NICOLE ELIZABETH COOK ’07
Major: Two Dimensional Fine Arts and Art History
Nicole Cook completed her BFA at Moore in 2007, as a double major in 2-D Fine Arts and Art History. She then earned an MA in Art History from Temple University in 2010, before transferring to the University of Delaware, where she is now a doctoral candidate. She is in the final stages of writing her dissertation on late Dutch baroque artist Godefridus Schalcken, titled "Godefridus Schalcken (1643-1706): Desire and Intimate Display." Nicole recently contributed an essay to the catalogue for the first-ever monographic exhibition of Schalcken's paintings, taking place in Cologne Fall 2015-Spring 2016. She also works full-time as Curatorial and Collections Management Assistant for the Leiden Collection, a private art collection in New York. She divides her time between NYC and the Fishtown home that she shares with her partner, filmmaker Andrew Repasky McElhinney, and their two troublesome but adorable cats.
- Question the canon. Your introductory experiences with art history will likely be from a Western European perspective, which is a crucial framework for beginning to think about the field. But, as you've learned in your classes at Moore, art has always been made by people other than white guys in Europe!
- Take a foreign language. Seriously, like, right now. While modern translation tools are making reading and researching in other languages easier every day, having the basics down of at least one language other than English before you apply to graduate school is going to be pretty essential to your success. Aim for German (I know, it's a pain, but you'll probably have to test in it), and one other depending on your interests. If you're still in undergrad, look into taking courses at a nearby school (like CCP or Temple) where the credits can transfer back to Moore.
- Speak at undergraduate art history conferences. Practice at public speaking is a must, for both careers in teaching and in museum work. Plus, meeting up with other emerging art historians is good for networking and usually good nerdy fun.
- Start visiting graduate programs where you would like to apply the year before the application process. Reach out to the department administrative staff and ask them to put you in touch with the faculty member you're interested in meeting. Aim for an early fall or early spring visit, when classes are in session but before the mid and late semester craziness has set in.
- Talk to the professor(s) you want to work with (this goes along with the previous tip). Come prepared to talk about some recent research and your interests right now.You don't have to have a dissertation topic all planned out, but at least know what general areas you want to pursue. Also talk to the graduate students (separately from the faculty)!!! Ask about work/life balance, funding, the work load, the professors' personalities - and listen to how they respond.
- Consider taking a year off (or a couple) between finishing undergrad and beginning a graduate program. I did this and have never regretted the decision. In fact, sometimes I wish I had taken more time off in between. I spent my gap year working a non-art related administrative job, taking language courses, studying for the GRE, and working on my grad school applications - I cannot imagine doing all that during senior year.
- Start thinking about whether you're more drawn to teaching, or to museum work - but don't decide between them yet. The job markets for academia and in museums...well, they both suck, to be frank. While some might disagree, I think it's really important to leave yourself open to as many career opportunities as you can, especially early on.
- Look at a lot of art. Volunteer at a museum. Drag your friends and family and play "museum guide" for them. Think about how looking at art in person gives you different information than you get by looking at something projected on a digital screen. Notice which rooms or objects keep you coming back.
- Internships, internships, internships. Moore has this in the bag already, so I'll just reiterate: they're really important, do one, do a few.
- Talk to your professors at Moore about their experiences. Ask them where they went to grad school, how they decided that they wanted to teach, how they got interested in art history, etc. They are a valuable asset to you, so pick their brains.
- Be interdisciplinary. It's a dreaded "buzz word", but it's also where a lot of the most interesting writing and exhibitions are heading. Don't shut yourself into a hermetically sealed art history box, think about visual and material culture broadly.
- Use your creativity. As a maker of art, you have a unique perspective that not all (or even many) art historians have. Think of your artistic practice as an assert to your art historical work - because it is!