Although the return to campus following spring break typically means maneuvering through the crowds of visitors admiring the cherry trees, the anticipation of graduation, and laughter in the Quad, this year the visitors — along with the students, staff, and faculty — are absent due to extraordinary circumstances beyond our comprehension. While the global health crisis has brought a sobering perspective to daily life, it is nonetheless eerily reassuring to know that the blossoms bloomed even without an audience, and it reminds me of the potency of a pause to reconsider assumptions, habits, and how I value a day.
The past six weeks have certainly provided an unprecedented number of challenges as we all try to understand how to adapt to the inescapable realities brought on by COVID-19. Our faculty have rapidly responded to the need to shift all of our teaching to an online platform and have quickly become familiar with Zoom, Panopto, and our online learning management system, Canvas. While these tools are effective and have made the continuation of classes possible, they are, of course, not the same as teaching and engaging in person, especially for our studio-based courses. However, I know that our faculty are exceptional and that the gift they offer to our students is not tethered to a material, technique, or larger than life images; it is rather the faculty’s ability to share their insight, experience, and profound understanding of the world through the lens of art, art history, and design. Several faculty have mentioned pleasant and unexpected surprises that they have discovered during this transition, and students seem to have embraced the structure, challenge, and excitement that their classes provide. Staff have quickly adapted to a teleworking environment and are working above and beyond to keep the School running efficiently, supporting students and faculty, and exerting efforts that exceed what a "normal" workday entails. There is a heightened sense of camaraderie among students, staff, and faculty as we collectively approach remote learning and "business as usual" in times that are anywhere near resembling usual.
I am extremely grateful and proud of how our entire community has responded to the myriad of challenges presented by this suddenly surreal, dystopian world. All of us have been affected, our lives disrupted, and too many have suddenly found themselves unable to even meet their basic needs. With the encouragement of the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Robert Stacey, the School created an emergency student aid fund, and I authorized the first distribution of awards earlier this week. I also want to share that several of our staff and faculty are actively engaged in campus-wide efforts to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Masks, face shields, ventilators, and more are being designed and/or manufactured with our expertise and equipment as well as various efforts carried on at home to provide PPE to emergency health care workers and first responders. While mention is made of one project in the COVID-19 section of the newsletter, we hope to have more of the story told in the future.
Many things are not as planned, but there are still positive events and achievements happening throughout our School community. Our students continue to share their singular experiences such as the School’s curtailed study abroad in Rome program, which was led by an Art and Art History collaborative team taught by Professors Ellen Garvens (Art), Curt Labitzke (Art), Estelle Lingo (Art History), and Stuart Lingo (Art History). Design major Sarah Strickler was featured in the College of Arts and Sciences publication Perspectives, and Anna Fotheringham and Mina Kang (both Art majors) are highlighted are in our Intern/Extern news post. Under the leadership of Divisional Dean of the Arts Catherine Cole, the Arts at UW have secured an unprecedented level of funding to support research and teaching, with a number of faculty recently being awarded grants. We are also very excited to announce that in addition to Assistant Professor Juliet Sperling, who joins the Division of Art History as the Kollar Endowed Chair in American Art, two more tenure-track searches have now been successfully completed. Robert Rhee will join Division of Art faculty as an assistant professor in the Interdisciplinary Visual Arts Program, and James Pierce will join the Division of Design as an assistant professor in the Interaction Design Program. All three will officially join us in September.
Although the Art Building is closed, you can still visit the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, albeit virtually. I invite you to visit the gallery's Instagram feed and its new Vimeo channel, which includes a recording of Marisa Williamson's artist talk and performance from early February and a walkthrough of the most recent exhibition, As, Not For: Dethroning Our Absolutes. And, due perhaps to premonitive timing, the release of the gallery’s publication, MONDAY – Volume 4, is available online with a limited edition of physical copies still available.
Our spring tradition of graduating student exhibitions will continue, although for the first time in the School’s history, it will take place entirely in virtual form. The Jacob Lawrence Gallery is facilitating an undergraduate exhibition website for the Art students, and the Division of Design will do the same for their graduating class. For the past several years, the School has produced the Graduate Thesis + Dissertation Showcase website in addition to the exhibit hosted by the Henry Art Gallery. This year, the website will be enhanced to best represent the research generated by our talented and accomplished graduating MFA, MDes, MA, and PhD students.
One of the highlights of the academic year is our graduation celebration at the Meany Center for the Performing Arts on the UW Seattle campus. The School is harnessing our collective creativity to celebrate this momentous occasion remotely and acknowledge the culmination of the hard work, dedication, and perspicacity of the School’s graduating class.
As always, I want to extend a very special thank you for taking the time to read and bear witness to the achievements and activities of the School of Art + Art History + Design — your curiosity and support have never been more important.
Be well, stay well, and I look forward to the time when our paths will once again cross in person.
- Director, School of Art + Art History + Design
- Professor, 3D4M: ceramics + glass + sculpture
- Wyckoff Milliman Endowed Chair in Art