UAB’s mentorship and networking opportunities led Celeste Paxton to a high-impact career.

celeste paxtonCeleste Paxton, M.A. in Art History

Celeste Paxton received an M.A. in art history from UAB in 2017. She says, “I think I have always been drawn to art, although I never knew much about it when I was younger. My family wasn't one to go to museums or art exhibits, but I remember when I was really little trying to complete these advertisements for art schools that stated if you could finish this doodle of a turtle, or a dog, or whatever, that you could be an artist. Later when I became a teen, I especially became drawn to the work of Claude Monet after a family member gave me a set of stationary printed with different images from his Water Lilies paintings. We didn't have an art program in my high school, but I really connected to art when I decided to attend Jacksonville State University (JSU)… I took an Art of Western Civilization class, and immediately fell in love.”

Paxton benefited from excellent mentorship during her education. “Dr. Karen Henricks, the Art Historian at JSU, took notice of how I was connecting with art and art history, and… she was really the first person that told me I could have a career in art history if I really wanted it. She was also the first person to ever suggest that I should consider pursing a graduate degree. Very few people in my family had ever earned a bachelor's degree and none had earned a graduate degree… While I finished my bachelor's degree at JSU, I fell more and more in love with study of art and its history, and I particularly became fascinated with the fact that art history is cyclical in a way. Art of a specific period or by a specific artist is influenced by things in the world in which they exist, and yet, in turn that art goes on to influence the next generation. Whether creating a response of continued development from previous styles or rebelling against them, there is always this connection between past art, current art and what will become future art.”

celeste paxtonCeleste Paxton photographing rock art in Chaturbhujnath Nala

After completing a bachelor’s degree in art at JSU, Paxton applied to graduate school at UAB, as it was highly recommended by her undergraduate mentor. “As soon as I visited the campus and spoke with Dr. Heather McPherson, I knew it was the perfect place for me to continue to develop my newfound passion.” At UAB, she met Dr. Cathleen Cummings, who was “extremely supportive while guiding me through the remainder of my career at UAB once I selected South Asian Art as my area of concentration. She mentored me in the classroom and encouraged me to apply for the Caroline P. Ireland travel scholarship, which I was awarded, leading to a 12-day research trip where I was able to study a rarely seen ancient rock art site in India, called Chaturbhujnath Nala, which ultimately became the basis for my thesis paper, “Ritual, Self-Defense, and Territoriality at the Rock Art Site of Chaturbhujnath Nala, India.” Paxton says that the UAB art history faculty “are all such professionals, and made tremendous impacts on my life and career.”

Paxton now works for the company QualX at the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center, located at Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She is the Deputy Site Manager for QualX's archival digitization team of over 60 people. She says that UAB is the reason that she landed this position. “During my senior year at UAB I worked with my advisor, Dr. Cummings, to set up a curatorial internship at the Berman Museum of World History.” Towards the end of her internship, the Director at the museum, Mr. David Ford, connected her to a career in archival digitization. She climbed as a leader and eventually secured her current role at QualX. She says, “had I never been placed in the internship at the Berman Museum of World History by UAB’s Dr. Cummings, my entire trajectory would have been different. So, I am extremely thankful for UAB, both for the amazing education I received, but also for the career path that it laid out before me.”

Are you ready to become a leader in the arts?

Learn More Apply Now