Illuminating Alumni: Fulbright Scholar, Kerry Greaves

Here at DIS, we constantly hear stories of alumni going on to do hugely interesting and exciting things in their lives. From time to time, one lands right back on our doorstep.

KGThis happened earlier this semester when Kerry Greaves – a former Architecture student at DIS – arrived back in Denmark on a Fulbright scholarship, an American-Scandinavian Foundation dissertation research grant, and a Roth Endowment award. We caught up with Kerry to find out about her academic research and what’s it is like returning to Scandinavia.

DIS: Hi Kerry, welcome back to Copenhagen! Maybe you can start by telling us a little about what brings you here this time around….

Kerry Greaves: I am currently writing my dissertation and hope to obtain my doctorate next year. I have been fortunate to receive Fulbright and American-Scandinavian Foundation dissertation research grants, along with a Roth Endowment award to Denmark to finish researching my doctoral dissertation during the 2013-2014 academic year. I am based at the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen and will be undertaking research at various museums and archives throughout Denmark.

DIS: So, what’s the Danish connection?

KG: My dissertation deals with an activist artists’ group in Copenhagen during World War II, Helhesten (The Hell-Horse). Helhesten practiced avant-garde aesthetic strategies and undertook socio-political critique as forms of resistance during the German occupation of Denmark. Underlying my research is the argument that this group of thoroughly Danish artists had a profound international impact on the later avant-garde such as the group CoBrA, among others, after the war.

DIS: Was your time at DIS an influence on your academic journey and your decision to return to Copenhagen?

KG: When I first came to DIS I was majoring in architecture and was part of the architecture program. I remember many long nights before crits and lots of amazing projects created by my fellow students and witnessed on eye-opening study tours to Germany, Southern Denmark, and Stockholm. But I had always been interested in art history, and after taking a Scandinavian art history course at DIS, I completely changed my academic focus. Put simply, I fell in love with Danish art and there was no other choice for me after that. From that point on my academic and personal life changed dramatically.

DIS: Pretty significant, then!

KG: It is no exaggeration to say that DIS changed my life. My host family became a real family to me, and we continue to be part of each other’s major life moments in both the U.S. and Denmark to this day. I met wonderful, close friends – Danish and American – and living in Copenhagen and traveling around Europe transformed my view of the world. I became an adult, and I truly experienced for the first time how others in this world live. My understanding of the world expanded beyond anything that could have been taught in a classroom, and I developed a lifelong passion for travel. My journey as to becoming an academic scholar of Danish art history was born of and began with DIS.

I always tell my students to take a semester or year abroad, if they can. And DIS is always my first suggestion. The use of faculty who are professionals in their respective fields, and the experience DIS has in helping foreign students navigate this seemingly familiar yet also very different nation is second to none. Trust me – it will change your life for the better.

DIS: Is Copenhagen still the city you remember?

KG: This is indeed the city I remember, but there are also many differences. It is thrilling to see Copenhagen’s increased diversity–from types of people walking the streets and new architecture, to the use of the web and cutting-edge research–inflect the Danes’ time-honored traditions and cultural heritage

DIS: What was your highlight of your time at DIS?

KG: It is impossible to name just one: riding my bike over cobblestones every day, celebrating my 21st birthday with what seemed like hundreds of dannebrog (Danish flags), and coming back as a DIS front desk assistant after graduating. With that job no doubt planning parties and acting as the unofficial DIS bartender were the best duties. During my time as an assistant I also volunteered at the royal palace museum at Amalienborg and met the entire royal family at the opening of an installation I worked on. That was pretty wonderful. And no one does New Year’s Eve better than the Danes. But what I remember most is the people I experienced here – the warmth and enthusiasm I received as a student, assistant, and later alumna have been what I have cherished most.


Kerry Greaves is Ph.D. Candidate at the Department of Art History, The Graduate Center, The City University of New York. She graduated with a BA with Honors from Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY), an MA from the Courtauld Institute, University of London (UK), and an MPhil from the City University of New York Graduate Center (New York, NY). She currently teaches undergraduate art history courses in various New York City colleges studying for her doctorate.
Kerry studied Architecture and European Humanities at DIS in fall 1996 and spring 1997.

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