Mirela Tanta specializes in Modern and Contemporary Art and Art Criticism with a focus on the twentieth-century Eastern European art. Her doctoral dissertation, from the University of Illinois at Chicago, is titled State Art or Sites of Resistance: Socialist Realism in Romania 1945-1989 and it explores artistic agency during the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu by examining Socialist Realist paintings as tactics used by artists simultaneously to survive in and alter the system. Originally from Romania herself, Tanta was first exposed to the United States as an Arts Link fellow in poetry through the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Her ongoing interest in memory, visual culture, and artistic agency under dictatorships informs her poetry as well as her research and teaching.
The recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Tanta has also presented her scholarly work at international conferences. Her teaching experience comprises undergraduate and graduate courses in twentieth-century art, theory and criticism, as well as broad survey courses such as: Visual Literacy, Art History Surveys I, II, and III. Her classes foster critical thinking by inviting students to think of themselves as makers of knowledge. Tanta wants her students to see that art matters, and that their own art and what they think about art matters.