Meet MA in Art History Alumna Renita Terabramians

Alumna Renita Terabramians graduated from JCU with an MA in Art History in Fall 2023. During her time at JCU, Renita did an internship at the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), which led her to pursue the path of becoming a lawyer specializing in art law. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she works as a legal assistant at a law firm.

Tell us about your background.
I am of Armenian descent, born and raised in Iran until the age of 10. Subsequently, my family and I relocated to Vienna, Austria, before finally settling in the United States in 2007. The experience of forging new beginnings in diverse cultures has profoundly shaped my identity. Throughout these transitions, my passion for art has remained central to my life, driving my actions and aspirations to this day. It was inevitable that I would find myself drawn to the eternal city of Rome, where my passion for ancient Roman art was solidified.

Renita Terabramians
Renita Terabramians

How did you find out about JCU’s MA in Art History and what made you decide to apply? How did the program enrich you?
Since I was a little girl, I have been guided by the belief that true insight into the world is gained through firsthand experiences—traveling, immersing oneself fully, and embracing diverse cultures. I’ve been lucky enough that my academic journey has been so instrumental in fostering this passion for exploration. I discovered this program after graduating from UCLA with a B.A. in Art History and was in search of my next adventure. Initially, applying to a school in the heart of Rome was a mere dream that I never imagined would come true but in the blink of an eye, and nine months later I found myself packing up my whole life in three suitcases to move abroad for the adventure of a lifetime.

The MA program at JCU has profoundly enriched my appreciation for art. Not only have I delved into the intriguing anecdotes and innovative lifestyles of ancient Romans, but I have also had the privilege of connecting with their world on a tangible level, walking the same cobblestone paths they once tread, indulging in the same meals, experiencing the same awe when walking into the magnificent ancient villas and seeing the floor mosaics and wall paintings. This program has played a pivotal role in my personal development, providing ample opportunities for self-discovery and rigorous introspection. It has been a transformative experience, challenging me to confront my strengths and weaknesses and ultimately emerging as a more refined version of myself along with deepening my understanding of art and history.

How did you become passionate about art history?
At this point in my life, I feel as though it is just art history that courses through my veins. It’s an integral part of my being without which I cannot imagine functioning. The older I get the more I understand that the intertwining of art and history permeates everything around me, which only increases my curiosity to perceive these connections. My passion for art history began while I was a student at Glendale Community College. Before this, I hadn’t excelled academically, but art provided me with a sense of purpose and grounding. Art ignited a desire to improve and challenge myself, reigniting a spark of curiosity I thought I had lost. Shortly after taking my first course, I co-founded an Art History club, began tutoring others in the subject, and participated in a transformative month-long Art History course in Rome. It was then that my fate was sealed and I knew that one day soon I would return to the city to further pursue my studies in art history.

Tell us about your thesis.
My thesis focuses on the black and white floor mosaics of the ancient Roman Villa of Livia of Prima Porta, located along the Via Flaminia in Rome. Specifically, I explore how these mosaics articulate space, evoke movement, and engage with the visitors within the villa. Through my research, I explore the mosaics’ role in shaping the villa’s spatial experience and their significance in the context of ancient Roman art and architecture. My research involved visiting the site firsthand, walking within the villa as both a guest and imagining myself as the domina of the residence. Additionally, I utilized extensive new and ancient texts from the American Academy in Rome.

What classes and/or professors impacted you the most and why?
The course that impacted me the most was Research Seminar in Ancient Art: Public and Private Space, taught by the brilliant Dr. Inge Hansen. This course explored late Republican/early Imperial urban landscapes and focused on the dynamic relationship between public and private spaces. It examines how spatial arrangements influence perception, movement, and viewing experiences. This perspective was extremely intriguing, which is why it was the driving force behind my thesis.

What are your plans for the future?
Currently, I work as a legal assistant at a law firm in Los Angeles. This role may seem like a departure from art, but it actually stems from an internship experience I had at John Cabot University with the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA), under the guidance of Lynda Albertson, CEO of ARCA. During my internship, I delved into the darker aspects of the art world, gaining insights into criminal activities involving art and cultural property.

At ARCA, I immersed myself in researching art theft, forgery, and smuggling, issues that deeply intertwine with the preservation and authenticity of cultural heritage. During my time at John Cabot, one of the recurring topics I heard regarding ancient art was the issue of looting, theft, and destruction, both in antiquity and in modern times. These experiences made me realize that I wanted to elevate my career within the art world and make a meaningful impact by preserving the art that already exists.

Now on the path to becoming a lawyer specializing in art law, I aim to contribute to unraveling art-related mysteries, safeguarding cultural artifacts, and addressing the ethical and legal complexities of the art market. Art law uniquely merges art historical knowledge with contemporary legal practices. This field not only allows me to pursue my passion for art but also empowers me to create positive change, a path I discovered and embraced through the guidance and support of the JCU MA program.