A Contagious Enthusiasm

Nina Corazzo, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Art
Walter E. Bauer Endowed Chair of History

They say laughter is the best medicine. To Associate Professor of Art Nina Corazzo, Ph.D., it’s also the best instruction.

Professor Corazzo, whose courses cover the history of art from prehistoric times to the 20th century, helps her students find the joy in art history. For every art work she shows, she also tries to find a parody image — say, a Picasso painting adapted to feature the cartoon character Miss Piggy.

“Everyone likes to laugh — at me, at themselves, at the artwork,” she says. “It’s a good way to spend part of the class.”

Professor Corazzo says that the comedy breaks down barriers between students and the art and between the students themselves. Many of Professor Corazzo’s students are from outside of the United States, and she says that the course is accessible to all.

“Art really communicates across all kinds of boundaries, whether that’s race, country, career aspirations, or philosophical systems,” she says. “The Mona Lisa speaks to everyone in individual ways, but there are similarities. Those similarities forge a bond of understanding between people from very different backgrounds.”

Professor Corazzo uses the levity in her classroom to create an open dialogue with all of the students: ‘What does this artwork say to you?’ ‘How do you think this reflects the culture and values of the artist?’

Whether students are majoring in engineering, nursing, or fine art, Professor Corazzo encourages them to join in the conversation.

“Her passion for the arts is contagious,” says Aubree Zdanovec ’14, one of Professor Corazzo’s former students. “Since she is so welcoming and outgoing, no one is shy in her classes. Everyone participates in the discussion. She makes learning fun.”

Though Professor Corazzo has fun, her work has serious consequences. Aubree is now pursuing her master’s in art history with an emphasis in 19th-century European art, a path she says she wouldn’t have taken without Professor Corazzo’s guidance.

“Nina Corazzo will always be a hero in my life and a role model,” she says.

Other alumni still send Professor Corazzo photos of art parodies, hoping that they will be added to her memorable art history slideshows.

To Professor Corazzo, this correspondence is a sign that her strategy is working: her former students are still looking at art, and they are still laughing.