Each quarter of the academic year serves as a framework with a familiar pattern to those of us fortunate enough to study and work here. We are beholden to this particular rhythm, which provides structure to our thoughts and actions whether we are students, staff, or faculty. We have all been reminded that this idyllic pattern can be interrupted and — for all of us — never as abruptly as what transpired over the course of spring quarter 2020.
Spring quarter began with the emerging and shifting realities dictated by COVID-19 and with the growing awareness that returning to campus in time for graduation was less likely with each passing day. Within weeks, our students, staff, and faculty more or less embraced the limitations of virtual education and forged ahead into the relatively unknown space of remote learning. There were many complications for everyone, including IT connectivity, sourcing art supplies, creating a Zoom space, no library access, and different time zones. Upon reflection, it is quite remarkable that most challenges were resolved and communication, learning, and making flourished in innovative ways, with unexpected opportunities discovered such as the relative ease of inviting international guests to join a class via Zoom. Most of us were getting by and gearing up for the final stretch leading into finals and graduation when, on May 25, George Floyd was killed, his death serving as a catalyst for ongoing protests, demonstrations, and calls for justice to address the pervasive and violent racism that is still evident after centuries of neglect. The School stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which was amplified and joined by voices reiterating the call for justice and accountability. As we mourn the death of George Floyd and work towards creating positive, long-lasting, social and systemic change, we must also hold ourselves accountable — both as individuals and as an institution. While these questions do not have easy answers, we are dedicated to creating a safe space to actively listen and change in ways that better reflect and support everyone in our community and ensure an inclusive culture that tells and honors multiple stories.
It is truly a testament to the drive and resilience of students, faculty, and staff that spring quarter did indeed culminate with some 240 students receiving their hard-earned BA, BDes, MA, MDes, and MFA degrees. The adaptive spirit and fortitude that was first called upon in March somehow became more indefatigable as the quarter unfolded. Our normal graduation exhibitions went virtual, with the slate of shows at the Jacob Lawrence Gallery and Henry Art Gallery being shared via dedicated websites that showcase our students’ work in a compelling, in-depth fashion. The online format afforded the production of interviews with many of the undergraduate and graduate students providing unique insight into their work. Instead of a two-hour presentation at Meany Hall, the School’s Graduation Celebration website will be maintained as an archive capturing a collection of fascinating, germane speeches, by our student and faculty speakers.
While faculty dedicated extra hours to deliver the best online courses possible, research also continued, although at a greatly reduced pace given the travel ban; postponed or canceled exhibitions, conferences, and residencies; and limited access to resources. A few highlights include: the publication of a new co-edited book on Northwest Native art by Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator at the Burke Museum Kathryn Bunn-Marcuse; Associate Professor of Art History Marek Wieczorek completing his fellowship at the Netherland Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences; and Assistant Professor in the Division of Design Audrey Desjardins receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation. Instructional Technician Flyn O’Brien and several faculty — including Assistant Professors Jason Germany (Design) and Whitney Lynn (Art) and IVA Senior Lecturer Timea Tihanyi — suddenly found themselves very active in response to the need for COVID-19 related supplies and equipment such as masks, face shields, and ventilators.
A big shout out to the School staff, all of whom quickly and creatively adapted to remote working and kept the administrative, fiscal, advising, IT, studio, marketing and social media, and gallery components of the School active and generating a high-caliber output.
After 107 quarters at the UW, Professor Christopher Ozubko (Design) decided to retire. Ozubko’s tireless efforts on behalf of the School and the University are immeasurable whether in his role as a teacher, colleague, designer, or administrator. During his tenure as director of the School, Chris ably guided us into a new millennium, adapting to the changes brought forth by new technologies and the ever-shifting realities of being part of an ambitious public research university. I am inspired by his years of selfless leadership and his endless sense of curiosity and wonder and wish him all the best as he and his wife, Susan, move on to their next adventure.
Summer quarter commenced this week with classes only being offered online, although faculty and staff are carefully being allowed to return to campus to conduct research in compliance with University and State regulations. We’ll see what tomorrow brings and try to prepare as best as possible for the start of the next academic year in September.
Be safe and be well.
- Director, School of Art + Art History + Design
- Professor, 3D4M: ceramics + glass + sculpture
- Wyckoff Milliman Endowed Chair in Art