Since I have been writing these notes to you, a couple things have happened that I want to share here. One unexpected pleasure is that you have been writing back. I have received a number of notes from people who are reading these posts that include words of encouragement and responses to my writing. Some are simply communicating that they are reading these words and others comment that some of what I have said here is resonating with them. That makes me think that there is a conversation being had between myself and the readers of this newsletter; it is not simply a monolog. This nascent conversation has value and can help us to articulate what this department might look like as we move into the future.
As with everything, art schools and the way in which we teach art, must evolve in order to stay relevant. I am all for crowd-sourcing and perhaps you will continue to weigh in with your thoughts as we envision the future. Another side effect of this missive is that my colleges in the Art Department have been reaching out to initiate conversations about art-world happenings and cultural musings. At least two of them have forwarded an essay to me from the pages of Artforum that chronicles what happens to Art Schools when they lose sight of their mission and simultaneously meet with ever-more austere budgets. The two institutions, USC and Cooper Union have suffered massive shifts in their day-to-day administration and have each taken body blows to their reputation, which ultimately affects their student population, the very contingency that professors are there to teach.
It is a complex and serious problem that we face: how to provide the right art education for the students that we have today and for the duration of their time with us. We are thinking about that all the time and I have just had a very positive two day meeting with the UW Madison Art Department Board of Visitors in which we discussed just how our department may navigate the future in a way that is progressive and honors our traditions simultaneously. The link to the Artforum essay called Class Dismissed can be accessed here. I think you will find it provocative and enlightening.
Chair, Art Department