CAA News Today

A Call to Action

posted by February 16, 2016

DeWitt Godfrey, President of the CAA Board of Directors

A Call to Action

That there are many things wrong in and around our current cultural, educational, and political institutions goes almost without saying. But students of color and their allies at my university and across the country are saying and naming many of the endemic failings of our institutions, refusing to remain silent in the face of systemic racism, inequalities, and oppression. These protests demand redress, unquestionably deserved and long overdue, refusing to let the status quo resettle into old and harmful patterns. There is much anger, much emotion, and sometimes even much empathy. In the pursuit of new paradigms and patterns, territories are marked out, language crafted seeking discourse that ideally cannot support or makes impossible the reification of old injustices.

In the quest for these new spaces, in the specificity we believe will prevent and dismantle these systems of oppression and in their focused intention to redescribe and reframe the terms and debate around the responsibility of institutions and individuals, there also exists the possibility of curtailing and preventing the very conversations that might productively contribute to a process of recognition, acknowledgment, and critique of these pernicious systems of privilege and inequality. In the face of these very real grievances, in a climate of anxiety and fear, all around us the collective is at risk of fracture, dispersing into self-referential self-reinforcing pockets that create false senses of common purpose, aligned against a shared enemy composed of those who refuse or who are excluded by the preconditions of inclusion. In the final irony, this fracturing of the collective along clannish lines most suits those who opportunistically exploit the fears of those who fear losing their spaces of privilege, in a zero sum game predicated on the notion that to gain someone has to lose. We are weaker divided, and the institutional spaces, such as those enshrined at the heart of the university, a collective under which many disparate forms of knowledge production can find common purpose and support, grow also weaker, creating conditions under which the entire enterprise of higher education comes under attack as irrelevant, disconnected, and even antagonistic to the ideologically oriented common good.

Rather than arguing and debating ideas we are reduced to defending positions, constructs that by design resist and reject critique in conditions that neuter dialogue. While these constructs are created out of real conditions—real pain, suffering, and oppression—we should not counter by discounting or mediating the raw feelings at the center this experience. But we might be careful not to fall into a trap of our own design, in which debate and conversation can only occur with those in our likeminded cohort.

What does this have to do with CAA? Over the past decade the largest learned societies such as CAA and MLA have experienced steady and sometimes rapid declines in membership, while smaller discipline-specific societies’ memberships have grown.

From a peak in 2010 of 13,000 members, our current individual enrollment has fallen to 9,000. Conference attendance in New York, historically the highest and most consistent, was down 25 percent from 2013 to 2015. There are many substantive reasons for this downward trend: some are demographic (research shows that millennials are not joiners), so we restructured our membership categories when we launched our copublishing agreement with Taylor & Francis. The great recession of 2009 sharply reduced institutional support for research and conference travel and transformed hiring practices—a lot less of you are here interviewing candidates or seeking jobs than in years past. But beyond that, the fact remains that for many of our former and even current members, CAA is no longer relevant. For many the answer is to gather with like-minded individuals in narrowly defined subgroups. This has tangible consequences for CAA, but I also believe this current trend of atomization is a threat to the difficult cross-disciplinary, cross-identity, and cross-cultural conversations that must be supported and preserved that are less likely to be taken up by insular groups.

So what do productive and viable institutions make possible? What can large institutions provide that small ones can’t? Specifically, CAA carves out spaces of debate and conversation, opportunities to talk across difference, to bring focus and attention to issues that cross disciplines and fields. Our Mellon-funded task force produced guidelines for the fair use of third-party images in teaching, publishing, and creative work could not have been undertaken without the broad reach, constituency and intellectual reputation that we have at CAA. In the past five years our partnership with the Getty Foundation has gathered ninety art historians from over forty-five countries in every conceivable area of art and art-historical inquiry for a one-day preconference. The plurality and heterogeneity of our membership should be seen as our greatest asset, how a diverse spectrum of practitioners and scholars gather at the annual conference, through our publications and programs from across the range of arts, artists, art historians, museum and arts professionals, designers, and educators.

What I have offered above is a frank appeal for your support and advocacy for CAA, an appeal for an association that has been, in particular for our academic members, at the front lines for over a century, for an organization that has played a critical role in the integration of art history and studio practice into a frequently resistant academy. Times have changed, battles have been fought and won, and while there are standards to be defended, CAA must face a future where many—even most—of our colleagues no longer have access to the institutional resources which were once the norm, to advocate for the fair and equitable treatment of part-time and contingent faculty, to lead the debate around how education will be delivered, to keep education affordable, to protect and preserve a higher-education system that despite its flaws remains the envy of the world. We must also imagine a CAA that reaches further beyond the academy than we already do, as relevant to the unaffiliated artist, designer, and even art historian, as we are to those of us who hold academic positions. Our task force on design, design theory, design education, and design history has uncovered exciting potential for greater advocacy for our design colleagues and how to reimagine our structures and programs to strengthen and expand our association, acknowledging the growing stature of design in our culture and in our institutions. Artists without a permanent or sometime itinerant academic connection have long been, despite specific outreach attempts, on the periphery of our association because we have yet to clearly articulate what the benefits of membership are. CAA will need to clear new spaces for such new contributors and membership

