Meet Tyler Crafton: Merging art and history

Photo by Tim Goldman

By Lauren Highfill

To Tyler Crafton, there’s more to studying history than just memorizing facts. “My whole philosophy of history is that you need to look at the art as well. It’s another way of understanding what you’re studying.”

For his honors thesis project, this senior interdisciplinary studies major is combining one of his favorite historical eras, English Tudors, with his interest in art. “I’m looking at the political symbolism of dress in the portraits of Queen Elizabeth—studying the differences in how she was dressed during times of war compared to times of peace,” he said. “I’m really excited about the fact that I can apply art to the study of history with this project.”

A big part of making connections between history and art for Tyler comes from studying abroad. While attending KSU, he’s studied abroad in Germany, England, Belize and Guatemala. “These trips give you an opportunity to see and experience things for yourself that you may only read about in a traditional classroom setting,” said Tyler.

A study abroad trip was influential in Tyler’s decision to study two subjects: history and art history. While studying in Germany as a sophomore, Tyler sat in on an art history course. “It was such a great experience that I wanted to continue to learn about it.”

After coming back to the United States, he signed up for his first art history course with Assistant Professor of Art Jessica Stephenson, whom he has continued to work with. "Tyler has a genuine passion for inquiry," said Stephenson. "He's also creative and critical in his thinking, and loves to stretch or challenge himself by trying out new avenues of study and work."

Stephenson was instrumental in helping Tyler secure his current internship at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University. With this internship, Tyler is able to learn more about his other favorite era in art history, ancient American art. At the museum, “I’m working with the curator of the Ancient American Collection,” explained Tyler, “helping with that collection and assisting the curator with her new book.”

Tyler’s current pursuits and his deep appreciation for history and art history play into his goals for the future. Although he doesn’t know for sure which of his favorite periods of art he will choose to study in graduate school, Tyler said, “If I continue with ancient American art, I’d probably like to do some field work down in ancient Peru.” Whichever form of art history Tyler specializes in, he knows he wants “to work in a museum and later on teach in a university some day.”


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