Symposium: Shifting Terrain: Mapping a Transnational American Art History

Victoria Burge's Island

On October 16th–17th, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will hold the final event in its five-part series: "The Terra Symposia on American Art in a Global Context." This fall's capstone event, "Shifting Terrain: Mapping a Transnational American Art History," speakers will discuss the transformation of the field over the past decade and suggests future directions for scholarship.

The panels will focus on American objects and their display, changing approaches to studying identities in American art, the role of art in international commerce and diplomacy, the U.S.'s involvement in networks of information distribution, and the place of American art within the global discipline of art history. Speakers include professors and curators from around the globe whose research concerns the history of American art from the Revolution to the present day. In addition, graduate students from Canada, Brazil, Switzerland, England, and the United States will present their current research projects, demonstrating growing interest in the art and visual culture of the United States among art historians worldwide.

The series, which is supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, began in 2006 with "American Art in a Global Context," a three-day symposium held in celebration of the reopening of the museum after its renovation. Convening leading scholars in the field, this pioneering symposium moved beyond the age-old question, "What is American about American art?" to consider American. art in terms of exchange, migration, trade, and travel. Subsequent symposia held in 2009, 2011, and 2013 examined the ties that bind U.S. art and artists to other regions of the world, such as Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

This closing symposium is a fitting conclusion to series that has been instrumental in encouraging an international dialogue on American art and its place within a global art history. More than 115 scholars from six continents have contributed to the series. Thanks to travel support from the Terra Foundation, each international presenter was able to invite a graduate student from his or her home country to participate in the events. Recordings of all five Terra Symposia will be available as webcasts so that people around the world can watch the entire series.

"Shifting Terrain: Mapping a Transnational American Art History" will be held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum October 16th–17th. Register at

Rebecca Singerman, research intern, wrote this post.