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CAA News Today

Jim Hopfensperger at home.

As of this month, Jim Hopfensperger, professor of art at Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art, is CAA’s new president for the 2018-2022 term. As a professor and artist with a wealth of experience, we thought it would be a great opportunity to ask Jim his thoughts on CAA and the field at-large. CAA media and content manager Joelle Te Paske  spoke with him earlier this month.

JTP: Hi Jim! Thanks so much for speaking with me. How are you?

JH: Very well, Joelle. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit!

JTP: To get us oriented, where did you grow up?

JH: My spouse, Jane, and I were raised in the upper Midwest. While career choices took us to Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, we returned “home” to Michigan eighteen years ago to be nearer aging family members.

JTP: And what did you study?

JH: I was educated as a craftsperson, working primarily in non-ferrous metals such as silver, gold, and copper. During a sabbatical leave from my faculty position at Penn State University in the early 1990s, I was presented the opportunity to work in a furniture studio in Massachusetts. Within a few weeks I was totally hooked, gifting my metal working tools to a younger artist and moving forward as a furniture maker.

Jim Hopfensperger, Shaker Purple, 2012

JTP: What drew you to the work you do now?

JH: I am drawn to how creating art/design objects—one-at-a-time and by hand—reinforces and reaffirms what it means to be a human being. Thinking with my hands, my eyes, and my mind to conceive well-designed and useful articles makes me feel whole. Perhaps I am a kinesthetic thinker/learner? It also seems possible that, for better and for worse, my sense of self is simply anchored in making things. The non-existent term “neuroceutical therapy” comes to mind!

JTP: What is exciting to you as the incoming CAA president?

JH: The forces of change are in motion all around us. It is a truly exhilarating time to be in the business of living!

As for CAA, a raft of research suggests that healthy organizations prosper when focusing efforts along two key pathways: 1) identifying and strengthening essential core competencies and 2) systematically exploring future capacities. This means sustaining CAA’s outstanding programs and services while simultaneously identifying the organization’s next purposes. Full attention to both matters seems essential if we are to extend a highly distinguished history of advocacy for artists, art historians, scholars, curators, critics, designers, collectors, and educators. I am grateful for this opportunity and excited about the work ahead.

Jim Hopfensperger, Deliberation No. 7, 2005

JTP: What work has been done over the past few years that you would like to build on?  What would you like to see happening at CAA in the next year?  How about in the next ten?

JH: Clearly, CAA remains an eminent learned society. At the same time it is increasingly fulfilling its potential as a professional association that serves members across educational, curatorial, scholarly, and creative pursuits. In the short term I am confident CAA will remain a strong association and identify more ways to support members in their professional lives.

Over the next few years a pivot toward some key constituencies might make strategic sense. Those include 1) the burgeoning ranks of contingent employees upon whom educational and cultural institutions have become increasingly reliant; 2) the large number of design and new/emerging media practitioners graduating from art and design programs; and 3) the community of international scholars, artists, and designers steadily advancing global perspectives. I look forward to working with CAA members, staff, board, and other stakeholders to map a future wherein these colleagues will be well served.

JTP: What has been a memorable professional moment for you at a CAA Annual Conference?

JH: I am deeply invested in the fellowship aspects of CAA. My fondest memory involves mentoring in the Professional Development Workshops at the Annual Conference in 2000. One my mentees was, as I, trained as a metalsmith. We worked closely after that conference to identify strategies for achieving his professional goals, and he eventually accepted a splendid academic position. In return for my service, and for each of the past eighteen years uninterrupted, he has gifted to me a handcrafted metal ornament to hang on our family holiday tree. Simply precious! (And if you are reading this Professor James Thurman, a wholehearted “Thank You!” is long overdue.)    

Jim Hopfensperger, Deliberation No. 9, 2013

JTP: What would you say is the number one challenge facing higher education?

JH: Excellent question. My two cents: Adapting to the startling, inevitable pace of cultural and technological change is an operational necessity. Yet, communicating the value of an educated populace appears to be our most immediate and pressing challenge. Making the case for the causal relationship between educational opportunities and the ascendance of an increasingly ethical, moral, and empathetic society is job one. In the absence of such a mission statement, it is not difficult to imagine financial or economic ‘values’ easily filling the void.

