posted by CAA — Dec 06, 2018
As a member of CAA since 1987 and attending the conference nearly every year, I feel I understand and grow the continuing mission of the organization. I am a visual artist and have always found the annual conference to be influential for not only my own practice, but my teaching. The mission to “cultivate the ongoing understanding of art as a fundamental form of human expression” is necessary today more than ever. As scholars, reinforcing how art addresses human dignity and empathy is our greatest challenge.
What used to be 5-year strategic plans in higher education have grown to 20- 40-year strategic plans. Things change, and they change fast. Students change and we have to educate ourselves to their new natures. The workplace changes, and we have to educate ourselves to understand a changing higher administration. The country is changing faster than we thought possible, and the world itself is not the same as it was even five years ago. There are those that believe higher education has “peaked” and we are on the downward slide. Adam Harris in the Atlantic says, “we are living through the greatest time in history to be a learner, with the availability of so many high-quality free materials online. But at the same time, the institutions most affiliated with knowledge and learning are facing crisis.” That includes budget cuts, declining enrollments, student debt, declining research dollars, loss of faculty lines, etc. etc. None of this is new to any of us. Some programs take a proactive approach and innovate their way out of these problems, going on-line and increasing continuing education, building a wider audience. Will these approaches last? Are they the answer?
The basic issues that drives us, as art educators, have not changed. We value the arts and the humanity that comes with it. We feel they are more important now than they ever have been. The argument that you cannot get a job over-rides real data, which proves that there are more jobs out there for creative thinkers than ever before. The empathy we feel for our society turns out to be the major solution for our survival.
Yes, we can tackle some of the nuts and bolt issues, but our main goal is to tackle the perception that the arts don’t matter. This is where CAA comes in. We work not only in higher ed, but in communities in urban and rural areas, we partner, and we touch people. We don’t all come from the same place, yet we have everything in common.
Nearly 30 years in academia has shown me that hurtles can be surmounted, that compromise can take place, and we can retool education for the world our students live in. Working in both private and public universities has offered different kinds of experiences so the constraints we all feel are not new to me. It would be an honor to work alongside other scholars, artists, critics, and curators as a CAA board member.