Fullerton College Professor Kristin Mihaylovich and Professor Megan Debin are finding ways to embrace and highlight women in art history through courses and opportunities in their department.
Mihaylovich and Debin come from very different college backgrounds before they started teaching art history courses at Fullerton College.
Before attending the University of Maryland for her bachelor’s of arts in art history, Mihaylovich went to a private college in Philadelphia where she studied fashion and later realized she actually wanted to study art history after navigating through the university’s courses.
She obtained her master’s degree at the University of California, Riverside and chose Fullerton College as one of the institutions to work with because she was inspired by her colleagues when she first met them. She felt the institution was interested in going places and had big visions for the department.
“They’re willing to take chances and experiment on things so that our students thrive and our department grows,” Mihaylovich said.
Debin went to the University of California, Los Angeles for her bachelor’s degree in art history and Italian, her master’s in Latin American studies and her doctoral degree in Art History.
She also studied at the University of Bologna, Italy for a year where she took an art history class and considers it as one of the most impactful moments of her college career.
A few years before coming to Fullerton College, Debin taught an ancient art history class at Cypress College. That experience was explained as “pivotal” for her career as she realized how much she loved teaching to the demographic of college institutions.
Both mentioned how much they enjoy the environment at Fullerton College and shared their admiration for Carol Henke, the director of the Fullerton College Art Gallery.
They describe her as someone who is exceptional because she puts on great shows and is always committed to diverse programming by making a concerted effort to show the work of female artists and artists of color.
“I think she’s a great example of someone in our department who’s inspiring and supportive,” Mihaylovich said.
Debin also announced that she and Mihaylovich are working on a proposal to develop a mentorship program in the art department to prepare students for their careers in arts, specifically women of color, addressing a major problem in the field.
“The people who are in positions of power are overwhelmingly white men and we have a lot of students who are interested in art and when you look at the way the art world works, there are a lot of women and women of color but they’re at lower entry-level positions and kept out of higher levels,” Debin said.
When it comes to their experience as women in the art department, they addressed the problem of working as a career woman in general.
“Women in any professional field, we’re going to face challenges because the systems that we’re in, academia, but other systems, the systems that we’re in were not built for us, they’re made by and for, historically, white men, right? And so, when we come into these spaces it can feel disruptive for people sometimes you know, so there will always be challenges,” Debin continued.
The art department is also planning on expanding its global courses and is looking into the subjects of African art and the diaspora of African traditions, Native American and Pacific Islander art.
Debin and Mihaylovich are introducing a new course called Gender and Women in Art History in 2022. The course focuses on the contributions of women throughout history as artists, curators, collectors and subject matters in art.
“We think it’s long overdue really, I mean the canon of art history needs to be shifted so that it’s at least representative of the 51% of female persons who are also artists and not, you know, so heavily slanted in the direction of dead white men,” Mihaylovich said.
“We need more art historians; we need more scholars; we need more, you know, professors who want to change the shape and the face of the field and talk about the direction that it needs to go in, and obviously that is including more artists who are women, gender non-conforming, artist of color,” Debin added.
Visit the Fullerton College Art Department website for more information.