The College Art Association (CAA), the largest professional group for artists and art historians in the United States, strongly condemns and expresses its grave concern about the recent presidential executive order aimed at limiting the movement of members of CAA and the broader community of arts professionals who fall under the selective set of criteria for national status or ethnic affiliation.
CAA has counted international scholars and artists among its members for many years. Committed to the common purpose of understanding the visual arts in all its forms, professionals throughout the world have enriched CAA’s community by adding diverse perspectives to the study, making, and teaching of art. With funding in recent years from the Getty Foundation to support travel and programs for scholars and curators from Africa, Latin America, Russia and Eastern Europe, and Asia, the association now includes members from seventy countries. More than ten percent of our individual members are international. CAA has counted international scholars and artists among its members since the earliest years of its existence. The roots of CAA’s present-day international program stemmed from a desire to assist European refugees in the 1930s to support personal safety as well as academic and artistic freedom. During that decade, CAA had a “foreign membership” category; as art historians fled Hitler’s Europe, CAA ran a lecture bureau for refugee scholars that created speaking engagements for them at institutions throughout the United States.
The recently announced ban on travel to the United States for residents of seven predominantly Muslim countries not only goes against the inclusive, secular underpinnings of American democracy, it stifles the open access to scholarship and art upon which our work is founded. The executive order goes against our professional and scholarly commitment to diversity, the global exchange of ideas, and the respect for difference. The contribution of immigrants, foreign nationals, and people of all cultural backgrounds greatly strengthens our intellectual and creative world. Further, we believe the executive order law challenges the values at the heart of the US Constitution’s protections on speech and association as well as our national commitment to democratic process for all.
Turning our backs on refugees and closing our borders selectively stifles creative and intellectual work in addition to its very real impact on peoples’ daily lives. We call on our public officials to thwart this attempt to seemingly preserve our own safety at the expense of those who are vulnerable and who also contribute so much.
Without question, CAA welcomes all members and non-members to our upcoming Annual Conference to discuss and debate what constitutes a thriving artistic and intellectual society. Such openness is essential to our mission. We are committed through dialogue and action to help any CAA members who are affected by this policy. To this end, the association and the Board of Directors will continue to monitor and respond to policies related to this order as well as pressure for its immediate repeal.
Suzanne Preston Blier
Chief Executive Officer
posted by Christopher Howard — January 23, 2017
For more than a century, the College Art Association (CAA) has represented art historians, artists, museum professionals, designers, and others who think and care about the visual arts and its impact on our culture. We do this in part through direct advocacy for artistic and academic freedom.
Like many other Americans, we have closely watched the proposed changes to the federal government. Recent news reports reveal that the US President intends to propose the elimination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This proposal is reportedly based in part on a recommendation by the Heritage Foundation that states, “As the U.S. Congress struggles to balance the federal budget and end the decades-long spiral of deficit spending, few programs seem more worthy of outright elimination than the National Endowment for the Arts.”
We offer our complete and total opposition to these efforts.
Since the 1960s, the NEA and NEH have supported artists, writers, museum professionals, and a wide array of scholars of various disciplines in creating new work and scholarship. The NEA supports thousands of cultural and educational organizations, and, in a few cases, individual artists. The NEH, which strengthens teaching and learning in schools and colleges—as well as the work of independent scholars—creates access to educational scholarship and research nationwide. In addition, the NEH is a strong supporter of museum exhibitions throughout the country. Combined, the budgets for the two agencies are less than $300 million. The organizational grantees generate hundreds of millions of dollars in matching support and countless new works of art and scholarship. These works and related projects are studied and enjoyed by millions of Americans in museums and other venues. The cultural sector of the US economy generates more the $135 billion in revenue and employs over three million people in small towns and large cities countrywide.
Given that the respective budgets of the NEA and NEH represent only a tiny fraction of the entire federal budget, their planned elimination cannot logically be seen as a cost-saving measure. Rather, it appears to be a deliberate, ominous effort to silence artistic and academic voices, representing a potentially chilling next step in an apparent effort to stifle and eradicate oppositional voices and cultural output from civic life. By eliminating the support for these agencies, the government undermines the unifying potential of the arts, culture, and education that encourages and nurtures communication and positive discussion.
CAA leadership is monitoring the possible elimination and/or reduction of funding for the NEA and NEH and how it may affect our members and the work they do. CAA will communicate and collaborate with other cultural and educational organizations and learned societies to determine potential future advocacy options.
We urge our fellow CAA members to contact their representatives in Congress to let them know the importance of maintaining a robust, national, publicly supported framework for artistic and academic freedom. When you contact your representative, we ask that you let them know you are a member of CAA and together we are advocating for continued public funding for the arts. We also encourage you to contact the National Humanities Alliance and Americans for the Arts to become further involved.
