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Alumnus/Alumna profile

Marieke Gruwel

MA 19
Architectural Historian and Curator, Winnipeg Architecture Foundation

1.  How are you applying your degree in Art History from Concordia?

I have had the opportunity to apply my degree in various settings since graduating from Concordia. I currently work as an Architectural Historian and Curator at the Winnipeg Architecture Foundation (WAF). I draw on the research skills, theories, and methodologies I learned from the courses I took and from my supervisor, Dr. Cynthia Hammond, to my work at WAF daily. I am currently working on a research project, “Women in Design,” that builds on my thesis research and will result in a publication and exhibition.

In addition to my work at WAF, I was hired as a Contract Academic Staff at the University of Winnipeg. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the courses Secrets of Museums and Modern Architecture and Design in the Department of History

2. What do you value most from your Art History experience?

What I value most from my Art History experience is the support offered by the faculty, particularly their willingness to embrace and assist in my research interests. I was able to explore a variety of topics in the courses I took and was encouraged by my professors to challenge myself. This, to me, speaks to the strengths of the faculty to foster innovative research and prepare students for their various career aspirations.

Noteworthy for me was taking the course Gender and Design with Dr. John Potvin. I was able to apply the course material to a research paper on gender, design, and the Real Housewives. Working on that paper was a highlight of my degree, and I could not have done that work without Dr. Potvin’s guidance and enthusiasm. It was so much fun and remains one of my favourite research papers I’ve had the opportunity to write.

3. Is there a particular memory that stands out from your time at Concordia?

During my first year, I was a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Cynthia Hammond. She assigned her students a final project that included a creative, hands-on learning component. I was inspired by this type of learning experience. It taught me that there are many different and meaningful ways to communicate knowledge in both academic and public settings. Learning from Dr. Hammond influenced how I approach both teaching and organizing public programming for WAF. For example, I worked on a series of children’s architectural guides for WAF that highlight different neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. Each guide includes a cartoon map with buildings that engage children through questions related to the area’s history and architecture. The guides have been translated in more than eight languages.

4.  What advice would you give to someone considering graduate studies in Art History?

When considering any graduate studies, make sure to trust your instincts and follow the path that you want to take. When making the decision myself, I was asked frequently what I would do with an Art History degree. At first, I didn’t know how to answer that question. I’ve since learned that there are many different opportunities and career paths you can pursue with a graduate degree in Art History.

Graduate studies can be intimidating, and it is easy to feel out of place. Don’t let that stop you. Have fun, take chances on research, and don’t be afraid to change your mind! A final piece of advice is, contrary to the popular sentiment that one should embrace every opportunity that presents itself, learn how to say no and put yourself first. Your wellbeing will always be more important than a line on your CV.

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