The Department of Art History congratulates Professor Paul Niell on the publication of Urban Space as Heritage in Late Colonial Cuba: Classicism and Dissonance on the Plaza de Armas of Havana, 1754-1828. Professor Niell’s innovative study of Havana’s foundational site was published in May 2015 by the University of Texas Press. According to national legend, Havana, Cuba, was founded under the shade of a ceiba tree whose branches sheltered the island’s first Catholic mass and meeting of the town council in 1519. The founding site was first memorialized in 1754 by the erection of a baroque monument in Havana’s central Plaza de Armas, which was reconfigured in 1828 by the addition of a neoclassical work, El Templete. Viewing the transformation of the Plaza de Armas from new perspectives in heritage studies, Professor Niell investigates how late colonial Cuban society narrated Havana’s founding to valorize Spanish imperial power and used the monuments to underpin a local sense of place and cultural authenticity, civic achievement, and social order.
Reviewers describe Niell’s book as “immensely important” for the field of colonial art history. Magali Carrera, Chancellor Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, writes, “This is an important book that successfully demonstrates the potential of heritage studies as a critical strategy to understand visual culture in the context of the production of identity, power, and authority in a society.”
In the spring of 2015 Professor Niell also received a Franklin Grant from the American Philosophical Society and a Committee on Faculty Research Support (COFRS) grant from the Council on Research and Creativity at FSU to support research on his next book project, “Landscapes of Reform in Nineteenth-Century Puerto Rico.”