The logical outcome might then resemble Oscar Wilde’s timeless quip about a cynic being ‘a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.’

JTP: Do you have a favorite artwork? 

JH: I have a keen interest in all forms of applied design—dynamic and surprising buildings, objects, communications, products, and processes. However, and for reasons I am not fully able to explain, my favorite artwork is Monet’s Four Trees in the Met’s collection. This quiet little companion and I visit perhaps once every 12 to 24 months. Invariably, I leave our encounters refreshed and restored.

Claude Monet, The Four Trees, 1891, oil on canvas, 32 1/4 x 32 1/8 in. (81.9 x 81.6 cm) Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image: Wikimedia Commons

JTP: What about a favorite book?   

JH: Much of my reading over the past decade can be described as a search for serviceable maps of the human mind, followed by rubbernecking at accidents caused by irrational behaviors. Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is a fine example of the former, the type of mind mapping I find highly addictive. Kahneman’s lenses for understanding our extraordinary capabilities, while simultaneously identifying those pesky faults and deep biases that accompany human thought and action, help structure my own thinking. In a related way writings on decision-making in everyday life are equally intriguing and useful. Charles Duhiggs’s The Power of Habit, Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Keith Payne’s The Broken Ladder successfully illustrate complexities and contradictions when/where supposedly rational thoughts and human actions intersect, often to hilarious and/or tragic effect—endlessly fascinating stuff!

Jim Hopfensperger is a professor of art at Western Michigan University’s Gwen Frostic School of Art where he teaches foundation art. Jim’s art works have been shown nationally and internationally in over 100 exhibitions at venues including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Auckland Memorial Museum, Lever House, University of Iowa Museum of Art, University of Oregon Museum of Art, State Museum of Pennsylvania, North Carolina Museum of History, and National Ornamental Metals Museum.

Jim’s past appointments include serving as Senior Associate Dean in the College of Fine Arts at Western Michigan University, Chair of the Department of Art & Art History at Michigan State University, and Head of the Studio Art Program at The Pennsylvania State University. He has also taught at the Massachusetts College of Art, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, Skidmore College, University of Michigan, and North Carolina State University.

Jim is Past President of the National Council of Arts Administrators, and is an accreditation visitor for the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. He earned a MFA from University of Michigan, a MA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a BA from Michigan State University.

CAA staff in Washington, DC (left to right): Joelle Te Paske, media and content manager, Alison Chang, sponsorship and partnership manager, Aakash Suchak, grants and special programs manager, Hunter O’Hanian, executive director, and Nick Obourn, director of communications, marketing, and membership.

Earlier this week CAA staff traveled to Washington, DC for Americans for the Arts’s Arts Advocacy Day and National Alliance for the Humanities’s Humanities Advocacy Day.

After a day of breakout sessions and briefings on Monday, staff visited congressional offices on Tuesday to advocate for continued funding for NEA, NEH, IMLS, CPB, and support for the arts, humanities, and higher education. See our on-the-ground updates.

We visited 18 congressional offices representing three different states, with positive responses from both Democrats and Republicans. We meet with staff or dropped off materials with:

New York

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY)

Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY 6th District)

Dropped off materials with Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY 7th District)

Dropped off materials with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY 8th District)

Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9th District)

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY 10th District)

Dropped off materials with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY 16th District)

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY 17th District)

Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY 18th District)

Wisconsin

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2nd District)

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI 7th District)

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI 8th District)

Connecticut 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Rep. John Larson (D-CT 1st District)

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT 2nd District)

Rep. Jim Himes  (D-CT 4th District)

Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT 5th District)

Learn more about Advocacy Days below.

ARTS ADVOCACY DAY

March 12 – March 13, 2018
Hosted by Americans for the Arts

Arts advocates from across the country convene in Washington, DC for Americans for the Arts’s annual Arts Advocacy Day each year. Arts Advocacy Day brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 700 grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts. Learn more.

