Monday, April 1, 2019
  Awards and Recognitions, Research

By Amanda Taylor

Dr. Katherine McAllen, assistant professor of Latin American Art History in the UTRGV School of Art
– Dr. Katherine McAllen (Courtesy Photo)

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – Dr. Katherine McAllen, assistant professor of Latin American Art History in the UTRGV School of Art, has been awarded the Thoma Art Foundation post-doctoral fellowship for her work in Spanish colonial art.

The fellowship will provide McAllen financial support while she takes developmental leave to publish her monograph about how winemaking industries in colonial Mexico and Peru bolstered the production of art within missions. 

“My study looks at how economic history, art history, and culture exchange intersect to reveal more about how art was produced, what funded it, and how art was moved from centers like Mexico City and Lima, out to peripheries,” McAllen said. “My study looks at colonial frontiers with borderlands in Spanish America in both Mexico and Peru.”

McAllen said her research is a comparative study that shines a light into how winemaking funded the purchase and movement of artwork from major urban centers through the colonial missions and areas along northern Mexico. That reach extended into borderlands like the Rio Grande Valley and northern Mexico, which would be present-day San Antonio.

“My dissertation at Harvard focused on choosing some case studies and churches in northern Mexico in Coahuila near Saltillo and Monterrey, and examining how the economic history of winemaking and other agricultural enterprises funded the prolific building campaigns and very elaborate church decorations such as retablos (altarpieces) and paintings,” she said.

McAllen will use the fellowship to be able to travel into Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Europe, and as an expansion of her dissertation, she will search through archives and look for further information for the project. 

The developmental leave, which starts in July 2019 and ends in July 2020, will allow McAllen time for research and to write the manuscript, which she hopes will be published into a book by a university press. 

The Thoma Art Foundation granted just one post-doctoral fellowship to a worthy scholar.

“I was extremely honored to be chosen from among my esteemed peers for an award this prestigious,” McAllen said. “I will be able to really expand my contributions to the field, which are all, in turn, going to benefit UTRGV in its reputation and its scope for research capabilities.”

Dr. Steven Block, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said he believes the personal grant, set at $60,000, is possibly the largest monetary personal grant ever awarded a faculty member in the School of Art, or even in the five units of the UTRGV College of Fine Arts. 

“Professor McAllen's research work is receiving national notice, and through her efforts, the School of Art, the College of Fine Arts and UTRGV become better-known as a research institution fulfilling our vision of research that serves the Rio Grande Valley and beyond,” he said. “Professor McAllen’s honor is therefore UTRGV’s honor. We are proud of her scholarship, as well as the work of the many active professors in the College of Fine Arts who are receiving national recognition.” 


The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation in Chicago dedicated funds to two pre-doctoral fellowships and one post-doctoral fellowship, and three short-term travel awards of varying amounts. The grants are the first of their kind for the foundation.

The Carl & Marilynn Thoma Art Foundation recognizes the power of the arts to challenge and shift perceptions, spark creativity and connect people across cultures. The foundation lends and exhibit artworks from their collection and supports innovative individuals and pivotal initiatives in the arts.


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.