Welcome from Head of School Charlie White

It is with great excitement that I welcome you back to the School of Art this fall and extend warm greetings to our incoming freshmen, first-year graduate students, and new faculty and staff joining us here at Carnegie Mellon University.

The new academic year marks many changes and additions to our school’s community, structure, and pedagogy. In offering some highlights, I would first like to recognize our two new full-time faculty members: internationally-known artist and academic Allison Smith, and our new Kraus Distinguished Visiting Professor, artist and experimental animator Erin Cosgrove. Both Allison and Erin bring new ideas and thinking into our sphere, as we begin to reimagine our Sculpture Installation and Space (SIS) area, as well as our commitment to boundary-pushing approaches in animation within our leading Electronic and Time-Based area (ETB).

In tandem with new faculty comes a fundamental shift in our school’s vision for our burgeoning MFA program. This fall marks the start of the newly-established MFA directorship of Jon Rubin, as well as the addition of a committed staff position for the program, the MFA Coordinator. We are also announcing the three Graduate Core Faculty members who will begin to work alongside Jon Rubin in the fall of 2018: Devan Shimoyama, Angela Washko, and Susanne Slavick. These three artists will bring a range of practices, politics, and progressive thinking to the program. In addition to the formation of the Graduate Core, our full faculty of artists and critical theorists will continue their ongoing mentorship of the graduate students to further enhance our uniquely heterogeneous three-year masters program.

As our MFA program continues to progress, the school will also embark on new undergraduate pedagogy this fall with the start of a revised Critical Studies curriculum, which will establish a foundational series of courses for all of our undergraduate students. This new curriculum will institute smaller class groups, contiguous syllabi over four terms, and a thoughtful redrawing of the scope and nature of how we look at the critical, theoretical, and philosophical discourses surrounding art and its histories.

Beyond people and pedagogy, the School of Art has added staff and studio spaces, including a new Graduate Study Room for our MFA students, a new Physical Computer Lab for the use of all students across our areas, and a new Sculpture studio to support the approaches of incoming faculty. These changes were founded on the priorities of the school and our desire to enhance all areas of study through increased staff support, improved resources, and updated spaces.

Certainly this fall ushers in many new and exciting artists, thinkers, and ideas to the School of Art, and we look forward to seeing them take root and flourish. However, while so much progress is underway in our school, we must also focus on the national stage, where the burden of regress weighs on us all. It would be irresponsible for a school of art to separate itself from the political and cultural climate of the present, because art itself is born of contemporary life and serves as a bellwether of social progress. In this regard, it is inarguable that expressions of hatred and injustice are emerging at every level of our society in ways that we must urgently address. As artists, it is our role to present truth to power; as the landscape shifts, so does our position upon it.

So, I want to offer some closing thoughts as we look forward. It is at times like this that art schools matter most, as do the artists and artworks they give rise to. Consider the year 1933 in Weimar Germany, when the National Socialists shuttered the Bauhaus for its progressive ideology and sense of sovereignty. This led the school’s lauded faculty to emigrate across Europe and America and form schools, implement pedagogy, and change art, culture, and education forever. In the United States that same year, a conservative university fired three professors for being too progressive. This led to the establishment of the most forward-thinking school in the country, Black Mountain College, whose faculty included Bauhaus members Walter Gropius and Joseph and Anni Albers, as well as groundbreaking artists and thinkers such as Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, and Buckminster Fuller. What does this teach us? I believe it makes clear that as custodians of progress, inclusion, and transformation, art and art schools do not cower in the face injustice; instead, we grow stronger, speak louder, and push back by continuing to foster the freedom of thought and vision that is our greatest strength.

Art school is a part of history and a crucial component of our future, and the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University is committed to progress on all fronts, from inclusivity and justice to new ideas and technologies. This is what art school is, and I am honored to lead one of the best art schools in the nation—a place for art, technology, media, and theory, as well as a Home for Everyone!

Thank you,

Charlie White

Regina and Marlin Miller Head of School
School of Art
Carnegie Mellon University

Photo by Jacquelyn Johnson