HUMANITIES ADVOCACY DAY

March 11 – March 13, 2018
Hosted by National Alliance for the Humanities

Humanities Advocacy Day provides the opportunity to connect with a growing number of humanities advocates from around the country. Together, advocates will explore approaches to year-round advocacy on college campuses and in local communities while also preparing for Capitol Hill visits. On March 13, they will visit House and Senate offices to make a persuasive case for federal funding for the humanities. Learn more.

WHY DID CAA ATTEND?

For two years in a row, we’ve offered our complete and total opposition to efforts to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and other domestic programs that fund education, arts, and humanities initiatives, as outlined in the 2018 and 2019 White House budget proposals.

Over the last year, we’ve also solicited feedback from our members on a variety of issues that impact the arts, humanities, and higher education, including:

For more on our advocacy efforts, click here.

We encourage you to be vocal about your support for the arts and humanities. Click here to access the CAA Arts and Humanities Advocacy Toolkit.

CAA Goes to Washington

posted by March 07, 2018

See live updates on Twitter and Instagram

Early next week, staff members from CAA will be attending Arts Advocacy Day and Humanities Advocacy Day in Washington, DC.

ARTS ADVOCACY DAY

March 12 – March 13, 2018
Hosted by Americans for the Arts

Arts advocates from across the country convene in Washington, DC for Americans for the Arts’s annual Arts Advocacy Day each year. Arts Advocacy Day brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 700 grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts. Learn more.

HUMANITIES ADVOCACY DAY

March 11 – March 13, 2018
Hosted by National Alliance for the Humanities

Humanities Advocacy Day provides the opportunity to connect with a growing number of humanities advocates from around the country. Together, advocates will explore approaches to year-round advocacy on college campuses and in local communities while also preparing for Capitol Hill visits. On March 13, they will visit House and Senate offices to make a persuasive case for federal funding for the humanities. Learn more.

WHY IS CAA ATTENDING?

For two years in a row, we’ve offered our complete and total opposition to efforts to eliminate funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and other domestic programs that fund education, arts, and humanities initiatives, as outlined in the 2018 and 2019 White House budget proposals.

Over the last year, we’ve also solicited feedback from our members on a variety of issues that impact the arts, humanities, and higher education, including:

For more on our advocacy efforts, click here.

We encourage you to be vocal about your support for the arts and humanities next week (and beyond!). Click here to access the CAA Arts and Humanities Advocacy Toolkit.

Students in class at Tulane University. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 2013 the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) launched the Measuring College Learning (MCL) project as a way to engage faculty in the effort to understand and improve student learning in their discipline through development of better tools for assessment in higher education. CAA recently partnered with the SSRC to create an MCL-Art History panel that would outline learning objectives for introductory art history courses, including identifying essential concepts and competencies that demonstrate foundational knowledge of the discipline. The MCL-AH panel convened in July and December 2017 to produce a draft document.

The MCL-Art History panel will host an open forum at the CAA Annual Conference from 2:00-3:30 PM on Friday, February 23rd in Room 511A of the Los Angeles Convention Center to collect CAA member feedback on its initial draft of core learning goals. The panel plans to share the draft document, solicit input and observations, and respond to questions from the community. CAA members are also invited to review the draft document and share observations before, during, and after the annual conference (until March 31, 2018).

Link to MCL-AH Document: http://highered.ssrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018.02-MCL-in-Art-History-Report-for-CAA.pdf

CAA Member Feedback to: edick@ssrc.org
Background on the Measuring College Learning Project

In MCL projects faculty and other experts come together to consider what students should learn in their majors and how that learning should be measured. Panels of experts from six disciplines participated in the first iteration: biology, business, communication, economics, history, and sociology. Several national disciplinary associations—including the American History Association, the American Sociology Association, and the National Communication Association—were actively involved in this project. The culmination of this work was the publication of Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes & Assessments for the 21st Century (Jossey Bass, 2016). More information and resources from this project are available on-line for free download at: http://highered.ssrc.org/projects/measuring-college-learning-project/.

