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Spotlight on Alumna Caroline Keegan: Advocate for the Arts

Published March 4, 2017

Art History alumna Caroline Keegan at the Metropolitan Museum of ArtFor Caroline Keegan (BA 2013), the combination of creativity and critical investigation in Art History courses at FSU led to a previously untapped interest in art law that has blossomed into a promising career.  Now in her final semester of law school at Fordham University, Keegan is working in the legal department of the Calder Foundation, a non-profit that works to preserve the integrity of the artist Alexander Calder’s life and work through exhibitions, publications, archives, and research. She was also selected for the New York Bar Association’s Art Law Committee, where she is working with a team of lawyers to pass NY Senate Bill S1229A, which would protect the work of art authenticators and art foundations. Additionally, in early 2017 Keegan received a grant from the Actor’s Fund to co-author a free Guide to Clearing Legal Rights for Performers, in an effort to encourage fair representation and justice for artists of all income levels.

Keegan entered Florida State University as an art student, and discovered in her first required Art History course a fascination with the mixture of critical thinking, theory, and creativity. Through course topics, experiences on FSU’s International Programs, and leadership positions in student groups, Caroline found her professional path: studying the relationship between art and law, and assisting artists in navigating it. After receiving her BA in Art History in 2013, she spent a year selecting and applying to law schools while completing two semester-long internships; one in education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one in intellectual property management at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  In 2014 she entered law school at Fordham University and was shortly accepted into the Art & Law Fellowship program there. As a fellow she collaborated with artists and lawyers to explore the effects of law on cultural production and reception.

Caorline Keegan at MoMAKeegan’s first professional position undertaking legal work was as a Summer Associate at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA). VLA offers free legal assistance and education to low-income artists, reaching thousands of artists and entrepreneurs per year. Keegan has also served as a staff member of art law website clancco.com, where she has written over 50 articles  concerning recent lawsuits, legislation, and new interpretations of law. Through a pro bono clinic on the Fordham campus, she also worked on copyright litigation, interpreting the vague limits of what is copyrightable to negotiate for and defend authors.

Caroline will receive her Juris Doctor degree with a concentration in Intellectual Property and Information Law in May 2017. She is thankful that Art History at FSU introduced her to her niche field and fostered her curiosity, allowing her to pursue a career that perfectly blended her interests:

Art History introduced me to a whole new world. If it weren’t for the art law classes Florida State uniquely offers, encouragement to pursue a Directed Independent Study course in art and law, and generous Art History professors who allowed me to tweak paper requirements to add a legal element, I might never have found my calling. I’m so excited about my field. With Internet art and appropriation in postmodern art there are questions about copyright and real modifications that courts aren’t currently in the position to change. It’s challenging to build laws about something so abstract and evolving, to not stifle creativity too much while still protecting artists. It’s important to have lawyers who are empathetic to artists, who understand and can communicate about the history of human creativity. Art History at Florida State opened these doors for me. I’m glad I walked through them.