Angeline Leonard

Arts and Materials Conservation (BA) '21, Art History (BA) '21

What would you say has been the most surprising thing you learned at Columbia?   

The interdependency of skills. For my degrees in art conservation and art history, I did not realize how many seemingly, unrelated subjects tend to work together. To begin, I was not prepared for the level of chemistry needed for conservation which I now know is a common misconception about the field. I have since acclimated to this and realized I comprehend chemistry far better than what I gave myself credit for. Some conservators will say a background in the fine arts is unnecessary, but other conservators argue for artistic training, in learning to copy the techniques of old masters. I found my background in the fine arts prepared me for the comprehension of media and even some technical skills.   

As I gained hands on experience, it became apparent that art history is often used in conjunction with conservation to better understand the materials, causes behind an object’s poor condition, artistic techniques, and artists. With art history, my writing skills, thus, had to improve, as well. I still think the arts, history, writing, and science are an odd mix, but a necessary one, and telling of the myriad of skills other fellow graduates must have accumulated in their time at Columbia.    

What experiences or courses at Columbia do you feel have been most beneficial?  

My time studying abroad in Florence, Italy was by far the most beneficial experience I had at Columbia. I spent a year in Italy gaining hands on experience where I studied painting, wood/polychrome sculpture, and fresco conservation/restoration. I also learned how to create and paint traditional frescoes and tempera paintings, from making all my own materials, like the plaster for a fresco, to constructing the gessoed, wooden panel for a tempera painting. I interacted with objects I never thought I would be able to touch, let alone be given the privilege to work on. My development of technical and artistic skills and knowledge in chemistry flourished under the hands of professionals and became my first true step towards calling myself an art conservator. Additionally, living in another country and taking time to travel opened my eyes to different cultures, traditions, and people.   

What are your plans for after graduation?  

currently intern at Parma Conservation, a painting and mural conservation company located in Chicago. After graduation, I would like to continue studying painting conservation and find opportunities to supplement my resume with further curatorial experience. I am looking to apply to graduate school in the fall for art conservation with a focus in either wood or objects restoration. Ideally, I see myself pursuing a higher degree in art history or archaeology, as well.   

Do you have any advice for current students?  

If it scares you, that probably means you should do it. There are many opportunities I was afforded during my college years that I would not have done if I let fear and anxiety stop me, and they have since been some of the best experiences of my life, whether that be in travelling or job experience.   

Reach out to people – network yourself. Even if no one gets back to you, at least you put yourself out there and opened a door for new opportunities. Eventually, there will be one person willing to talk or work with you that might give you quality insights into your chosen career.

If you were going to sum up your experience at Columbia in one sentence, what would you say?  

I felt free to explore my love of the artistic world amongst individuals who share the same passion.