Change is frightening and nearly everyone despises ambiguity—conversely conditions in which art and artists thrive. In the midst of an election cycle that has upended assumptions on both the left and right, now more than ever art matters. And I mean matters more than instrumentally—not merely as an economic driver and not as an adjunct practice that increases student’s math scores or that it is somehow “good for us.” Art matters because artists work and thrive in the interstitial spaces between disciplines, around institutions, who assume the permission to ask questions that cannot be formulated from inside the confines of a particular, single point of view or perspective.

This speech was first delivered as opening remarks at the CAA Annual Conference Convocation Ceremony on February 3, 2016. A Keynote talk by artist Tania Bruguera followed (Watch on YouTube).

Filed under: Advocacy, Annual Conference

The undersigned learned societies are deeply concerned about the impact of Texas’s new Campus Carry law on freedom of expression in Texas universities. The law, which was passed earlier this year and takes effect in 2016, allows licensed handgun carriers to bring concealed handguns into buildings on Texas campuses. Our societies are concerned that the Campus Carry law and similar laws in other states introduce serious safety threats on college campuses with a resulting harmful effect on students and professors.

American Academy of Religion
American Anthropological Association
American Antiquarian Society
American Association for the History of Medicine
American Folklore Society
American Historical Association
American Musicological Society
American Philosophical Association
American Political Science Association
American Studies Association
American Society for Aesthetics
American Society for Environmental History
American Sociological Association
Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Association of American Geographers
College Art Association
Latin American Studies Association
Law and Society Association
Medieval Academy of America
Middle East Studies Association
Modern Language Association
National Communication Association
National Council on Public History
Oral History Association
Society for American Music
Society of Architectural Historians
Society of Biblical Literature
Society for Ethnomusicology
World History Association

Filed under: Advocacy, Education

CAA acknowledges the concern of many of its members regarding the acquisition of Ashgate by Informa, the parent company of Taylor & Francis. The Ashgate art and humanities publications series have been a critically important venue for art history and critical scholarship because of their high quality production. Ashgate’s art and humanities series have also increased in value as the opportunities for scholarly monograph publishing diminishes. CAA has conveyed the concerns to Taylor & Francis that the high quality of the editorial process at Ashgate be maintained by Taylor & Francis and the art and humanities series continue to publish as fully as in the past.

Filed under: Advocacy, Publications

50th Anniversary Message from President Obama

posted by September 30, 2015

President Obama joined the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in celebrating the agency’s 50th anniversary, with the message that “The arts and humanities have always been central to the American experience.”

See a PDF of the White House message.

The full greeting reads as follows:

September 28, 2015

I am pleased to join in marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965.

The arts and humanities have always been central to the American experience. Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson helped lift up this legacy by establishing the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, affirming: “The arts and the humanities belong to the people, for it is, after all, the people who create them.” Today, President Johnson’s vision—of a society that honors its artistic and cultural heritage and encourages its citizens to carry that heritage forward—endures as an essential part of who we are as a Nation.

Through their efforts to shape a future of opportunity and creativity for all, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities reflect a notion that has always driven America’s promise—that ours is a country where all things are possible for all people. If we join in common purpose and continue believing in the possibilities of tomorrow, I know that groundbreaking explorations and innovations—in the humanities, in the arts, and throughout our society—will always lie ahead.

As you reflect on a half century of progress, you have my best wishes.

—Barack Obama

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

During a conference call on July 9, 2015, with representatives of learned societies, auction houses, and government agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed that looting of antiquities in Syria and Iraq has taken place. They have also received confirmation from informants and found evidence of industrial levels of looting from satellite photos. The FBI asked the participants on the call to ask their constituents to follow due diligence and to reach out if anyone suspects objects to have been looted. They emphasized that most of the art market is relatively “clean,” meaning that most objects bought and sold have not been looted or illegally sold. However, it usually takes two years for looted items to begin to flood the market.

The FBI requested expert cooperation. Trafficking in cultural property is covered by the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property and by the US Criminal Code, in which it is considered criminal to “providing material support” if an expert in antiquities even suspects that objects have been looted and a report is not made to the FBI. one can call 855-835-5324.

The responsibility of the FBI is to dismantle illegal trafficking networks, not to provide data or set policy. The FBI is currently working on outreach that will better inform the public, create more awareness, and address reporting procedures.

CAA has invited FBI to address CAA members at the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2016, on what antiquities experts should be aware of if they suspect they have found looted objects, and if reporting to the FBI would involve antiquities experts in legal processes and disclosure to the public. The FBI will also provide an update of the sites that have been looted in Syria and Iraq, and they will address current criminal law and international treaties related to sale, purchase, and possession of antiquities.

