Amy Brandolino and the importance of paying attention

  • Tags: Faculty Profile
Published 11/15/2021
Amy Brandolino, instructor of art history

Amy Brandolino, instructor of art history

Amy Brandolino joined ECC as an instructor of art history in 2019. Her interview was her first time on campus, and she knew instantly this was where she wanted to be.

"After my teaching demonstration, I had a roundtable discussion with my hiring committee, and everyone was just SO nice, smart, and warm—it didn't feel like an interview at all," said Brandolino. "I remember leaving the interview really hoping I got the job so I could teach at ECC, but also so I could be a part of such an awesome group of folks."

Brandolino offers in-depth and exciting exposure to art history for students of all levels. Along with learning and teaching art, Brandolino was known, pre-pandemic, for her gardening skills, sharing a big bowl of home-grown veggie with her colleagues.

Read on to learn more about Brandolino's passion for art, gardening, and the important advice given from her sister:  

In your words, what do you do at ECC? What do you want others to know about your job? I am a full-time art history faculty member in the Art Department. Many students don't know what to expect when they come to art appreciation or art history – they've never taken a course in the discipline before. Simply stated — Art History is the lens through which we see the past. That lens changes depending on who is telling the story and when, which means my classes start and end with works of art, but threads of history, culture, religion, politics, and identity weave through every discussion. Many of my students find that by studying how artists in the past have viewed the world, they can use art history to connect to ideas that run throughout their other coursework at ECC. I love when my students find artists who look like them, express ideas that are fundamental to them, or explore a topic that they are passionate about.

I'm currently working on a new course, Visual Culture of Disease and Pandemics, which will examine artistic responses to diseases and pandemics from ancient times to the current day. It's going to be a super interesting class!

What is your greatest accomplishment since you've been at ECC? I came to ECC with an extensive background in online course design, teaching, and pedagogy.  When the pandemic forced all instruction to the online format, I was asked to help my department adapt to the new reality. Over the summer, I co-developed 11 courses for online/hybrid instruction. It was an incredibly huge task, but helping to ensure the art department was not only ready for the primarily remote fall semester but had online courses we could be really proud of and use for years to come was a great feeling.    

If you could instantly be an expert in one thing, what would you choose? I definitely would very much love to be an expert at languages. I have several failed attempts at learning another language, so I wish it came easily to me.     

What do you enjoy doing outside of work (i.e., hobbies/interests)? I trained as a Master Gardener/Master Composter years ago and used what I learned to grow a pretty big organic vegetable garden in my yard. I usually leave a giant bowl of what I've harvested in the LVPA office during the fall months to share with co-workers. I'll be glad to get back to that one day. I also spend a lot of time cheering on my son Eli at baseball and Taekwondo and my daughter Sophie at her many, many theatre performances. I also don't mind a good craft beer while sitting outside by a warm fire.    

Where is the best place you've traveled? Or where would you like to visit? When I was a community college student, I was lucky to study abroad and call Canterbury, England, my home for a few months. I traveled all over Europe, but my favorite place was Caramanico, a small mountain village in Italy close to where my dad was born and grew up—it was so beautiful and important to experience my roots. On the post-pandemic bucket list, my kids and I are planning a trip to California where we will take surf lessons and surf for a week straight—bliss.  

You have to wear a t-shirt with just one word on it for an entire year. What would that word be, and why? My current favorite t-shirt says "You Are Nothing Without Feminist Art," but that's too many words. Honestly, I am a talker, so my family laughed at the idea that I would have to come up with just one word. I initially was leaning towards something dreamy like "wander," but that doesn't capture the urgency I have to travel and do things again after so much time at home. So, I think I'd choose "GO!"  

Share a fact about you that might surprise people to learn. Growing up, my grandma owned a neighborhood tavern in Joliet that was connected to her house. Some of my favorite memories of growing up and spending the day at my grandma's include playing songs on the jukebox with a stack of quarters she'd given us, roller skating about the bar with my sister and my cousins, and grabbing snacks from behind the bar. It was such a fun way to grow up, and my grandma was just the coolest.

What job have you held (besides ECC) that was the most fun, interesting, or difficult? In my early 20s I was the executive director of Around the Coyote, an arts organization in Wicker Park that hosted a multi-disciplinary art festival that included music, poetry, dance, performance, and multi-venue art exhibitions for more than 300 artists. It was supremely fun but absolutely crazy. Organizing a festival is a massive undertaking involving everything from negotiating short-term leases to getting special use permits, carrying kegs up three flights of stairs to painting a gallery at 3 a.m., so it's ready to hang up the artwork the next day. As crazy as it was, it was also SO much fun. If I tried to do it now, I'd last five minutes.  

What was your most valuable life lesson? When I left to study abroad in England, I was 18 years old and didn't know a soul in the whole country—and this was before cell phones. My family was nervous; I was the carefree spirit of the family. My older sister Gina gave me the advice of "PAY ATTENTION!" It was classic big sister advice because it encapsulated the cautious lesson of paying attention so I didn't get kidnapped, but, more importantly, she meant PAY ATTENTION to the world. And that meant having wide eyes and taking in every person, every new city, every new meal, every new experience, every new sunrise. I've never stopped "paying attention" since.  

Complete this sentence: "I enjoy working at ECC because … " The support system, the opportunities, the colleagues—but most importantly, the students!!  The energy and enthusiasm they bring to class make me feel like I have the best job in the world. I feel lucky every day that I get to teach, especially to ECC students.