. I hope to continue my career in academia and be able to put forth my own contributions to the shifting discourse in Art Historical canons, and become a figure for young individuals of color that have been previously underrepresented in the classroom.