Today's Students, Tomorrow's Artists

If art education is so important, why so little support?

Bill Carlson: Well, I have to say that the University of Miami has been timid about an active community involvement. Why is that -- elitism, snobbery, insecurity? I don't know, but we are trying to change our perceived "distance" from the arts community and the community at large. Additionally we must have some visibility during Art Basel and Art Miami. It is an embarrassment to be absent from those events.

Mary Malm: MIU takes part in many fundraising events in Miami. Our fashion department, for instance, is very active in this respect with the American Cancer Society and the Children's Home Society. We have completed two murals to raise scholarship money for our visual arts department. One of our faculty members collaborated with instructors from New World, creating an opportunity for students from Ai MIU, New World, and FIU to show together as a group in the "Frenzy" exhibition. It was a great experience for the students.

Carol Damian: Definitely. FIU is the largest public institution and our students and faculty are very aware of their obligation to serve the community and to participate in what is happening. We are constantly looking for opportunities to be part of the community and feel we have a tremendous amount to offer -- and that the community has much to offer to our department.

The old shack at UM (formerly the art school) now sits 
vacant -- a sign of everything  that's wrong with art 
education in Miami
Jonathan Postal
The old shack at UM (formerly the art school) now sits vacant -- a sign of everything that's wrong with art education in Miami

What would you like to change about the way your school deals with your department?

Louise Romeo: I think that the complexity of our partnership sometimes creates trying situations. One such issue is our students' ability to work in studios beyond specified hours. Creative ideas germinate independently of structured time. As an art school, I would like students to have the opportunity to have extended hours beyond those currently specified.

Mary Malm: Our department serves two functions: We offer the BFA and MFA in visual arts. However, we also serve as the foundations department for several of the other majors. In my opinion, in order to deliver the best possible instruction in foundations it is important to maintain a strong full-time faculty that is consistent in their delivery of the foundations curriculum.

Carol Damian: The arts are always given less respect than the programs that bring in money (sciences). Frankly we are the last to be considered for a building; renovations are difficult and expensive, and new technology not easily available. I wish they would give us more respect -- people come to a university for its culture, not necessarily for a science demonstration.

Bill Carlson: We desperately need more support in our relationship as [a] department to the university. The good news is that president Donna Shalala is making all the right "noise" about arts support, but we'll have to wait and see. Dean and vice provost James Wyche is equally supportive verbally. Now it must be matched with funds and facilities. Wyche is also initiating "interdisciplinary institutes" within the college and beyond. This is exciting and has the potential to make us an important player in the intellectual life of the College of Arts and Sciences. We'll hire new faculty with the expectation that their strengths will be "cross referenced" with those not in the visual arts, thus a potential collaboration with the whole university community.

Do you feel that your students graduate with their best possible art skills?

Bill Carlson: The idea of "best possible art skills" may be a bit too much for me. Our three-year program is intended to give a student experimentation time and opportunities to broaden his/her arts appetite. We feel this is important for them to gain some perspective and maturity about the graduate opportunity. We expect our grads to leave with an artistically informed "momentum" that will equip them for a career in the arts.

Mary Malm: I am confident that our curriculum is strong and comprehensive. We hope to give them a well-rounded education and prepare them for graduate school or the workplace.

Louise Romeo: The faculty and I are united in our commitment to the welfare and future success of our students. Continual evaluation of our students' progress through the jury process ensures that students are learning and developing their craft and aesthetic sensibilities.

Carol Damian: We are proud of our department and good students can benefit greatly -- poor students will be poor students everywhere. This is a fine arts department and we continue to emphasize this, rather than the commercial.

Is your faculty connected with what's going on in today's art scene? Do you find that important?

Bill Carlson: We are [a] faculty of solid artists and researchers, but with only a couple of exceptions, we are established and not as "current" with our strengths. A strong program should respect its resources (established faculty) but with younger faculty, push toward an edge as we develop a context to stay vital. New hires are in the works for fall 2004. So if we get good faculty we should start to address this issue. We received a promise of four new positions over the next four years. When that promise is fulfilled, we will have a range of faculty seniority and I expect a strong program.

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