Katharine James ’12

Katharine JamesSince graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in art history and minor in public communications from Syracuse University, Katharine James ’12 has filled her résumé with impressive accomplishments. Among them are past positions at the ultra-hip Catharine Clark Gallery and the renowned etching press and gallery Crown Point Press (est. 1962) in San Francisco as well as her current post at the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation in Berkeley where, as the manager of online services, she has put her liberal arts training to good use. “The College of Arts and Sciences provided me with a balanced liberal arts education, around which I have built my career,” says James, also an alumna of The Renée Crown University Honors Program, which is administered by the College. “The knowledge I gained from Syracuse has provided me with the necessary skill-sets to succeed in a variety of professional settings.”

After graduation, James spent a year in Great Britain, earning a master’s degree in art business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. She also received distinctions for both her coursework and her master’s dissertation in which she analyzed the stimulating influence of art museum blockbusters on the market values of artists.

Sparking an Interest

She admits that, while the time abroad was invaluable, it was her undergraduate training that set her on her career path. “Syracuse University sparked my interest in the history of art,” she says. “During an introductory [art] course in my first semester, I became intrigued by the aspect of studying past societies through their visual legacies of fine art. Contemporaneous artwork visually reflects a society’s administrative structure, its citizens’ quality of life, their cultures, and major global historical events. Without this kind of exposure, I probably would not have found out where my true interests lie.”

James’ professors couldn’t be happier with her progress. Romita Ray, an associate professor in the Department of Art and Music Histories, virtually lights up when talking about her former student. In fact, more than nine years after James left Syracuse, Ray still raves about James’ honors thesis, for which she visited, photographed, and examined the royal Tsuklakhang monastery in Sikkim. This thesis was named best Capstone project in the humanities, and Ray says she knew at that moment James would enjoy career success.

On the Fast Track to Success

“I’m not surprised that Katharine is flourishing," Ray says. “Her passion for the arts, her interest in learning about the world around her, and her unique understanding of the role art history has played in the development of today’s society have positioned her for success. She is a gem in an already impressive pool of art history alumni.”

Since joining the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation four years ago, James has overseen all digital initiatives undertaken by the Foundation, including their extensive online platform of diebenkorn.org released in 2021, where more than 3,400 artworks and over 8,000 recently digitized archival materials were made available to the public for free. "From handling online cataloguing, to developing educational videos and new scholarship on Richard Diebenkorn, to coordinating the digital aspect of our marketing and public relations endeavors, to being the voice behind @diebenkornfoundation on Instagram, I get to wear many hats while supporting all aspects of our efforts," James says.

Although she’s on the fast-track to success, James still finds time to reflect on her time at Syracuse. She has many fond memories, both on and off campus. “I loved apple picking in the fall, skiing in the winter, and visiting the Finger Lakes during the spring and summer,” she adds. “There was so much to do. I was lucky to have been a part of the Syracuse University community.”