Chen Gao: The First WKU Student Receives Offer From the Best UK University for Art History! Life with No Limits

It is the principle of WKU to “provide students with different ways of development”. Chen Gao, an English major senior, is one of the best embodiments of the value.

With a GPA of 3.96, Gao is a minor in Art History, an editor of the journal of the English department, and a lecture translator for the Wenzhou Museum. On the verge of graduation season, Gao has already had her educational path clearly mapped out – Art History. Not long ago, as an English major, she received two significant offers from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, the top-ranked Art History program in the UK, and the University College Dublin, which is famous for its instruction in Art History.

Integrating East and West with a Single Discipline

In her four years at the university, Gao has never put limits on herself. For her, passion was the primary motivation that pushed her out of her “comfort zone”. In the first semester of her sophomore year, she was drawn to Art and Art History after taking an English elective course called “Modernity”. Professor Nikita Nankov guided the students to explore various subjects such as art, literature, society, and philosophy. From Chinese urban construction and Russian art achievements to Bauhaus philosophy and the modernist poet Baudelaire, they were all knowledge novel to Gao. She was both nervous and excited about the novelty and soon devoted herself to her Art History minor.

In January 2021, Gao was introduced to the Dunhuang Heritage Study Program, sponsored by the Dunhuang Academy of Painting Cultural and Creative Center, and explored Dunhuang with renowned scholars from home and abroad. Inspired by the Art History classes she had taken in school, she soon discovered the “Chinese” and “global” characteristics of Dunhuang art and began to explore the commonalities between Dunhuang art and ancient Greek, Roman and Buddhist art.

“Chinese and Western art are never two separate entities. From the moment I studied Art History, I have decided to take a Chinese perspective to understand the West and vice versa, and find new universal values in all kinds of art,” said Gao. At the end of the study, her dissertation on the fusion of Western and Chinese art was well received by experts, and Gao received the program’s “Outstanding Researcher 2021” award and a letter of recommendation from the Dunhuang Academy of Painting.

In addition to her studies, Gao and her friends founded the WKU Art History Club “Xian”, which introduces art and Art History to students and faculty across campus. “Art History is a box full of surprises,” Gao commented, “and I hope more people could enjoy the process of unpacking the surprises with us.”

Giving Back to the Community with What She Has Learned

Like many WKUers, Gao is passionate about experiencing the world and taking responsibility. Over the past four years, she has been active in various areas on and off campus, utilizing her knowledge to give back to the school and society.

As the president of the club of Art History, she strives to break the stereotypes of Art History as “obscure” or “highbrow”. Every month, the club would organize a targeted art event. At the end of last year, the club co-hosted a “Cafe and Impressionist” design competition and exhibition series with the school cafe “Social Dog”. The Art History Club is now collaborating with the WKU Student Media and Design Center and the Wenzhou Museum to explore more possibilities.

Being a volunteer has also been an excellent way for Gao to expand her knowledge. After studying Art History, she became a frequent visitor of the Wenzhou Museum, the Chen Tianlong Art Museum on the WKU campus, and other galleries, playing to her advantage and translating artwork descriptions to help promote art and find her own value.

Heart to Heart. Making the Most of Every Lecture

“I believe you will shine wherever you go.” These are the words Gao has heard the most from the professors.

In her opinion, her professors have always been patient in answering her questions and have always supported her wild imagination. They are her guides in her studies and the life mentors she is most grateful. The professors had even become her “brain trust” when she was applying to graduate schools.

From an Art History novice to a prospective student of the number one Art History institution in the UK, Gao has finally found her direction in life. She hopes to become a bridge-builder in the future, spreading the awareness of art and aesthetics in people’s lives.