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Elizabeth Xiong – Discovering Art History + Exploring Career Options

Submitted on June 23, 2023 - 12:09pm
Elizabeth Xiong
Elizabeth Xiong

Elizabeth Xiong came to University of Washington (UW) to get a degree in computer science knowing the growing demand in tech-related fields would help secure her employment opportunities upon graduating. During her first quarter (Autumn 2020), Elizabeth needed a writing credit, so she enrolled in ART H 220: Survey of American Art with Art History Assistant Professor, Juliet Sperling. That changed everything. She had discovered a new passion that left her intrigued and led her to enroll in another art history class with Sperling the following quarter. The class on Re-Reading American Photographs had a significant personal impact on Elizabeth (Read more in a UW Magazine publication) that by the end of that year she had declared Art History as her second major. This spring she completed her third year.

Coming into her third year, although she had been enjoying the research aspect of the program, Elizabeth was ready to explore experiences where she could apply her learning and gain a broader understanding of the field in a real-world scenario. In search of curatorial experience, Elizabeth applied and was accepted for the 2023 Emerging Arts Leader program, an 8-week paid internship at Seattle Art Museum (SAM) that offers students the opportunity to gain hands-on exposure to curatorial work, explore career options in art history, and hone research and writing skills in a collaborative environment on unfamiliar topics.

Through the course of the program, Elizabeth’s primary tasks were to conduct research on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s projects in the Seattle area and collaborate with Theresa Papanikolas (Ann M. Barwick Curator of American Art) to determine objects for display in the gallery for the Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map retrospective. The final step was a public gallery talk, Presence is Survivance: Contemporary Native American Art in the Museum, where Elizabeth discussed how her research on Smith’s ongoing legacy of collaboration provides a compelling framework for better understanding contemporary Native American artworks in the collection, as well as the spaces they hold.

Coming to UW to get a STEM degree, Elizabeth did not imagine she would be an art history major or completing an internship at SAM. She’s uncertain how her double-major in computer science and art history will play out in her long-term career goals, but for now she’s enjoying unveiling her passion for art history as she continues to take advantage of the different learning opportunities being offered to her at UW. Thankfully her parents were supportive of her decision which made the journey easier to navigate.

Elizabeth is spending her summer in San Francisco as a Software Engineering intern at the software company Splunk. Upon her return, she promised we would be the first ones to know how computer science fits into her aspirations, if art history has won her heart over, or if there’s more she would like to explore before settling on a career path. Likely the latter, but for Elizabeth, the possibilities are endless. 

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