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Katie Crooks ’04 coordinates art programs at the Smithsonian

May 20, 2008

Katie Crooks ’04 majored in art with a focus on art history at Cornell  and minored in English and psychology. She then earned a master’s in art history and museum training at George Washington University and now works for the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM).

Katie Crooks

Katie Crooks: "I started off with the simple intention of minoring in art history, but once I took one class with Professor Penn-Goetsch I was totally hooked."

What do you do at the Smithsonian?
I am now a Public Programs Assistant for SAAM. I work with curators to plan public programs related to the museum’s collection and temporary exhibits. I arrange for artists to do demos and workshops, historians to do lectures, musicians to perform, and a variety of other events. It is a great job, and I love that I get to meet and work with a variety of living artists. I have also been teaching undergraduate art history courses at the Art Institute of Washington since April 2006 part time.

How did you choose art history?
I started off with the simple intention of minoring in art history, but once I took one class with Professor Penn-Goetsch
I was totally hooked. Chris has such an enthusiastic teaching style; I partly credit her for my academic path and career choices. No matter what she was presenting, Chris’s passion for art would always prevail. She would literally run herself out of breath while going from the podium at the front of the classroom to the slide projector in the back. Her genuine excitement – shouting “Yes!” and “What else do you see?” – as students deciphered complex pieces, kept everyone on their toes. I always felt like my education, my understanding of the material, and my personal discovery of the art world was her first priority.

Did the block plan work well for you?
Studying art history on the block plan was an extraordinary experience. To be able to immerse yourself in a topic, without peripheral distractions, was key. The level of intensity prepared me for my graduate work later on. When I received my syllabus on the first day of class and saw a lengthy paper due within the first three weeks, I didn’t think about it twice! My classmates, coming from schools with traditional semester plans, didn’t seem as prepared.

During my junior year I was able to take a course in Greece for one month, studying the ruins and ancient sites many students only see in books. Leaving campus for only one month allowed me to stay connected to Cornell, while broadening my horizons and enriching my education. The course was amazing, and even though it was not offered through the art department, I was able to take what I learned and apply it directly to my major. Many courses at Cornell are interdisciplinary, and professors are eager to help make connections that are meaningful and relevant to each individual student.

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