Origins Tumultuous Years page 4

 
 

A curious aspect of the move toward accreditation was the change in art school catalogs. Art school catalogs tended to be over-sized and somewhat flamboyant with examples of student work from all levels and programs.

There was prominent listing of faculty with credentials and examples of their work. Most catalogs were in color or had a color section. When art schools began the process of obtaining accreditation, the catalogs shrunk to bulletin size and eliminated most of the illustrations of student and faculty work. This was because of competition with new art programs being established at universities. Art school catalogs were designed to look like academic bulletins. Art school catalogs today have rightfully moved back to pre-accreditation format illustrating student and faculty work in color. This is what most prospective art students want to see.

As students using the GI bill disappeared, they were replaced by a majority of students from middle class backgrounds, and there were increasing numbers of female students. Aside from student’s interest in art, low tuition and concentration in studio courses at art schools were factors in recruitment.

In 1953, the Russians successfully launched sputnik and there was a growing paranoia in this country that the Russians would surpass this country in education. Congress enacted a number of educational bills and the government began pouring millions of dollars into higher education. One of the first government programs was student financial aid. The program stipulated that then only basis for awarding funds was need. Merit was not to be considered. The federal grants required matching funds from the institution, and the principal source for institutional funds were those allocated to scholarship.

Until the 1950s, students without resources relied on tuition scholarships which were based on merit. Students knew that if they worked hard in high school and made superior grades, it would make them eligible for a variety of college scholarships. The government financial aid program forcing institutions to recommit their scholarship funds practically eliminated merit scholarships at many art schools. It is doubtful even to this day, that merit as a condition in obtaining financial assistance is at the same level it was prior to federal financial aid programs. This has had a deleterious impact on artistic or academic merit being a condition for underwriting an art school or university education.

Student financial aid was quickly followed by a series of Title Programs which provided schools with funds for purchasing equipment, buildings and enriching existing programs or creating new ones. There was substantial funding from the private sector during these same years; most of it coming from foundations. This was a period of unbelievable growth in all higher education. The multi-campus state systems were principal recipients of government funding during the 1950s and 1960s. Many state teachers colleges were incorporated
as universities; small private schools, including art schools and music conservatories, were absorbed into state systems. In some instances, new universities were built from the ground up at new locations.


During the late sixties, Andrew Morgan, president of the Kansas City Art Institute, spearheaded a movement to develop a consortium of independent schools of art. The organization was formed as the Union of Independent Colleges of Art and was funded by contributions of member institutions, foundations and government funds. Dean Tollefson was the executive director throughout most of the time that UCIA was operative. During the early years, membership was fairly stable, but later, schools began to drop out while new ones joined.

I remember best the period when The Kansas City Art Institute, The Maryland Institute of Art, The Minneapolis School of Art, The Philadelphia School of Art and Rhode Island School of Design were active in the organization. Students and teachers could move from one member institution to another to either teach or attend classes. Department heads from each discipline would meet once or twice a year at some central location or at one of the member schools. Each layer of administrators such as recruitment, development, business and registrars met together as well. Presidents met frequently to develop common strategies and to formulate grant applications to foundations and government.

Graphic Design meetings would last two or three days, and educational matters related to curriculum, goals, standards and instructional techniques were discussed. We talked, argued and it was stimulating as well as informational. Up until this time, many of the teachers had no idea what other schools were doing in Graphic Design. This interaction was beneficial for me and I am certain it was equally so for the other participants. The UICA program for teachers and administrators contributed more to member institutions than perhaps has ever been realized. The sudden growth and expansion of educational programs created a huge demand for teachers. Many teachers were hired immediately after graduate school, and often there were just a few years difference in age between students and teachers. During these years, most art programs moved away from professional criteria and began hiring teachers on the basis of academic credentials. An MFA in art or design or equivalent became the standard requirement for teaching.

This practice was more prevalent at universities than at art schools. These were the years when Graphic Design programs were introduced at state universities.

Art and design programs in public universities were established within the liberal arts context. At the early stages, there were substantial Art History and other academic requirements with much less studio hours than art schools. As the period progressed, there was some modification with a reduction in Art History requirements and additional studio involvement. However, with the exception of universities that had absorbed an art school, or were trade oriented schools before becoming a state institution, state university
art departments still retain a liberal arts philosophy.

This is reflected by a relatively small number of hours in the major, policies on admission and retention in the major, scheduling and student composition in classes.

It was during these years of rapid growth that public universities began extensive use of graduate students for instructional purposes in place of adding new faculty lines. Although more than forty years have passed, most state universities remain overly dependent on graduate students for instruction. This practice has had a decidedly negative impact on the quality of visual education, and there is no remedy in sight.

In this period of rapid growth and government largess, retention, promotion and tenure were awarded freely with little scrutiny. The process was only perfunctory in most cases. At Minneapolis and Kansas City, retention and promotion were the unilateral decision of the President, and they were communicated to faculty members in the letter of appointment issued each Spring. Any salary increases were made known in the same letter. At Kansas City, Department Heads recommended salary increases but the President always made the final decision. At Minneapolis as late as 1964, there was no tenure and all salary, retention and promotion decisions were made entirely by the President.

 

My Teaching Years continued >
 

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