Student Spotlight February 2015
Eileen Yanoviak received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and French in 2005 and a Master of Arts in Art History in 2011, both from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 2012, Mrs. Yanoviak began her journey at the University of Louisville, where she is currently a PhD candidate in Art History. In January 2015, she accepted a position as the Exhibition and Project Coordinator at the Speed Art Museum.
“Eileen runs half-marathons for fun, which gives some insight into her personality. She has a seemingly boundless enthusiasm for work, and is one of the best at multi-tasking of any person I've ever met. As an example, she recently passed her comprehensive exam with flying colors while at the same time securing a full-time job at the Speed Art Museum as their Exhibitions and Projects Coordinator.” Dr. Hufbauer, Associate Professor of Art History
When my husband and I were planning to move from Little Rock, Arkansas, we looked for a city which afforded us both great opportunities. One of the primary objectives was to find a doctoral program in art history that provided competitive funding in a city with ample opportunities for employment in the arts. Finally, we chose Louisville for the quality of life. Louisville is a great place to raise a family.
My primary area of research is 19th century American landscape paintings, particularly images of agriculture. However, I am broadly interested in how people interact with their natural environment throughout history and the ways artists interpret those relationships. My research extends broadly to landscape theory, environmental history, literary history, and cultural geography. My interest in landscapes arose naturally from a love of the outdoors and because our current understanding of the environment may be shaped by its past.
In 19th century America, the landscape was a source of awe and a symbol of progress. At the time, the yeomen farmer was considered the ideal American who worked to maintain a life of self-sufficiency. Thomas Jefferson envisioned a nation of farmers who owned their land and earned their way through labor, dedication, and ingenuity. This vision was determined by and had an enormous impact on the environment. My research focuses specifically on paintings of the American landscape depicting agriculture or farmsteads. I compare what is depicted in the images with the reality of the American environment at the time.
The agrarian ideal, farmer nation, and idealized farmer remain persistent myths in the 21st century. While most people are very remote from the production of food, we continue to romanticize the farmer. The return of the small family garden is not unlike Jefferson's vision of the farmer nation. The 19th century was an important period in American history in part because of how rapidly humankind's relationship to the land changed.
For me, the most important aspect of my education and research is how it can be translated for the general public. While I really enjoy the rigor of the academic environment and research, the beauty of working in museums is that I have to find a way to share that with the public. Museums are intended to reach all demographics, so my efforts can have a wider impact. It is about sharing art with others.
My immediate long-term goal is to become a curator. Thinking further long-term, I would like to take a leadership role in a museum. Because I am dedicated to museum work and am also interested in teaching, I believe that a position directing a university gallery would afford me the opportunity to satisfy both passions.
In the spring of 2011, just before I completed my thesis, I was invited to give a lecture during the opening of an Impressionist exhibition at the Arkansas Arts Center. I began my museum career there ten years earlier, and it culminated with a lecture to nearly 400 people that evening, the largest audience I have ever had.
I have enjoyed the continual support of my department, particularly my advisor Professor Benjamin Hufbauer. They have been integral in both my academic and professional successes in Louisville.
I believe that graduate students face an unsustainable pressure to delay personal life in favor of professional development. As graduate students, many of us have families which demand energy and time. But, my family reminds me how important it is to turn off the computer, to put away the books, and to balance my personal and professional obligations.
A talent you have always wanted: I have always wanted to be a ballet dancer. I admire their combination of dedication, elegance, and control.
Favorite book: This is too difficult to choose, but if I must... In fiction, I love Housekeeping by Marilynn Robinson. It is a quietly haunting book where the characters unravel without you realizing it. In non-fiction, I was consumed by Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and am intrigued by the challenges of Thoreau's Walden.
Favorite Quote: "Love what you do and do what you love. Don't listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want,what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life." - Ray Bradbury
Role Model: I do not think that any one person embodies all the attributes that I want to emulate. Instead, I find worthy qualities in most people. However, I really admire my husband. He is the hardest working, most capable, and highly disciplined person I know, and he brings out the best in me.
Favorite Vacation Destination: I love cities where history is a part of the fabric of life like Philadelphia or my beloved Paris. As a family, we like to visit state and national parks to enjoy the outdoors.
If you weren’t in graduate school, what would you be doing now? I would be doing exactly what I am already doing outside of school— working in a museum and spending time with my family. I will always want to travel more.
• Cressman Scholarship, University of Louisville, Hite Art Institute, 2012‑13
• Gulnar Bosch Travel Award, Southeastern College Art Conference, 2012
• Staff Achievement Award in Personal Growth, UALR, 2012
• Anne Russ Award, Donaghey Scholars, UALR, 2005
• Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, 2004
• Jerry Arrowood Art History Award, UALR, 2004
• Donaghey Scholars Program, UALR, 2001-2005