Encountering art across America

The Met in New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo credit: Hugo Schneider.

Supported by a new scholarship in the art history department, art history major Tony Miller was recently given the opportunity to take a trip centered on examining modern and historical American art. Miller was able to create and follow a personalized travel itinerary packed with museum visits, behind-the-scenes events, and conversations with curators.
“It really did feel like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says.
Studying art history wasn’t always the obvious path for Miller—it was actually a high school English course that sparked his love of visual art.
“We learned about the modernist movement, and we touched briefly on the art of that movement,” says Miller. “I specifically remember really connecting with Guernica by Pablo Picasso. That's kind of where it all started for me.”
Miller also began refining his own artistic talent during his first year at the University of Minnesota. Before college, he felt he didn’t possess the skills necessary to succeed in or enjoy art class. This changed when he found his niche and started exploring the art of collaging. Miller estimates that he has made over 100 artworks since then.

With his budding passion for visual arts, Miller kept looking for opportunities to grow as a student, an artist, and a person. This motivation (and a little bit of good luck) led to the travel scholarship application and, ultimately, his three-week-long art excursion across the country.
Before setting out on the trip, Miller worked with Jennifer Marshall—chair of the art history department and Miller’s advisor—to create the perfect travel plan. Marshall proposed Miller first fly to New York City to catch the end of the “Winslow Homer: Crosscurrents” exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).
In New York, he would also meet with artists and curators, attend concerts, and get a close-up look at the workings of some of the most influential museums in the world.
At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Miller was able to chat with curator Esther Adler and had a unique experience viewing some of the art. “I got to hang out a bit [at the museum] before it opened to the public,” he says.
One of the busiest tourist spots in the city, entering MoMA early was a significant moment for him. “I got to be [alone] in a room with Starry Night by Van Gogh,” Miller recalls.
He continued his journey by taking the Amtrak to cities like Philadelphia and Washington DC. Then, he flew home to Minneapolis for a few days before driving across the Great Lakes Region. Most of the places he went were completely new to Miller, who hadn’t had many chances to travel before this trip.
“[This] was an experience that taught me a lot about viewing and understanding art as a material object, not just as a thing that exists in printed form or digital reproduction,” says Miller. “What I was able to learn and encounter, and the perspectives of those I met along the way… I will certainly never forget.”
This story was adapted from the College of Liberal Arts, where you can read a Q&A with Tony Miller and learn more about his journey.