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THE STATE OF CAA: A REPORT FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

posted by Linda Downs — Mar 21, 2012

2012 Annual Conference

Art in Odd Places and Performance Exchange sponsored performances outside the Los Angeles Convention Center as part of ARTspace’s Art in the Public Realm, a daylong event at the 2012 Annual Conference (photograph by Bradley Marks)

The 100th CAA Annual Conference in Los Angeles, held February 22–25, 2012, was a great success with over five thousand attendees, two hundred sessions addressing topics from ancient art to contemporary criticism, a sold-out Book and Trade Fair with more than 120 exhibitors, and a plethora of exciting events throughout southern California. The timing of the conference happily coincided with Pacific Standard Time, a large group of exhibitions and programs focused on modern and contemporary art made in the region, sponsored by the Getty Foundation and involving sixty public institutions and many commercial galleries. California Design, 1930–1965: “Living in a Modern Way” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was an eye-opener to place so many familiar modern designs in their original West Coast context.

The atmosphere throughout the conference was collegial and extremely positive. Maybe it was the delicious LA sunshine, or perhaps it was due in part to the presence of over ten thousand new citizens who appeared on Wednesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center for a naturalization ceremony at the start of CAA’s conference. Citizenship, something many of us take for granted, was visibly cherished on their proud faces.

Graduate Public Practice from the Otis College of Art and Design presented “Re/Locating Learning: Public Practices as Art” (photograph by Christopher Howard)

Special Centennial Sessions were organized by a committee under the chairmanship of Ruth Weisberg, an artist and former CAA board president and former dean of the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. One of the highlights of these sessions was “Re/Locating Learning: Public Practices in Art,” presented by Suzanne Lacy, an artist and chair of public practice at Otis College of Art and Design, in which members discussed new approaches to academic teaching and ways to engage the public over the conference’s full four days.

A new presentation technique debuted in “Hot Problems/Cool Solutions in Arts Leadership,” a session organized by the National Council of Arts Administrators in which twelve panelists—in extremely short presentations—proposed solutions ranging from administrative issues such as how to write ninety letters of recommendation in one semester (don’t do it unless they are serious job candidates) or how to be kind in academic interactions for productive and cooperative faculty outcomes.

Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, spoke at the 2012 Centennial Convocation (photograph by Bradley Marks)

The conference featured two excellent keynote addresses. Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, spoke at Convocation. Stating that only two newspapers in the United States employ full-time art critics, Landesman presented a new grassroots initiative entitled Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge that is fostering art criticism in four cities. This new program provides unique partnerships to expand arts journalism that both informs and engages audiences. April Greiman, a prominent international designer, presented her work at the Annual Members’ Business Meeting, including a gigantic mural in Koreatown in Los Angeles and the design of Miracle Manor Retreat, an intimate hot-springs motel on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park.

The Service to Artists Committee, chaired by Jackie Apple, professor of art at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, organized a vast number of programs through ARTspace, including the Media Lounge, ARTexchange, and performance pieces that engaged attendees and the general public alike.

Some of the most packed sessions included the Distinguished Scholar Session, in which Rosalind Krauss’s work was both lauded and critiqued; the Annual Artists’ Interviews with Mary Kelly and Martin Kersels; “‘Your Labels Make Me Feel Stupid’: Museum Labels as Art Historical Practice,” organized by the Association of Art Museum Curators; the performance works inside and outside the convention center; and sessions devoted to the fortieth anniversary of the beginning of feminism.

The art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh participated in the 2012 Distinguished Scholar Session honoring Rosalind Krauss (photograph by Bradley Marks)

CAA’s Committee on Intellectual Property presented critical information on copyright and fair use in its session. The group has also reviewed intellectual-property information on the CAA website and will soon publicly post the revised pages.

New publishing platforms and online resources were presented at a session organized by the artist Tara McPherson, called “Art History Meets the Digital Age,” in which new multimedia platforms for publishing were presented following a hands-on workshop that introduced thirty CAA members to the Scalar platform. CAA will use Scalar in demonstration projects in the coming months developed by The Art Bulletin and caa.reviews.

Celebrating the conclusion of CAA’s Centennial year, Susan Ball, former CAA executive director and interim director of programs at the New York Foundation for the Arts, led a panel of five of the fourteen authors who contributed to the recent book on CAA’s history, The Eye, The Hand, The Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association (New York: College Art Association; New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2011). The group discussed their revelations about watershed moments and movements in the history of the organization, including characterizations of the differing cultures of the journals and the historical ups and downs of the association. In the former category, the development of visual resources for teaching, advocacy, and the influence of feminism on the structure of the conference were cited. The latter category includes the unfortunate split between CAA and the Society of Architectural Historians in 1940.

CAA gained insights into issues that are of critical importance to members at the two speak-out sessions organized by Anne Collins Goodyear, incoming president of the Board of Directors, and the town-hall meeting organized by Margaret Lazzari, a professor in the Roski School of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. A separate article will be devoted to the topics raised at these sessions. A predominant theme was contingent faculty concerns—from course loads to the need to teach a wide breadth of courses.