Through our collective strength, we can ensure that public funding of scholarship and art making continues, free from political and commercial interference.
Suzanne Preston Blier
Chief Executive Officer
For more than one hundred years, the College Art Association (CAA) has been dedicated to the creative process through making and thinking about art and how it affects our past, present, and future. We do this through scholarship, publications, convenings, research, and professional development for artists, designers, and art historians. As a member-driven association, we are committed to intellectual rigor, peer review, inclusion, and diversity. We uphold these values by engaging everyone, nationally and internationally; all races, ages, abilities, religions, citizenships, ethnicities, gender expressions, and sexual orientations. We defend academic freedom as forcefully as we reject discrimination, bigotry, sexual assault, and violence against the vulnerable.
As scholars, artists, and educators, we expect the same exactitude from leaders in education, cultural institutions, and, in particular, government. We will continue to advocate in no uncertain terms for an inclusive climate that fosters intellectual honesty, transparency, and human engagement.
Suzanne Preston Blier
posted by CAA — August 09, 2016
CAA has signed onto the letter reprinted below, written by the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) on July 21, 2016, and signed by dozens of organizations. To read the full list of signatories, please visit the MESA website.
Threats to Academic Freedom and Higher Education in Turkey
The above listed organizations collectively note with profound concern the apparent moves to dismantle much of the structure of Turkish higher education through purges, restrictions, and assertions of central control, a process begun earlier this year and accelerating now with alarming speed.
As scholarly associations, we are committed to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The recent moves in Turkey herald a massive and virtually unprecedented assault on those principles. One of the Middle East region’s leading systems of higher education is under severe threat as a result, as are the careers and livelihoods of many of its faculty members and academic administrators.
Our concern about the situation in Turkish universities has been mounting over the past year, as Turkish authorities have moved to retaliate against academics for expressing their political views—some merely signing an “Academics for Peace” petition criticizing human rights violations.
Yet the threat to academic freedom and higher education has recently worsened in a dramatic fashion. In the aftermath of the failed coup attempt of July 15–16, 2016, the Turkish government has moved to purge government officials in the Ministry of Education and has called for the resignation of all university deans across the country’s public and private universities. As of this writing, it appears that more than 15,000 employees at the education ministry have been fired and nearly 1,600 deans—1,176 from public universities and 401 from private universities—have been asked to resign. In addition, 21,000 private school teachers have had their teaching licenses cancelled. Further, reports suggest that travel restrictions have been imposed on academics at public universities and that Turkish academics abroad were required to return to Turkey. The scale of the travel restrictions, suspensions, and imposed resignations in the education sector seemingly go much farther than the targeting of individuals who might have had any connection to the attempted coup.
The crackdown on the education sector creates the appearance of a purge of those deemed inadequately loyal to the current government. Moreover, the removal of all of the deans across the country represents a direct assault on the institutional autonomy of Turkey’s universities. The replacement of every university’s administration simultaneously by the executive-controlled Higher Education Council would give the government direct administrative control of all Turkish universities. Such concentration and centralization of power over all universities is clearly inimical to academic freedom. Moreover, the government’s existing record of requiring university administrators’ to undertake sweeping disciplinary actions against perceived opponents—as was the case against the Academics for Peace petition signatories—lends credence to fears that the change in university administrations will be the first step in an even broader purge against academics in Turkey.
Earlier this year, it was already clear that the Turkish government, in a matter of months, had amassed a staggering record of violations of academic freedom and freedom of expression. The aftermath of the attempted coup may have accelerated those attacks on academic freedom in even more alarming ways.
As scholarly organizations, we collectively call for respect for academic freedom—including freedom of expression, opinion, association, and travel—and the autonomy of universities in Turkey, offer our support to our Turkish colleagues, second the Middle East Studies Association’s “call for action” of January 15, request that Turkey’s diplomatic interlocutors (both states and international organizations) advocate vigorously for the rights of Turkish scholars and the autonomy of Turkish universities, suggest other scholarly organizations speak forcefully about the threat to the Turkish academy, and alert academic institutions throughout the world that Turkish colleagues are likely to need moral and substantive support in the days ahead.
Organizations wishing to be included as signatories on the above statement should contact Amy Newhall at email@example.com.
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).
posted by CAA — December 01, 2015
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
posted by CAA — December 01, 2015
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.
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.”
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.
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: www.neh.gov.
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.
Improve Opportunities for International Cultural Activity; Support the Arts Requirement Timely Service (ARTS) Act
posted by CAA — July 10, 2015
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
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
Performing Arts Alliance
The Recording Academy
Theatre Communications Group