Senior Projects and Theses in Art and Art History


Talented seniors concentrating in art and art history complete senior projects in the fall of their senior year as a culmination of their studies in the field. Some even went on to pursue a senior thesis, which they are working on throughout the spring semester. 

Senior Audrey Chan is currently writing her thesis titled “Recognition and Reconciliation: Developing Indigenous Sovereignty in Contemporary American Art Museums.” Chan explained the focus and goals of her thesis.

“By reflecting on the relationship between museums and Indigenous artists in both the United States and Canada, I propose considerations for American art museums to work toward developing a national aesthetic narrative that embraces Native art as both a contemporary entity and essential to American art history,” Chan explained.

Chan’s thesis relates directly to Colgate University, as Colgate’s Longyear Museum of Anthropology contains works from many Indigenous artists. Chan said this inspired her thesis paper.

“Through the experience and knowledge I gained from my work at Colgate’s museums, I was selected for a summer internship at the Whitney Museum of American Art working on the development of a retrospective on Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, a contemporary artist and member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,” she said. “I discovered that the exhibition was actually the first major retrospective of a Native artist at the museum, and my thesis grew from the idea that contemporary Native American art is a vital part of the narrative of American visual culture today and should be recognized as such.”

As the art and art history department encompasses numerous majors, seniors have the opportunity to write on a variety of topics. Senior architecture concentrator Hannah Ditto is writing her thesis on the reception of two postmodern houses. Ditto explained how unique writing a thesis in her discipline is.

“Architecture is an intrinsically phenomenological discipline in that every building is a three-dimensional object with its own discrete sensory experience,” Ditto explained. “Hanging out in Dana [Arts Center] is an extremely different experience than looking at a picture of Dana.”

Senior Audrey Hong did not pursue a senior thesis, but wrote an impressive senior project titled “Decolonizing Museums with Aura and Authenticity: From the Universal Museum’s Greatest Defense to Its Worst Enemy.” Hong grappled with the tension between displaying works and returning them to their rightful homes. She explained how issues around stolen objects have been pervasive in museums.

“Women and members of the BIPOC community have long been purposefully marginalized and ignored within the art historical canon, and many of the universal museums reflect that fact and oftentimes perpetuate it with their antiquated practices of display and exhibition. I’m hoping to be part of the new generation of scholars that can help these institutions recognize these faults and become more inclusive moving forward,” she said.

In her senior project, Hong proposes a solution to such issues that allows stolen works to return home while still being displayed to the public.

“Ultimately, I concluded with the recommendation of applying 3D reconstructive practice to certain cases of contested artifacts, such as the famous Parthenon Marbles,” Hong said. “I felt I had decidedly proved that with added contextualization, many aspects of an original object’s aura and authenticity can certainly be felt when viewing a replica.”

These seniors and other concentrators have spent countless hours on detailed and impressive projects. While their work focuses on different topics within the art and art history department, each senior emphasized how rewarding the experience of creating such a meaningful project is.

“Though writing a thesis is an intensive and, at times, challenging process of reading, research, writing, editing and revising, the feeling of holding a bound copy of your work at the end of the semester is so rewarding,” Chan said. “Senior projects are passion projects in many ways because the topic is something that is personally selected. Looking back at where I started in the fall and where I am now, I feel proud of the way that my project took shape.”