Twenty years ago, TCU launched its M.A. program in art history. A two-year curriculum with an emphasis on the museum experience, the program continues to thrive due to its excellent faculty and special relationships with many fine museums in the area.
Since our first M.A. students graduated in 2000, graduate art history alumni have joined the work force at the Kimbell Art Museum, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Dallas Museum of Art, Sid Richardson Museum, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and beyond our metroplex at other nationally-renowned institutions such as the National Museum of Women in the Arts, The National Gallery of Art, Christie’s, The Austin Norwood Gallery, Savannah College of Art & Design, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and more.
To celebrate two decades of success, we’re sharing a series of interviews with some of our M.A. graduates. Emily Dorward, currently the social media assistant and a first-year M.A. student, interviewed Stefanie Ball about her experience in the program and her subsequent professional successes.
Stefanie Ball ‘07, Publications Manager at the Amon Carter Museum
Ball recalls her experience at TCU as formative for her career in museum publications, in particular the program’s close ties to Fort Worth’s museums. She has now worked at each of Fort Worth’s three major museums: the Kimbell Museum of Art, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and has become a valuable part of continuing the thriving connection between the city’s museums and TCU.
Are you a Texas native? Where did you earn your undergraduate degree?
Yes, I was born in Bryan and grew up in San Antonio. I received my B.A. in history from the University of Texas at San Antonio.
What prompted you to enter TCU’s M.A. program?
I applied to several art history graduate programs, but ultimately came to TCU because I wanted to study with Professor Frances Colpitt.
Were there any specific courses or research projects that are particularly memorable for you?
My thesis, of course, is the most memorable. I wrote about Sherrie Levine’s After Walker Evans Suite. But I also did a paper on Catherine Opie’s work and was able to go to Santa Fe through a grant from TCU. I attended a SITE Santa Fe opening and was able to meet and talk with Opie.
How long have you worked for the Amon Carter? What other positions have you held since graduating from TCU?
I started working at the Amon Carter in July 2012 as the publications manager. Right before I graduated from TCU, I was fortunate enough to get a position at the Kimbell Art Museum as their publications assistant. A year or so later, I moved to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth as their editor.
You’ve worked for all three major museums in Fort Worth. How have you adapted to their different missions and did TCU help prepare you for that?
At the end of the day, most art museums generally have the same mission—to preserve and promote their individual collections—even though how they approach those tasks may vary. I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to be a part of three very different museums and their respective collections. My education at TCU allowed me to appreciate how truly fortunate we are in North Texas to have access to the amazing works of art that live here.
How does your work as a publications manager help to shape and reinforce the ethos of a museum, and are you shifting your language to parallel the big changes coming to the Amon Carter?
My boss always refers to our department as an in-house agency, meaning we see and help facilitate the dissemination of information in a way that furthers the museum’s voice and personality. We are always mindful that the scholarly tone of an exhibition catalogue is going to vary from an object label that is geared to reach a broader audience, or that some of our educational and membership programs will have a more unique voice. But in general, the museum should stay true to its brand (personality).
The Amon Carter is undergoing a period of change, and while our mission has not changed, you will start to see a new Amon Carter in the coming year. It’s an exciting time to be here.
How have your studies at TCU helped you in your professional career?
The art history education I received at TCU has played a role in each position I’ve held since graduating, but in general critical thinking and the writing skills I honed while in school there have played a significant role in how I approach my career and daily tasks.
Can you share some personal highlights in your professional career since you left TCU?
Working on exhibition catalogues and art books has been and is still my favorite part of being an editor. Looking back at all the books I’ve been a part of is extremely rewarding.
Is there anything unique to you about TCU’s program you maybe wouldn’t have found elsewhere?
The relationships the TCU professors have with all three museums in the Cultural District afforded me various opportunities to meet and work with museum staff during my graduate studies.
Read more from this series: Q&A with Andrea Karnes ’00, Senior Curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth