Letter from Head of School Charlie White

Grid of 16 headshots of School of Art seniors

Dear School of Art Students, Faculty, and Staff,

I am reaching out to our community so that we might reflect on our past six weeks apart, look toward the close of this historic term, and begin to consider the shape of the coming fall. There is much to contemplate as we look ahead; first, however, I want to thank everyone for what we have achieved since departing our shared reality on campus and reluctantly but successfully embracing this new now of being apart.

If we look at the positives, which I encourage all of us to do as much as possible, we will see a school that has become a strong voice and vision online, with our senior spotlights, student exhibitions, and special projects reaching a broad audience. We also see a faculty and staff that has risen to the challenge of making our distance an opportunity for new ideas and approaches in their classes and conversations. Above all, we see our students moving forward with creative rigor, emotional depth, and cultural sensitivity. Let me be clear: this situation is not easy, and it is very far from ideal. However, I hope that we can all gain a sense of meaning and connection from our collective understanding that, in order to provide for a future together, this temporary separation is necessary.

In the coming weeks, classes will conclude, the spring term will come to a close, and we will celebrate our incredible seniors, who have weathered the loss of studio access and their senior exhibition. In light of these disruptions, the School of Art has been working with the senior class to produce an outstanding online exhibition and physical catalog. Both will launch mid-May, and the school will raise its antenna high in order to make sure the graduating class’s works, ideas, and energies are conveyed loud and clear across the art world. Finally, we will hold an online ceremony in honor of our graduating class on May 17, following the university’s event, to bring family and friends together to mark the close of the school year and celebrate the class of 2020. Details on the exhibition, catalog, and celebration are all forthcoming.

As we look beyond this semester’s end and across the summer months, it is becoming apparent that next fall will hold many differences from years past. Although with every passing week we hope to move closer to the point when we can again interact and share spaces and places together, it is altogether likely that many precautionary measures will remain, and that our coursework may be, as President Jahanian announced today, either remote or delayed in some fashion.

What this means for the School of Art is that, regardless of our situation, we will take every step needed to make this fall exceptional. We are already working to determine which courses can be transformed to function optimally in a remote format and how we can, if necessary, provide exceptional remote support—from production capabilities to studio set-ups—for our students. Therefore, if we do find ourselves working from a distance, be assured that your courses will take on the formats needed to excel, and that the classroom experience will be adapted to provide a meaningful term.

Finally, I believe that we are very fortunate to be part of a university that has placed its students first, provided generous support for student workers, stocked its pantries for our broader community, and offered emergency funding for those in immediate need. Though there may be myriad challenges ahead for our entire community, please know that the overwhelming focus of our leadership, faculty, and staff is on our students, whose well being and ability to thrive are the very reason for all of our efforts.

As I have said before and will continue to repeat, art school is a unique experience: it is messy, it is cerebral, and, most of all, it is steeped in a deeply human attention to reality that continually challenges the world around us. Therefore, I am confident that all of us in the School of Art will collectively harness our creative and experimental strengths to move forward, and that we will emerge from this time with greater insights and a deeper understanding of what it means to be artists and thinkers deeply embedded in a changing world. Of course, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to Mark Cato or me and we will walk through how the school is readying itself for the fall.

Very warmly,

CW

Charlie White
Regina and Marlin Miller Head of School
School of Art
Professor of Art
Carnegie Mellon University