Continuing the Vision of Mark Weil and Joan Hall

Continuing the vision of Mark Weil and Joan Hall: in spring 2023, the first grants from the Mark S. Weil and Joan M. Hall Endowment roll out to support the work of four members of the faculty of the Department of Art History & Archaeology

By Prof. Elizabeth Childs, Etta & Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History
February 2023

In 2021, the late Mark S. Weil and his wife Joan M. Hall made a generous gift to the Department of Art History and Archaeology to establish an endowment that could support faculty research and collaborative scholarship and teaching across fields, departments and institutions. The inaugural competition for grants awarded by this fund was held in summer 2022 and the results of these awards are now being realized by these first four grant recipients:

Nicola Aravecchia, Assistant Professor in AHA and in Classics, was awarded a two-year grant of $40,000 to support his excavation project at Amheida (ancient Trimithis), an important Graeco-Roman city of Dakhla Oasis, in Egypt’s Western Desert. As the Archaeological Field Director of the project, he is responsible for the archaeological strategy of the project and the day-to-day supervision of an international team. The funds supported his work at the site during December 2022 and January 2023, and also funded the travel and field work of Harper Tooch, a current MA student in the Department who accompanied Prof. Aravecchia for the first time on the project. The second part of the grant will support the excavation again in winter 2023-24.

Amheida is an important site in the scholarly conversation about late Roman archaeology, architecture, and art history due to its exceptional level of preservation, including its wall paintings. The Amheida Project has an excellent track record of cooperation with several universities and organizations, both local and international. The excavation project is also deeply committed to fostering collaboration with stakeholders in Egypt, such as training Egyptian Antiquities’ inspectors and actively involving local communities through work opportunities and education projects. This project imminently fills Mark Weil’s vision of supporting the faculty’s international scholarly collaborations.


Dr. Roger Bagnell, Dr. Nicola Aravecchia, and WUSTL Graduate Student Harper Tooch at Amheida in January, 2023

Elizabeth Childs, Etta and Mark Steinberg Professor of Art History and Chair, received a grant in support of her new seminar, “Cahokia to Contemporary: Native Arts, past(s) and future,” offered in the spring of 2023. This is an interdisciplinary seminar that serves both graduate students and undergraduates. The course takes special advantage of the indigenous Mississippian sites in the Saint Louis area, as well as substantial collections of historical and contemporary Native art at local museums such as the Kemper Art Museum, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. The grant funds provide the opportunity to bring in specialized speakers who offer the course their expertise on such matters as Mississippian culture, NAGPRA (the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990), and Native communities’ current artistic expressions. The course benefits from an abundance of local exhibitions this spring that feature Native American work, including the work of Faye HeavyShield at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation, the show Action/Abstraction redefined: Modern Native Art 1940s to 1970s, at the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the 2023 CounterPublic, a civic triennial exhibition of contemporary art ( Moreover, members of the class are conducting research on Kemper Art Museum collections (their work will eventually be posted on the museum website). In April, the class takes a field trip to Washington DC to study the National Museum of the American Indian. This course complements a larger effort by the STLr City/Indigenous St Louis Working Group (in which Prof. Childs is a Working Group member), part of the Divided City initiative of the Humanities Center, in a cross-institutional effort to explore the relationship of local indigenous communities to contemporary St Louis. Follow-up research, courses, and a conference (cosponsored by various groups, including AHA, AMCS and the Buder Center for American Indian Studies of the Brown School) are envisioned outcomes from this course in coming years.

Students in "Cahokia to Contemporary" viewing objects in the Kemper Museum Collections


Claudia Swan, Mark S. Weil Professor of Art History, received support for a project that involves teaching, research and a public-facing workshop in summer 2023 and AY2024. Entitled “For the Love of Art: Early Modern Prints and Drawings and the History of Connoisseurship,” the project takes special advantage of the remarkable collection of Early Modern prints donated by Mark S. Weil and Phoebe Dent Weil to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Prof. Swan will offer a seminar in fall 2023 that devotes special study to the print collections at SLAM. Students will meet frequently at the museum with Prof. Swan and Curator Dr. Elizabeth Wyckoff to study the Mark S. Weil and Phoebe Dent Weil collection of prints.  Prof. Swan will also use the funds to sponsor several summer research positions, to help digitize the gift of the Mark S. Weil and Phoebe Dent Weil collection to SLAM. In AY2024,  she will organize a workshop, open to both a campus and public audience, with visiting scholars who will consider the history of Early Modern connoisseurship.

Christ Preaching (The Hundred Guilder Print), Rembrandt Van Rijn (prints donated by Mark S. Weil and Phoebe Dent Weil to the Saint Louis Art Museum)

Betha Whitlow, Lecturer and Curator of Visual Resources, has initiated a series of workshops featuring issues important to our students and faculty. She is sponsoring these as programs under the umbrella of the Digital Art History Lab (the DAHL), an initiative that she has shepherded to great success in the last two years. Betha’s grant supports three workshops on digital resources and art history publishing in the spring 2023. These workshops are:

*”Copyright and Fair Use of Images,” by Anne Young, Director of Legal affairs and Intellectual Property, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, on March 3, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m..

*”DIY Rights and Reproductions,” by Hannah Wier, Research Assistant, Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Saint Louis Art Museum and Assistant, Digital Art History Lab, Washington U. (and an MA alumna of the Department,) on March 28 from 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

*”Academic Publishing,” with Archna Patel, Acquisitions Editor at Penn State University Press, and Michelle Komie, Publisher for Art, Archaeology and Urban History at Princeton University Press, April 28, 2 – 3:30 p.m.

A link to the most recent Newsletter for the DAHL may be found here.

Clockwise from upper left: Hannah Wier, Anne Young, Archna Patel, Michelle Komie

Stay tuned later this spring and early summer to learn what the next round of grant opportunities with the Weil/Hall Endowment will offer the Department, and the study of art history and archaeology in St Louis and beyond.