Join CLAS in celebrating LACS undergraduate major Amanda Chacón’s selection as a Beinecke Scholar! The Beinecke Scholarship is a highly competitive national scholarship that supports students with demonstrated academic excellence and potential to succeed in graduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The University of Chicago may select a promising third-year student each year to compete at the national level, and we are thrilled that Amanda has earned a place among the 17 students from across the United States to receive the award.  

Amanda, congratulations on the Beinecke award! What a remarkable accomplishment. We’d like to hear a bit more about you and how you got to this point.  

Thank you so much! I am a third-year student that is majoring in Anthropology, Art History, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies (LACS). When the Center for College Research and Fellowships (CCRF) asked professors which of their students might be a good fit for the Beinecke, I was lucky enough that two of my LACS professors recommended me. From that point, recommended students apply and three faculty must write on their behalf. I was chosen as the UChicago candidate, and from then on I was hard at work with CCRF (in particular Dr. Arthur Salvo and Caitlin Miller): throughout January and February I submitted a new draft every week! It was an intense experience, but I learned an entirely new writing style for applications and proposals that will definitely be helpful in the future.

Tell us a little bit about yourself (anything you want to share—where you’re from, something few people know about you…)  

I live in Raleigh, North Carolina, but I was originally born in Pembroke Pines, Florida. My parents are from Venezuela and Argentina, so my sister and I were never deprived of good music and good food! I like to think that reflections on art are at least in part reflections on oneself, so my academic work in Latin American art history is in a way incredibly personal and an expression of my identity.

What motivated you to become a LACS Major?

I think I was always going to focus on Latin American art, but I didn’t consider LACS until taking the class Art and the Archive in Greater Latin America in Fall 2021 with Professor Diana Schwartz Francisco. I appreciated the environment that the class provided, and speaking with Professor Schwartz Francisco in and out of class allowed me to narrow in on LACS as the intersection point between my Art History and Anthropology majors.  

How has studying Latin America and the Caribbean at UChicago impacted your intellectual, professional, and personal journey to this point?

Studying LACS at UChicago has had a great impact on my growth as a student and a professional. Some of the most helpful professors I have met and consequently worked with I have met through meetings in the Center for Latin American Studies or LACS classes. Something personal that LACS classes have provided is a new way to look at my family history. The majority of my knowledge on Latin America and its history had been framed by stories told by my parents, so to be able to understand the political, economic, and social environments that they and their families grew up in has been incredibly enriching.

Tell us a little bit about the project you proposed for the Beinecke Scholarship. What specific course(s), or experience(s), led you to that path?

My proposed project for the Beinecke Scholarship is about an artistic movement in Ecuador during the second half of the twentieth century, headed by Estuardo Maldonado, Aníbal Villacís, and Enrique Tábara, that focused on utilizing Pre-Columbian imagery with abstraction. My interest in this movement was kickstarted by my Collections Internship at the Smart Museum of Art (under the auspices of the CCRF’s College Summer Institute). My mentor, Berit Ness, Associate Director and Curator of Academic Engagement at the Smart, directed certain artworks in the museum’s collection towards me to research based on my area of study. One such work was Personaggio (1963) by Estuardo Maldonado, and I was instantly intrigued by it. In fact, I was so interested in this work that I applied for the Smart Scholars Research Program in Fall 2022 to specifically study this work in-depth. This work is representative of Maldonado’s “Pre-Columbian Period,” a time between the 1950s and 70s where he began to use abstraction to reference specific Pre-Columbian forms, such as figurines from the Ecuadorian Valdivia culture. I proposed to use my Beinecke to study the larger movement of interest in Pre-Columbian forms with abstraction in Ecuador, because I believe this reflected a new form of contemplation on Indigenous identity within the country’s history.

Amanda will be giving a talk about her work on Maldonado’s Personaggio as a Smart Scholar on Wednesday, April 19 at 4:00 pm at the Smart Museum.  RSVP here!