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June 24, 2005

Smith College Art Historian to Shift Focus with Mellon Grant

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—With a recent $233,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Dana Leibsohn, associate professor of art history at Smith College, will begin a three-year research project plumbing the art trade relationships between China and Mexico around the 17th century.

The Mellon Foundation’s New Directions Fellowship is intended to assist faculty members in the humanities or social sciences in acquiring training or experience outside their established area of concentration.

With the Mellon grant, Leibsohn will conduct an investigation into the ways that China and other Asian countries became known in colonial New Spain (now Mexico) via the plethora of art objects and jewelry exported there in the 17th and 18th centuries. Called “Made in China, Made in Mexico,” Leibsohn’s research will seek to define the attitudes with which people living in New Spain at the time regarded China as they purchased and adorned themselves copiously in “Asian” finery.

A member of the Smith faculty since 1994, Liebsohn focuses on the visual culture of colonial Latin America in her academic scholarship. Recently awarded the college’s most prestigious teaching award, she has taught courses on pre-Columbian and African art history, Oceania and the Americas, Current Issues in Latin American Art, and Scenes of Sacrifice.

Leibsohn’s research, to be conducted in three stages over several years, will lead her in scholarly directions distinct from her previous experience. While exploration into the art and visual culture of New Spain is familiar to her, in-depth looks at Chinese visual culture and comparative world historic topics will represent an academic departure.

The New Directions Fellowship will provide research support and allow Leibsohn to devote her attention to research without teaching responsibilities.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a nonprofit philanthropic corporation that makes grants in five general areas, including higher education, performing arts and museums and art conservation. The foundation’s New Directions Fellowship, now in its fifth year, has been awarded to some 30 scholars.

Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation’s foremost liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women’s college in the country.

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