Senior Spotlight, Kayla Bobb ’23: Art History “Opened Up Something That Was a Little Bit Buried In Me”
Kayla Bobb ’23 always envisioned being a sociology major when they got to Wellesley, but then by chance they landed in an introductory art history class with Nikki A Greene, associate professor of art. In it, they immediately found a space that combined their interest in social justice and art, which would shape their Wellesley experience.
“It just kind of opened up something that was a little bit buried in me,” Bobb said. “I had grown up with my mom taking me to both history and art museums. I realized that art history could really be something I could make into a career, while also being something I’m really passionate about.”
As an art history major and women’s and gender studies minor, Bobb cultivated an interest in museum studies through a summer curatorial internship before their junior year at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They reflected on how certain elements of museums, such as the architecture of the building and the placement or prioritization of certain cultures, create an invisible barrier that affects how the general public engages with art.
My favorite genre of memories are ones that are unexpected. The really amazing talks or hangs that happen late at night are the small moments I’ve had with people here which have been the most impactful.Kayla Bobb ’23
“What is interesting to me about art history is the fact that everyone can talk about art, but we don’t feel like just anyone should talk about art,” Bobb said. “Everyone should be able to find a little piece of themselves within the collection. If [a work of art depicts] someone who looks like you, or just finding little things in whatever you’re seeing that you can connect with. That’s what ties me to museum education, because it feels like such a direct way to know what a community might be interested in, and also to be in a position to make that happen. So it feels like it’s acting on more of like a micro and a macro level, which is what I’ve always wanted to do.”
Bobb’s experiences at Wellesley have also included studying abroad in Greece, interning at the Davis Museum, and participating in the Murals, Archives, Research, and Collaborative History (MARCH) program created by art historian Alvia Wardlaw ’69, and the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program.
As a Mellon Mays Fellow, they research gender queerness in masquerade costuming in the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Bobb’s family is from Trinidad, and they wanted to learn more about aspects of their culture. They shared that through the fellowship they learned research and presenting skills, which they hope to use as an educator in the future.
“As a queer person, I wanted to learn and ask where people who don’t identify as cis women or cis men fall into Carnival,” they said. “There is still a lot of homophobia and transphobia in the country, and I wanted to find pockets where queer people exist. It’s just incredible to have an assertion of queer space in Carnival. Carnival is and has always been queer, and I think [that] gets lost when it comes to commercialization and tourism. This is something that’s very vital to sort of like its inception.”
Outside of academics, Bobb is a member of El Table and Tau Zeta Epsilon, which have been important outlets for building community on campus, they said. Bobb is sad to leave Wellesley, but takes with them many fond memories of their time on campus.
“My favorite genre of memories are ones that are unexpected,” they said. “The really amazing talks or hangs that happen late at night are the small moments I’ve had with people here which have been the most impactful. When you are outside smelling the air, and it’s so clean and fresh and you’re just with people that you love. It can be a very insignificant moment, but I think those sorts of slow-down moments in this landscape have been my favorite times here.”
After commencement, Bobb is excited to do some soul-searching and learn about themself outside of an academic context. Later they hope to pursue a Ph.D. in art history or Africana studies.