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Major gift to support study of American art and material culture

STANFORD -- A $3.7 million gift to support the study of American art and material culture in the Stanford Department of Art - from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous - has been announced by John Shoven, dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Broadly defined, the area of American art and material culture encompasses all human-built or crafted objects, including but not restricted to works of art, architecture, photography and film, and covers the cultures that have inhabited the area comprised by today's United States. Folk art is included, as are art forms characteristic to specific ethnic groups.

The pledge that launches this new area study makes possible a new endowed chair for an assistant professor in American art and material culture and provides funds for two new graduate students in each of the next four years. Each of the students will be supported for four years of graduate study.

The gift also includes support for a visiting distinguished professor whose scholarship is interdisciplinary and is focused on visual studies in American culture.

"The gift will significantly expand American visual studies at Stanford," Shoven said. "The interdisciplinary focus of this area will strengthen many of the school's departments and programs, including the departments of anthropology, art, communication, English and history, the American studies program and the Stanford Museum."

Stanford President Gerhard Casper said, "I am delighted to learn of this splendid gift to the Art Department, one that will be of such wide- ranging benefit to the university's teaching program. With this pledge and the recent commitment from Iris and B. Gerald Cantor for the rebuilding and expansion of the museum and the establishment of the new Cantor Center, I predict a bright future for the visual arts at Stanford." When her term as director of the Stanford Humanities Center ends in 1995, Professor Wanda Corn will return to the Art Department full time to develop this new area study.

"This gift opens up wonderful curricular innovations for our department and the humanities at Stanford," Corn said. "American art has long been thought the poor stepchild of art history and it is only in the last 15 years that it has made its way as an essential field into the university course structure."

The new professorship will be filled by an Americanist whose area of research complements Corn's work, thereby expanding the coverage of American art studies in the Art Department.

"The demand for courses in American art, and in American visual culture more broadly considered, is at an all-time high," Corn said. "This gift will provide us with the resources to respond to student interest with flair and imagination."

The Art Department already has accepted the first two American art and material culture graduate students, who will enter the art history program this fall, and has contacted prospective scholars for the distinguished professor residency.



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