The Catholic University of America

Nora Conley

An Art Grad Follows Her Dream

Anne Schrandt took her first art history class in high school and that began her love of studying art. Then during the summer before her senior year, she visited the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis with her family and was fascinated by an exhibit on art conservation.

“The exhibit introduced me to a subset of art that had everything. It was hands-on, and it included humanities, science, research, theory, and technology,” says Schrandt.

That made her requirements for a college arts program very specific. “The Department of Art at CUA appealed to me for so many reasons. Washington, D.C., has some of the best museums in the world,” she says. “And the department is so small and personal. I knew I would get individualized attention.”

Schrandt graduated from CUA in May with a B.A. in art history. Now looking back on her four years as an art student, Schrandt, who was a Cardinal Ambassador, Orientation advisor, and Tower student newspaper copy editor, says, “It was fantastic, the chair of the department was my advisor, and there were only three of us in our senior seminar.

“Dr. [Nora] Heimann (chair of the art department and associate professor of art history) helped us make important contacts in the D.C. arts community, and that no doubt played a big role in landing me two post-graduation internships in art conservation.”

This fall, Schrandt began work as an art conservation intern at the Lunder Conservation Center — a highly competitive and coveted position — within the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“Throughout my college years, the American Art Museum was my favorite museum in D.C. I love its collections, but I especially loved seeing the conservators at work,” says Schrandt.

The Lunder Conservation Center gives visitors the opportunity to see conservators at work in their laboratories and studios. The center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that allow the public to view all aspects of conservation work. Typically conservation work is done behind the scenes at other museums and conservation centers.

“Now I can’t believe I get to be one of the conservators in the fishbowl,” says Schrandt, who also works one day a week at a conservation internship at the Phillips Collection.

Her non-paid internships are a necessity for application to one of only three master’s programs in art conservation in the United States.
“It’s very competitive. You need a minimum of 400 internship hours, but most applicants spend two years at their internships and log hours in the thousands. I hope to complete my internships in two years with at least 2,500 hours,” explains Schrandt.

She compensates for her unpaid internships by working three long restaurant shifts on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. She has her sights set on the master’s program at the University of Delaware, in her home state.

“The internship at the Lunder Conservation Center is highly competitive, prestigious, and vitally necessary to her goal of completing graduate school to fulfill her dream of a career in art conservation,” says Heimann.

“To aspire to this career you need passion, skill, talent, and drive — all of which Annie has. It takes grueling years of organic and inorganic chemistry, physics, art history, and studio art to attain the manual dexterity and mental acuity needed to clean, conserve, and restore works of art,” Heimann explains.

Through her internship at the Phillips Collection, Schrandt is currently involved in a high-profile project, digitizing images from the Luncheon of the Boating Party (1880 – 1881) by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

She has scanned 30 panels of X-rayed images of the iconic painting, and after each image is scanned she stitched them together. She also performed infrared photography of the piece. “This allows the art historian to learn more about the process of how the piece was painted,” says Schrandt.

It can be tedious work, she admits. “I might move a panel up three pixels and down five pixels and then do that 400 more times before each brush stroke lines up. But it is enormously satisfying to see the project come together and to assist in learning more about this important work.”

Through the X-ray and infrared images, Schrandt says, the conservation team could determine that an awning at the top of the painting was added after its completion. And a woman at the far left of the painting was originally facing outward.

“Renoir changed that and brought her into the painting, engaging her in the party. There are letters from Renoir that indicate she was modeled after a woman he was having a relationship with. So it does make us wonder about the motive. But art historians have to be very careful about making inferences about an artist’s work,” she says.

“The work on the Luncheon of the Boating Party has been a privilege. It has such a history. And it means so much to so many people. It is endlessly fascinating to study it brushstroke by brushstroke,” says Schrandt. “Each day at my internships brings the joy and wonder of discovery.”

 The above photo of Anne Schrandt was taken at the Lunder Conservation Center by Allison Rabent.

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Anne Schrandt

Hometown: Wilmington, Del.

Degree: B.A. 2014

Major: Art History

Favorite course: Neoclassicism and Romanticism (Art History)

Favorite place on campus:  The Mullen Library "It's a nice place to study and lose yourself in the stacks."

Unexpected hobby: Ultimate Frisbee “I’m not the most athletic person. But I joined CUA’s team on a whim. It’s a surprising amount of running and a lot of fun.”
What she's reading: Twelve Days: The Story of the 1965 Hungarian Revolution. "It's heart wrenching."
Career advice: "Talk to people who have taken the path you are interested in. Ask them how they achieved their goals."