The CAA Board of Directors has approved its support of the following notice.

Improve Opportunities for International Cultural Activity

Support the Arts Requirement Timely Service (ARTS) Act

We write to urge your support for the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, which improves processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations by simply ensuring enforcement of current statutory requirements.

Action now will ensure that the U.S. visa process for artists is reliable, efficient, and affordable. Congress recognized the time-sensitive nature of arts events when writing the 1991 federal law regarding O and P visas, in which the USCIS is currently instructed to process O and P arts visas in 14 days. While USCIS has made recent efforts to observe this timeframe, there is a history of extreme unpredictability in the timing of the artist visa process, with wait times of up to six months.

The ARTS Act would consistently reduce the USCIS processing times for nonprofit O and P arts-related visa petitions to a total of 29 days—twice the current statutory requirement. USCIS would be required to treat any nonprofit arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within the current statutory 14-day timeframe as a Premium Processing case (an additional 15-day turn-around time), free of additional charge. Previous consideration of the ARTS Act has had strong bipartisan support.

American nonprofit arts organizations and artists—in communities large and small across our country—provide an important public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events, and cultural programs in communities across the country. Only with consistent improvements over time, will confidence in the U.S. visa process continue to be re-built among U.S. petitioning organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange.

Enactment of this provision will make enduring improvements to the visa process. Please support the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act.

American Alliance of Museums
American Association of Independent Music
American Federation of Musicians
Americans for the Arts
Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Chamber Music America Dance/USA
League of American Orchestras
Literary Network
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education
National Alliance for Musical Theatre
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
Network of Ensemble Theaters
New Music USA
North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents
OPERA America
Performing Arts Alliance
The Recording Academy
Theatre Communications Group

Filed under: Advocacy — Tags: ,

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on June 24, 2015.

Call On Your Member of Congress to Support the NEA!

This week, key decisions affecting arts funding are getting made.

Last night, the House Rules Committee met to set parameters for floor debate on legislation that funds the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other cultural agencies, including the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Congressional Arts Caucus co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) serves on that committee and spoke at length about arts funding, noting its impact on our economy, student achievement, and health. She made sure the committee knew that 4.7 million Americans work in the arts and that it makes up 4.3% of our U.S. GDP—more than $698 billion!

The House is scheduled to consider this legislation next on the House floor, beginning tomorrow.  It’s been a while—the last time there were floor votes on this bill was back in 2011!

We urge every arts advocate to join Rep. Slaughter and help remind your member of Congress about the importance of the arts and arts funding as this key funding bill is debated.

Right now, the bill proposes sustained funding at $146 million. Last week in committee, efforts to increase funding by $2 million to the President’s request failed. Now on the floor, efforts to cut or even eliminate the agency are a possibility.

Arts advocates attending 2015 Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill this spring You know better than anyone the top 10 reasons to support the arts; make sure your representatives do, too. Take two minutes to urge your representative to support at least level funding for the NEA, and reject any effort to reduce it.

Thank you for your support of the arts! Help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. If you are not already a member, play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today—it’s free and easy to join.

Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, sent the following email on June 20, 2015.

Preparing for Possible Anti-NEH Amendments in the House

Hello All,

I am writing with an update on challenges NEH and NEA may face in the House in the coming week. As many of you know, the Interior appropriations bill has been scheduled to be considered on the floor of the House on Thursday. We are preparing for the possibility that an amendment cutting or eliminating funding for NEH and NEA may be introduced. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday at 5 pm, so we should know more after that.

In preparation. we are priming our members for a possible action alert and reaching out to specific organizations with ties to higher education institutions in strategically important Republican-held districts. We are asking them to be prepared to call on these institutions to reach out to the Members in support of NEH. I am attaching the list of 50 districts in case anyone has strong contacts to pursue if needed.

I know that many of you are already looped in through CAG and are already poised to act.

We’ll be in touch early in the week, and please let us know if you have any information.

Hopefully this will be much ado about nothing!

Hope you are all enjoying the weekend.

Najean Lee, director of government affairs and education advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, sent the following email on June 18, 2015.

Senate Approps Cmte approves FY16 Interior bill

Senate Approps debated the Interior bill for around 3 hours this morning and they’ve passed their funding bill which includes $146 million for NEA and NEH.

Udall proposed several amendments, the first of which included an increase for the cultural agencies’ budget to the President’s request, but the amendment was not adopted.


Allison J. Cywin of the Visual Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth sent the following email on June 15, 2015.

Govenor proposes closure of the Illnois State Museum

I thought I would share the following concern.  The Govenor of Illnois wants to closed the state museum. Please express your concerns and sign the petition (
to  support the museum.
and spread the news.

Filed under: Advocacy, Museums and Galleries — Tags: