Notre Dame senior Margaret “Meg” Burns, an art history major from San Antonio, Texas, has been awarded a 2021–22 Luce Scholarship.
Launched by the Henry Luce Foundation in 1974, the Luce Scholars Program is a nationally competitive fellowship program awarded annually to 15 to 18 graduating seniors and young alumni nationwide.
The scholarship provides a stipend, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia, with a goal of enhancing the understanding of Asia among potential leaders of American society.
Burns is Notre Dame’s 10th Luce Scholar in total and its third since 2014.
In applying for the scholarship, she worked closely with the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, which promotes the intellectual development of Notre Dame undergraduates through scholarly engagement, research, creative endeavors, and the pursuit of fellowships.
“Meg’s leadership in and dedication to the field of culturally sensitive curation shined through every step of this process, including a campus reading committee, a national reading committee and two separate interview processes,” said Elise Rudt, national fellowships senior program manager. “I look forward to seeing the wonderful work that she will do in the future as she hopes to use art to connect and uplift communities."
“Art is deeply tied to the society in which it is created — the history, politics, economics, people, and environment — and museums are in a unique position to present engaging and bold ways of experiencing the past and rethinking our present. It is my enthusiasm for culturally sustaining research and storytelling that drives me.”
Burns plans to pursue a career as a museum curator in the field of modern and contemporary art and will spend her fellowship year engaging with artists, curators, collectors, and art spaces in Asia.
“The contemporary art scene in Asia is incredibly expansive, diverse, and fast-growing,” she said. “I was looking for opportunities to work abroad and have an immersive cultural experience while remaining in the art world — and the Luce Scholars Program is a perfect fit. My experiences so far have been very Western-focused, and this opportunity will supplement my learning and better prepare me to enter the global art world.”
A Glynn Family Honors Scholar, Burns has focused her studies and research in the College of Arts & Letters on the intersections of art, race, and politics.
“The College’s emphasis on interdisciplinarity has been essential to my success thus far,” Burns said. “My A&L classes have given me a broad base of knowledge in the humanities and strengthened my ability to understand art within the circumstances of its creation.”
She completed a senior thesis on Theaster Gates, a contemporary artist and urban planner who rehabilitates abandoned properties on Chicago’s South Side, creating community spaces for gathering, living, and making, as well as salvaging raw materials for his sculptural work.
With funding from the Glynn program, Burns also conducted independent research in Dublin at the Hugh Lane Gallery, where she studied illustrator and installation artist Mark Dion before beginning her study abroad program in Ireland in fall 2019.
On campus, Burns has served as a dorm liaison for ND Votes and is president of the Art History Club, where she has spearheaded events providing career advancement resources for students interested in the art world.
At Notre Dame’s Snite Museum of Art, she joined the Student Programming Committee her first year and began planning events to engage her peers with the museum’s collections. In 2019, she also began to work with David Acton, the Snite Museum’s Milly and Fritz Kaeser Curator of Photography, as a curatorial research assistant.
Her experiences at the Snite inspired her to further explore curatorial work, and in summer 2019, she secured a position as an intern for the Terra Foundation of American Art in Chicago, where she helped to plan an exhibition in São Paolo, Brazil, on the changing nature of figurative art.
“American art in an international context is at the heart of the Terra Foundation’s mission, and I gained important exposure to the transnational partnerships that link the art world together,” she said. “From the Brazil-bound show that I was working on to academic grants in China and exhibition loans in Denmark, I saw the importance of international partnerships in widening and diversifying narratives in art.”
In summer 2020, Burns worked remotely as a Havner Curatorial Intern at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, where she researched how to appropriately contextualize Alfred Stieglitz’s collection of African masks and sculptures and its acquisition.
Burns said she is grateful for the guidance of her professors and mentors in Arts & Letters and at the Snite, as well as the staff of CUSE, and she looks forward to continuing on her career path with the support of the Luce Scholarship.
“Art is deeply tied to the society in which it is created — the history, politics, economics, people, and environment — and museums are in a unique position to present engaging and bold ways of experiencing the past and rethinking our present,” she said. “It is my enthusiasm for culturally sustaining research and storytelling that drives me. I love the collaborative nature of curatorial work, and the aspects of discovery, display, and discussion that come with creating exhibitions.”