Amy Kirschke, an acclaimed art historian specializing in African American art, has been appointed director of Virginia Tech’s School of Visual Arts in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Kirschke joins Virginia Tech from the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she has been a faculty member in the Department of Art and Art History since 2005, serving as the department’s chair from 2013 to 2019. She is currently a professor of art history and the interim chair of the Department of Theatre. Kirschke will begin in her new role at Virginia Tech on Aug. 1, 2020.

“Amy is a dynamic and visionary leader in the arts,” said Richard Blythe, dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “Her expertise in African American art and its relation to social activism will provide important context and guidance in advancing the college’s diversity goals. I look forward to her leadership in continuing to grow an inclusive Hokie culture while embracing differences and acknowledging historical challenges.”

Kevin Concannon, who has led the School of Visual Arts since 2011, will retire from the university in January of 2021.

“Kevin has done a phenomenal job in leading the school through several important transitions over the last nine years, including the expansion of programs as well as increased recognition of the school’s reputation and impact, both nationally and abroad,” said Blythe. “I’m thankful for his service and wish him the best in his retirement.”

Prior to joining the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Kirschke was previously a faculty member at Vanderbilt University and served as the summer abroad art historian for Tulane University’s Summer in Paris program from 1986 to 2000. She also served as a visiting professor of art history at Loyola University New Orleans from 1988 to 1989.

A prolific scholar, Kirschke’s research and writing focus on the intersection between African American art and politics, racial terror, and activism in social and historical contexts prior to the civil rights movement. She is particularly interested in art as editorial statement and has explored the differences in historical experiences between white and black populations as depicted through art.

Kirschke has written numerous articles and essays, and she is the author of “Aaron Douglas: Art, Race and the Harlem Renaissance” (1995, University Press of Mississippi) and “Art in Crisis: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Art of African American Identity and Memory” (2007, Indiana University Press), the latter of which was awarded the 2007 SECAC Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research and Publication. Current and forthcoming projects include works on the political cartoons of Romare Bearden as well as lynching and art.

“As someone with deep interests in diversity and service learning, I’m excited to join Virginia Tech and the School of Visual Arts in particular at a time when the university is pushing to increase its regional, national, and global impact,” said Kirschke. “I’m most impressed by the school’s faculty, who have already demonstrated an incredible commitment to scholarship and teaching. With their energy and level of engagement, there’s so much we can do together to contribute to service as the foundation of the university and its Ut Prosim motto.”

As the recipient of numerous of research grants, Kirschke has traveled and lectured extensively abroad, with notable service in South Africa, the West African nations of Ghana and Senegal, and at the Sorbonne in Paris. She was also appointed as the Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce Senior Visiting Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., in summer of 2016.

Kirschke has been active in professional service throughout her career, with appointments on a number of advisory committees, journal publication boards, and mentorship organizations at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and elsewhere. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Loyola University New Orleans in 1980, and her master’s and Ph.D. in art history and history from Tulane University in 1983 and 1991, respectively. 

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