Members in the News

Obituary: Julie Nicoletta (1965–2023)

by Jill Caskey and Kim Sexton | Sep 15, 2023

Julie Allyn Nicoletta died peacefully at her home in Seattle on August 28th, 2023, after a two-year battle with lung cancer. Her husband, Michael Kucher, son, Luca Kucher, mother, Stella Nicoletta, and younger sister, Amy Nicoletta, were by her side. She was 57 years old. 

As a professor in the Department of Social and Historical Studies at the University of Washington Tacoma for over two decades, Julie taught thousands of students. She developed courses in American history, art and architectural history, and material culture studies. She found joy in encouraging her students to pay attention to the ordinary world around us to understand the past lives of everyday people.

Julie began her college career as an economics and finance major at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, but a work-study job as an inventory assistant at the University Museum at UPenn studying Near Eastern artifacts led her to switch gears. She transferred to Pomona College and became an art history major. Her professors there, all grounded in social historical approaches to the study of art, taught her the importance of using social, political, and economic factors, rather than just aesthetic ones, to understand art history. She graduated from Pomona College in 1987, then enrolled at Yale University to continue her studies. At Yale, she worked with the Mesoamericanist Michael Coe and the art historians Abbott Lowell Cummings, George Hersey, and Jules Prown. It was Professor Coe who raised an interest in the Shakers. Julie was intrigued by the religious group’s religious and social complexities, despite their outward simplicity in dress, architecture, and furniture. She wrote her dissertation on the dwelling houses at the Shaker community at Mount Lebanon, New York, near Albany, and earned her Ph.D. in 1993.

In the mid-1990s, Julie worked briefly as the architectural historian in the State Historic Preservation Office in Carson City, Nevada. This position prompted her to write Buildings of Nevada (Oxford University Press, 2000), the sixth volume in SAH’s Buildings of the United States series. Julie and Michael moved to Tacoma, Washington, in 1996, where they took teaching jobs at the new University of Washington campus there, only six years old at the time. Julie spent her entire academic career at UW Tacoma, rising through the ranks to become a full professor in 2007. She produced numerous articles on women’s art, Shaker architecture, and the architecture of the New York World’s Fair of 1964–1965, among other topics. She published two books, The Architecture of the Shakers (W.W. Norton/Countryman Press, 1995) and Buildings of Nevada.

Julie joined SAH in 1989. During her 34-year membership, she was a very long-standing member on the SAH BUS Committee and the reorganized SAH Archipedia Advisory Committee. She also served on the BUS Editorials Advisory Committee and the SAH Exhibition Catalogue Award Committee. She worked tirelessly, submitting impeccably edited materials right into late March of this year. A warm and engaging person at SAH conferences, one who could brighten a lecture hall, Zoom screen, or coffee shop, Julie leaves countless friends, colleagues, and students grateful to have known her and saddened by her death.

A celebration of life is being planned for 2024 in Seattle. Details will be announced on Julie’s CaringBridge site:

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and Planned Parenthood.

See also [Text Copyright 2023 Julie A. Nicoletta. The family requests that this obituary not be linked or shared in whole or part on other social media platforms without prior permission. Thank you.]

By Jill Caskey and Kim Sexton


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