June 7th, 2011
Adam Harris Levine has just finished writing his Master’s dissertation. It’s about 14th century gothic ivories – sculptures that he has had the benefit of seeing and studying first-hand due to his many experiences visiting and working with collections in New York and London. He attends the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, England. With an enrolment of 400 students, it may not be large, but it is one of the most important institutes for the study of art history in the world.
As someone who has done two art history-related internships in New York City, a great artistic and cultural center in its own right, Adam is in a good position to compare. When asked how London measures up, Adam affirms that he is making the most of the opportunity to study 14th century art in a place where he can be surrounded by history.
But a graduate degree in medieval art wasn’t always Adam’s aspiration. He came to McGill to undertake a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Hispanic Studies with a “strong hunch” that his calling was modern or contemporary art. He took his summers to do two internships. The first was at The Cloisters, an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City specializing in medieval art. There, he “fell completely in love,” with the collections, realizing that his initial hunch about his interests may have been wrong.
The next summer, he decided to try working in the contemporary art scene by taking on an internship at an art gallery. He wanted to challenge the idea of his career he had developed at The Cloisters, only to realize that it was where his aspirations now lay. Vindicated in his discovery that medieval art was indeed the field for him, he decided to pursue it at the graduate level.
Adam advises students to do internships to find out not only what they want to do, but also to challenge their own notions of where their career paths are heading. After the benefit of comparing work experiences in two fields, Adam felt that he could more confidently pursue his interests in a more focused and specialized way.
In many ways, it was his experience at Cloisters that helped him pursue his graduate studies in medieval art at Courtauld. Adam learned about aspects of the art world that he could never have learned in a classroom, and found that a professional reference – in addition to academic references – played a big role his grad school applications.
It was even his supervisor at Cloisters who pointed him in the right direction when it came to graduate programs. When he mentioned at work one day that he may want to pursue medieval art as a field of graduate study, his supervisor mentioned in passing that he should check out Courtauld. And the rest, as they say, is art history.