AMES, Iowa — April Eisman, an Iowa State University associate professor who teaches art history in the Department of Art and Visual Culture, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Award for 2023-24 for her project “Adapting to Capitalism: The Impact of Reunification on East German Artists.”

She will spend eight months in Dresden, Germany, doing preliminary research for a book and co-teaching two courses on East German art at the Technical University Dresden.

“Dresden was a major center for art in East Germany, and many artists active in the 1980s still live and create art [in that part of Germany] today,” Eisman said. “Dresden also has outstanding collections of art and archival material from the Cold War period.”

Her Fulbright research project will focus on the impact of the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification on (former) East German artists across the 1990s and ending in 2001, the final year for the German mark (DM, or Deutschmark) before the euro was adopted.

“The latter marked the end of an era, both symbolically — the DM had represented the possibility of a better life promised by the West — and economically: the euro essentially doubled the cost of common goods,” Eisman said. “It also marked a shift in Germany away from a focus on the national, or German-German relations, to the international.”

The opportunities and challenges presented by reunification are reflected in the art created during this period, Eisman said — a period “largely ignored in English-language art historical scholarship to date, which has placed much greater emphasis on the emergence of the global art world in the 1990s, and to a lesser extent, on East German and Socialist Art.”

While in Dresden, Eisman will examine archival files and conduct interviews with artists about their experiences in the 1990s. She will also co-teach two courses: one on the impact of the events of 1989-90 on East German artists in Dresden, and the other a lecture series inviting leading scholars, curators and artists to offer their perspectives on East German art.

Contemporary art history

Eisman has taught art history at Iowa State since 2007. Her research explores contemporary art and theory with an emphasis on East German art and its reception.

In addition to the Fulbright award, Eisman has received yearlong fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Association of University Women, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the U.S. Department of Education.

She is the author of Bernard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany (Camden House, 2018) and co-editor with Gisela Schirmer of Kunst in der DDR – 30 Jahre danach (V&R Unipress, 2020). She co-curated with Gisbert Porstmann an exhibition and co-edited a bilingual catalog (English/German) on Hampel, Angela Hampel. Das künstlerische Werk / The Artistic Work, at the City Art Museum Dresden in 2022. Eisman has published more than 20 articles and book chapters, in English and in German, on East German art and artists.

Co-founder of the Transatlantic Institute for East German Art, she holds a bachelor’s degree in English and art history from Lawrence University; a master’s degree in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London; and a PhD in art history from the University of Pittsburgh.


April Eisman, Associate Professor, Department of Art and Visual Culture, eismana@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Director of Strategic Communications, College of Design, hsauer@iastate.edu