Art History Professor Enjoys an Inspiring Fellowship in Sweden

Michael Yonan, associate professor of art history
The Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study
Kristi Galloway
News Source: 
College of Arts & Science
Departments: 
Art History

Inspiration can strike anywhere, but sometimes a new environment and invigorating conversations can help foster creativity. Michael Yonan, an associate professor of art history, enjoyed both during his six-month stay in Sweden during the spring semester. Yonan was selected as a fellow of the highly regarded Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study (SCAS) from a competitive field of international applicants. During his time at the collegium, he worked on his new book about Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, a German–Austrian sculptor most famous for his busts with faces contorted in extreme facial expressions. Yonan used his time in Sweden to advance and refine his research, and he now hopes to have the book completed by the end of the year.

SCAS fellows are given access to fantastic resources during their time at the collegium. Yonan had his own beautifully appointed office and borrowing privileges at Uppsala University, which is loosely affiliated with SCAS. Beyond the physical resources, Yonan particularly enjoyed the relationships he formed with other fellows. Each day, the fellows gathered for lunch, which provided a casual setting for the philosophers, scientists, anthropologists, and historians to discuss their research. Yonan says, “It was beneficial to get feedback from people outside my discipline, gain a fresh perspective on my research, and make new friends along the way.”

Generation of new ideas is a key part of the collegium’s mission. Founded in 1985, SCAS is a national scientific institution for advanced study mainly in the social and human sciences. It welcomes approximately 30 fellows in residence every year. As a scholarly community, SCAS provides an environment that is conducive to a lively intellectual dialogue and serves as a breeding ground for new ideas across disciplinary, national, and age boundaries.

All fellows are required to give a public seminar during their time at SCAS. Yonan decided to take advantage of the strong textile program at Uppsala University and presented a paper he wrote on the cultural meanings of lace dresses. In addition to working on his book and the paper about lace dresses, Yonan also traveled around Sweden and surrounding countries; he visited the National Museum of Stockholm on several occasions. Yonan says, “As an art historian, going into the storage rooms of famous European museums is a dream come true. It sparked new ideas for my future research.”

When Yonan returned to Missouri a few weeks ago, he was energized and grateful. “The entire experience was incredibly validating,” he says. “I formed lasting connections with that part of the world, and I hope to return to Sweden soon.”

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