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Bridging the Gaps of Under-Representation in Art

December 20, 2016

Photo of Monika Hetzler

Photo of Monika Hetzler
Photo by Matthew Weber, CLAgency student

Last spring, Monika Hetzler had the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy. When applying for financial aid for this trip. Hetzler was delighted to be selected to receive the Patricia and Kenneth Puffer Scholarship, which provides funding for undergraduate students of high academic standing within the College of Liberal Arts to support international travel. With a portion of her travel expenses covered by the Puffer Scholarship, Hetzler was able to afford a study abroad experience in Italy for a full semester.

While in Florence, Hetzler stayed with a host family and took courses in both Italian and English. Her host mother, Paula, spoke only Italian. Hetzler had taken four semesters of Italian and felt that her speaking skills were sufficient, but upon arrival in Italy found she still had difficulty communicating at times. There was no difficulty, however, in communicating her love of Paula’s cooking. Paula was from southern Italy and regularly made classic Italian dishes. "Those meals were definitely a highlight of my study abroad experience!" Hetzler says. During Hetzlers home stay, Paula had a revolving door of students who were studying from all over the world. Hetzler made many new friends and learned about various cultures and traditions through her interactions with her housemates.

A unique part of Hetzler’s study abroad experience included an internship at CartaVetra, a contemporary art gallery. The gallery is independently owned by four artists who display the work of artists whose pieces resonate with their vision. At CartaVetra, the owners have fostered a tightknit family environment with a mission to create more inclusive dialogue between museums, galleries, artists, and audiences.

Hetzler embraced the mission of CartaVetra during her internship. She translated parts of their websites blog, which included artist descriptions and gallery event invitations, from Italian to English. She planned gallery events, and she networked with international and local artists. These experiences solidified the reason for her pursuit of a degree in art history, and she hopes to have the same passion for her future career as the owners of CartaVetra have for the art they create and display. The internship piqued Hetzler’s interest in the hands-on aspects of working in a gallery.

Now back in Minnesota, with the guidance of faculty in the Department of Art History, she has begun to look more closely at history and culture with a critical lens. "I love galleries and museums as an institution," Hetzler says. "However I’m motivated to eliminate the barriers that museums present to artistic voices from marginalized communities. I am interested in art history because I want to fill and fix those gaps."

Hetzler says that she also studies art history to grow closer to her mother’s Indian heritage; art history is helping her discover the other half of her own cultural identity. Throughout her education, Hetzler has learned the history of America and Europe, but whenever she learned about Indian culture, it was through a singular perspective. Here at the University of Minnesota, however, she’s had the opportunity to study with professors and classmates that examine issues from multiple viewpoints and incorporate diverse voices into their discussions. "The art history department has provided me with a group of people [with whom] to talk about the critical issues that I care about," Hetzler says. "My education at the University has provided me with ways to look at art critically on and off campus."

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.