Currently the Grants and Programs Coordinator with the Kingston Arts Council, Queen's Art History alumna Violet Tang (M.A. '22) is living out her passion for serving local arts scenes. In the latest instalment of our Alumni Stories series, Tang opens up about how Art History broadened her professional plans and led to fascinating pursuits -- from historical fiction to PTSD therapies:
Why did you pursue an Art History degree?
"I chose Art History because I appreciate how the courses open my mind and engage with my aesthetics, critical thinking, sensibilities and emotions. In Art History, I felt incredible freedom to explore my fields of interest and be as creative as possible in conducting research and presenting the outcomes. When I first received an offer from Queen’s University, my first choice was English Literature because I wanted to pursue a writing career. But I later decided to undergo creative training instead of taking the traditional path. Art History was so broad and dynamic that it was a perfect choice for me to build interdisciplinary writing knowledge through fine arts, architecture, humanities, digital art, photography, and historical research methods."
What career paths did you envision after graduation?
"Upon graduation, I was dedicated to finding a job in my field. I worked many museum and art gallery jobs throughout my undergrad; thus, those were where my job research landed. I plan to work in the public art sector for a few years. It allows me to gain practical skills in administration, curation and programming while staying relevant in the art context. I am lucky to work with the Kingston Arts Council as the Grants and Programs Coordinator. I have always dreamed of serving the local arts community and supporting artists and art workers through funding, workshops, resources and one-on-one communication."
What are some unexpected ways your Art History education has served you in your professional life?
"I only realized how helpful my Art History education was and how transferrable the skills were until I graduated. Seven years of essay writing made me a much better writer than I used to be; therefore, writing long grant reports and quarterly work journals was smooth and enjoyable. During my art history studies, I had plenty of experience designing posters, curating exhibitions, and editing videos. All these skills allowed me to make creative social media content, annual reports, and design interviews in my current job. Moreover, I am working on a historical fiction on the Chinese Wenchuan Earthquake. Art History education taught me to find high-quality primary and secondary resources and conduct ethical oral history interviews. These experiences have led me to study PTSD and PTSD-related therapies such as CBT and EMDR on my own. Every skill I acquired in Art History training was transferrable into my professional life, and I cannot wait to see what more it has to offer."
What advice would you give to current students of Art History at Queen’s?
"Early in my studies, my only dream was to become an art history professor. That was still an incredible future for me, but I discovered many other fantastic opportunities - curators, art conservators, museum managers, public programming leads, professionals working in arts resource hubs, networking, community services etc. Whenever a great opportunity arises, try to catch it and do not limit yourself to any expectations. Be kind to yourself. Your academic path will be long, so do not compare yourself to the people ahead of you. Enjoy the exploration with your peers -- these memories are precious! Complete as much reading and thinking as possible. If you give yourself enough time to marinate in the readings and visual materials, you can gain much more than just chasing a deadline. Finally, working experience is as important as your GPA. Summer jobs and internships are your lifelines, and you will thank yourself for starting earlier!"