Three recipients of the Getty Foundation International Travel Grant: Shao-Chien Tseng from National Central University in Taiwan; Didier Houenoude of the Université d’Abomey-Calavi in Benin; and Jean Celestin Ky from the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso (photograph by Bradley Marks)

The Getty Foundation awarded CAA a generous grant to organize the CAA International Travel Grant Program, which supported the selection of twenty international art historians from eighteen countries to attend the conference. The grantees were hosted by experienced members of CAA’s International Committee and by representatives from the National Committee for the History of Art. For all but two recipients, the conference was their first introduction to CAA apart from reading the journals. The grant recipients attended sessions, were introduced to fellow CAA members by their hosts, explored the museums and collections in the Los Angeles area, and also carried out independent research. As a result, CAA’s membership now represents almost seventy countries. This program is part of an ongoing effort to provide a wider network of international members, to assess their needs and interests, and to provide an integrated network for the exchange of ideas, research, and creative projects.

Governance

The artist and designer April Greiman spoke at the Annual Members’ Business Meeting (photograph by Bradley Marks)

At the Annual Members’ Business Meeting, Barbara Nesin, the current board president, announced the new board members: Suzanne Preston Blier, Harvard University; Stephanie D’Alessandro, Art Institute of Chicago; Gail Feigenbaum, Getty Research Institute; and Charles A. Wright, Western Illinois University. Teresa López, CAA chief financial officer, then presented a balanced budget. Anyone interested in receiving a copy of CAA’s fiscal year 2011 audit may email López. Nesin reiterated her aspirations for the organization to have greater inclusivity and responsiveness to its members. She also mentioned her commitment to sustainability and communication.

The full Board of Directors met on Sunday, February 26. The most significant action items included the results of a review of three of the nine Professional Interests, Practices, and Standards Committees: the International Committee, the Services to Artists Committee, and the Committee on Women in the Arts. The board commended all three groups for their outstanding work this year.

The election of officers to the board included Patricia McDonnell for a second term as vice president for external affairs; Jacqueline Francis as vice president for Annual Conference; Randall C. Griffin for a second term as vice president for publications; DeWitt Godfrey as the new vice president for committees; and Maria Ann Conelli as secretary.

The board then passed a resolution to revise the Procedures for Task Forces. The revision added the step of the Executive Committee’s review and prioritization of all proposals for task forces before presentation and adoption by the board. Nesin extended thanks to two members who are rotating off the board after four years of dedicated service: Jay Coogan, president of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design; and Judith Thorpe, professor of art and head of the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Connecticut.

Chris Sundt, a former board member, the editor of the journal Visual Resources, and current cochair of the Committee on Intellectual Property, presented the newly drafted Visual Resources Association: Statement on the Fair Use of Images for Teaching, Research, and Study. She presented the history of CAA’s involvement in fair-use issues and explained how the Visual Resources Association statement can clarify how best to use visual resources in the classroom. The board also reviewed the Association of Research Libraries’ newly drafted Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries, which addresses fair use of visual resources in libraries. The board unanimously adopted both statements.

Looking Forward

Three dedicated leaders who have served as president of the CAA Board of Directors: Paul B. Jaskot, Barbara Nesin, and Nicola M. Courtright (photograph by Bradley Marks)

This Centennial year was a time of reflection for CAA. Hundreds of members participated in delving into the organization’s history and evaluating its present state and possible future. Please see the Centennial Case Statement for the projects and publications that resulted from these investigations.

CAA has changed enormously since its founding in 1911, from a handful of art professors who saw the need to advocate for visual-arts curricula in higher education to its current 14,000 members from over seventy countries. CAA has held to its mission and focus of advocacy, providing a platform for new research and creative expression, job placement, best practices, standards and guidelines, and a place to network with like-minded and not-so-like-minded professionals in the field.

The future for CAA holds a greater use of technology for conferences, publications, and member networking. Under the leadership of Goodyear, incoming board president, the Task Force on Annual Conference Technology will explore ways of extending the conference and increasing member interaction. A consultant from Chain Bridge Group, Raym Crow, has been hired to work with the board, the Publications Committee, and CAA staff to analyze the risk and rewards of developing online versions of The Art Bulletin and Art Journal. Also under consideration is the challenge to find a business model for open access to caa.reviews and an investigation in developing a business model for practical publications. And various networking systems are being explored for future use.

CAA will also have a greater focus on advocacy for the visual arts in the academic and public spheres. As James Leach, chairman of the National Endowment of the Humanities, stated in his Convocation address at the 2011 Annual Conference in New York, it is essential to address not only the intrinsic value of the visual arts, but also its importance to American business and national security. Knowledge and exchange of creative ideas, international cultures, languages, and history are essential to international understanding and security. He addressed the decades-long trend in higher education on the concept of profit-centers and focusing on only those majors that return profits by satisfying the “customer” (student). He warned us of the problems of using reasonable math to determine curriculum instead of emphasizing the intrinsic educational value of the subject. It is time to build defenses of the arts and humanities in universities as well as in the public sphere.

CAA’s Centennial year has deepened the knowledge of our field by reflecting on its history, the current status of the visual arts, and the need to put even more effort into advocating for art and art history in academia and in the public sector. Thank you to the hundreds of members who researched CAA’s history and analyzed its many facets, and who continue to lend their expertise to the future of the field.

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