Alexander Nemerov stepped down from his role as chair of Yale’s art history department last spring to accept a new interdisciplinary position at Stanford, a move representing the increased focus on art’s role on campus.
“Nemerov coming is a confirmation of the ambition and goals of the arts initiative,” said Bryan Wolf, former co-director of the Stanford Arts Initiative.
Nemerov, a renowned American art and cultural historian, beat out numerous candidates in a two-year search to fill an endowed position in the Art and Art History Department in conjunction with the Stanford Arts Initiative. The Carl and Marilyn Thoma family donated the endowment for the position, requesting that it be filled by a professor with background in art history and the humanities.
Nemerov served as an associate professor at Stanford before leaving in 2001 to become chair of Yale’s Department of the History of Art, where according to an articlein the Yale Daily News, he taught one of the most popular introductory art history courses.
Nancy Troy, chair of the Stanford Department of Art and Art History, said Nemerov’s commitment to his field would have a positive impact.
“By making Stanford the locus of which those energies are going to be realized, he is helping Stanford to become a really vibrant community,” Troy said.
Nemerov said he will greatly miss New Haven’s proximity to numerous renowned museums, but recognizes that Stanford also offers valuable resources including the Cantor Arts Center where he teaches a section for his fall quarter introductory class.
Troy echoed Nemerov’s sentiments, stating “as a discipline, art history has traditionally been located on the East Coast.”
She added that Nemerov came back to Stanford at an ideal time when the study of art has grown in visibility.
“It’s new that the West Coast would make the commitment to making a place where people would want to come to study art,” Troy said. “That’s maybe even more the case with Stanford where the institution is known more for science, engineering, medicine and other disciplines.”
Nemerov, who specializes in American art history, film and literature, can attest to the growing benefits of returning to the West Coast.
“A lot of my work is about film actually, so the connection to Los Angeles for me is as meaningful or more meaningful than the proximity to New York when I was at Yale,” Nemerov said.
The ability to further engage with Stanford’s developing art programs and make a “grassroots contribution” was ultimately the reason Nemerov said he took up Stanford’s offer.
“My purpose is to teach my passion for works of art and to give students something to think about, something to imagine about how art might matter in their lives too,” Nemerov said, “I think it’s more than an academic subject, it’s my life.”
Nemerov will be teaching three undergraduate courses – one each quarter – and one graduate course. He will also be working with graduate students in the department.
Nemerov’s focus on the emotional power of art and its personal connection to those who study it ties in with the goals set forth by the Stanford Arts Initiative that helped gather the funds necessary to create the new position.
“The goals of [the Stanford Arts Initiative] were to expand and deepen the range of both the humanities and the arts as part of the everyday life of Stanford for undergraduates, graduates and faculty,” Wolf said.
As part of the six-year Stanford Challenge, the Stanford Arts Initiative helped create new positions in the arts, establish new programs like the ongoing Stanford Institute for Creative Arts (SiCA) and bring the arts to classes that are generally not arts-centric and offer grants, according to Wolf.
Nemerov hopes that his students will be able to engage in the arts in a way that is personally fulfilling. To reach greater audiences in a similar way, he is currently working with the Cantor Arts Center to hold an exhibition on his specialties.