Professor teaches passion, social importance of art history

Visiting assistant professor in the art history department Alla Myzelev is known for her fervor for the study of art history and exultation for her opportunity to have a positive impact on the Geneseo student body. With experience living in various countries, her extensive and intercultural educational background only supplements her already astounding reservoir of knowledge and insight.

Born in Ukraine, Myzelev’s first language is Russian, yet she speaks English fluently and eloquently. She can also speak Hebrew and “can get by in French.” With a Ph.D. in art history and visual studies, her passion for art history is apparent in her excitement when discussing the subject. “Once I started studying art history as an undergrad, I never stopped needing to be a part of it,” Myzelev said.

After leaving Ukraine to study in Israel, she found herself surrounded by daily experiences of the influence of visual art. “I loved Israel. One of the best parts was that I was in Jerusalem and I lived in one part of the city and the university was in the opposite side,” Myzelev said. “Every day, I would go through the Jewish part of the town, then the Arab part of the town, then the Old Jewish part, then the Old Arab part and finally the contemporary structural area part that was the university.”

Myzelev currently lives in Toronto. She commutes to Geneseo for three or four days per week—she has her own place in town in which she resides. In Toronto, she is active in the arts scene and most of her research is based there. She explained that the contrast between the large downtown area of her home and the more serene Geneseo environment is a healthy change in the routine of hectic living every week.

“I love it in Geneseo because it gives me a go-away from my everyday life,” Myzelev said. “I come here and concentrate on work only. It creates a great head space for me.”

Her 11-year-old son who normally just lives in Toronto occasionally joins Myzelev on her trips to Geneseo. She noted that she is fond of their time together here and the two enjoy excursions throughout the surrounding area to destinations such as Conesus Lake.

Myzelev admitted that she frequently raves about her students’ hard work and critical thinking. She emphasized that these students are the main answer whenever asked about what she loves about Geneseo or why she makes the long 3-hour-each-way commute weekly.

Myzelev’s love and appreciation for art history stems largely from the crucial role that she believes it plays in society. “To me, art history is a language. It’s a visual language,” she said. “The way I teach art, I don’t only teach Picasso and big names. I look at visual consciousness and how it effects our perception of the world. I see art history as a visual literacy—you read the images as well as the messages behind the images.”

A major contribution to Geneseo that Myzelev has endeavored upon is the implementation of the new museum studies minor in the art history department. She has experience curating museum exhibitions and working in various museums and galleries, so she emphasized that she is ecstatic to have the opportunity to use her experience to expand the possible areas of specialized study for Geneseo students.

In addition to the gusto with which Myzelev regards art history and visual studies, her dedication to her role as an educator is something to cherish. She welcomes student discussion and works with vigor to impart as much of her knowledge about the topic as possible.

“The history in art history study is wonderful, but it’s about more than just the past,” Myzelev said. “Being able to actually have a critical approach to the messages around us every day and what they’re supposed to make us think is incredibly important.”