K. Bevin Butler
2010, B.A., Art History and 2012, M.A., Art History
2021, Ph.D., Art History, Theory & Criticism, Arizona State University, Tempe, Ariz.
Assistant Professor of Art History at Tennessee Tech University, Cookeville, Tenn.
Butler's research interrogates the historical associations of textiles with femininity, the historiography about nuns’ contributions to the arts in the Middle Ages, and how embroideries and tapestries produced by nuns subverted traditional church hierarchies. She is often interested in issues of gender and feminism, hagiography, and historiography — medieval and modern. As the sole art history professor at Tennesse Tech, Butler teaches courses ranging from large sections of the Gen-Ed Art Appreciation to upper-level History of Printmaking, Medieval Art History, and History of Craft & Design.
Has there been a defining moment in your professional career or a particular moment in your career that meaningfully altered your trajectory?
I participated in an Art History Study Abroad opportunity in the summer of 2009 (the summer before my senior year in undergrad) in London and Paris with Dr. Mickey Abel and Dr. Denise Baxter. In addition to forming and strengthening lifelong friendships with my peers, I was inspired by my travels and experiences with Dr. Abel to continue with graduate studies in Medieval Art History and pursue a career as a college professor. Initially, I planned on working in museums or galleries, but that trip changed my mind completely!
What aspects of art do you feel are the most important to communicate to audiences you engage with?
I encourage students in my classes (both art majors and students taking the general education art appreciation course) to be open-minded when they encounter art that they don't understand or art that promotes a message they don't agree with. Leading with empathy and a willingness to learn will culminate in a greater understanding of the work and the artist. I always tell my students that they do not ever have to like any particular artwork or artist in my classes, but they do have to work to understand why the work matters and what about it is or was historically significant.
Image: Butler standing next to a carpet at the Museum für Kunst and Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany, named an Osterteppich ('Easter carpet') that has been dated to AD 1504 and was apparently made at Kloster Lüne, Lünburg, Germany. It measures 14.76' x 13.77', is made of linen and wool, and is embroidered with the Kloster stitch.