MCL-Art History Panel Members:

Richard Arum, University of California-Irvine, SSRC Senior Academic Advisor
Cole Edick, SSRC Program Assistant
Christine Havice, Kent State University
Richard Lubben, Lane Community College, CAA Education Committee
Elisa Mandell, California State University Fullerton, CAA International Committee
Walter Meyer, Santa Monica College, CAA Professional Practices Committee
Chika Okeke-Agulu, Princeton University, CAA Board of Directors
Stephanie Smith, Youngstown State University

MCL-Art History Co-Chairs:

Virginia Spivey, Independent Scholar and Consultant, CAA Education Committee
Andy Schulz, Penn State University, CAA Board of Directors
Jim Hopfensperger, Western Michigan University, CAA Board of Directors

Earlier this afternoon, the White House released its 2019 Budget Proposal. The $4.4 trillion budget outlines deep cuts in domestic programs that fund education, arts, and humanities initiatives, while increasing military spending.

“By zeroing out the budgets for the NEH, NEA and similar agencies that support the arts, humanities and education, the President has shown again that he cares more about tax cuts for the wealthy than supporting an American cultural heritage, funded though these agencies,” said Hunter O’Hanian, CAA’s executive director. “Thankfully, a bipartisan group of Congressional members, those with the real financial authority, have Americans interests at heart and they will reject the President’s draconian proposals.”

The entire budget proposal adds $984 billion to the federal deficit in the next year and in total adds $7 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years.

Partial list of programs slated for elimination:

  • NEA
  • NEH
  • IMLS
  • CPB
  • Corporation for Travel Promotion (Brand USA)
  • Delta Regional Authority
  • Denali Commission
  • Northern Border Regional Commission
  • Woodrow Wilson Center
  • S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • S. Trade and Development Agency
  • Chemical Safety and Hazard Inspection Board
  • Under SNAP: “Proposals are also included to eliminate funding for State performance bonuses and for SNAP nutrition education grants…”
  • Economic Development Administration
  • Contingency Fund

We call on our members and those who believe in the importance of the arts, humanities, and education to act now. The most effective way to make your voice heard is through your local representatives. Call. Email. Write letters.

Congress has this budget in their hands and now is the time to let them know you support the programs it seeks to eliminate.

Click here to access the CAA Arts and Humanities Advocacy Toolkit.

We look forward to discussing budget advocacy at our Annual Conference in Los Angeles, February 21-24.

Read about Advocacy News from CAA.

Honorees this year include Pepón Osorio, Firelei Báez, Kellie Jones, Joseph Masheck, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Lowery Stokes Sims, and many other scholars, artists, authors, and teachers

CAA Annual Conference, Los Angeles, CA, February 21-24, 2018

Pepón Osorio. Courtesy the artist.

CAA is pleased to announce the recipients and finalists of the 2018 Awards for Distinction and the creation of a new Award for Excellence in Diversity. Honorees this year are among the leading scholars, artists, teachers, and authors in the field of visual arts. The CAA Awards for Distinction are presented during Convocation at the CAA Annual Conference on Wednesday, February 21 at 6:00PM at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The CAA Annual Conference runs from February 21-24, 2018.

Among the winners this year is Pepón Osorio, recipient of the 2018 Distinguished Artist Award for Lifetime Achievement. Osorio is the first artist of Puerto Rican descent to receive the award from CAA. Drawing on his childhood in Puerto Rico and his adult life as a social worker in the Bronx, Osorio creates meticulous installations incorporating the memories, experiences, and cultural and religious iconography of Latino communities and family dynamics. “The work is created when I bring together where I am and where the rest of society is,” said Osorio in an Art21 documentary about his work. Osorio is a professor in the Community Arts Practices Program at the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. He is also the recipient of a 2018 United States Artists Fellowship, among many other awards and fellowships.

Firelei Báez. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco.

Firelei Báez is the winner of the 2018 Artist Award for Distinguished Body of Work. Báez was born in the Dominican Republic and works in New York City. Her work on paper, canvas, and in sculpture explores black female subjectivity, myth, and science fiction. Baez is a creator of fantastical figures that transmute through ornate pattern and vivid color. She has held residencies at Headlands Center for the Arts, Joan Mitchell Center, Fine Arts Work Center, Lower East Side Print Shop, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, and is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Award, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Award in Painting, the Catherine Doctorow Prize for Contemporary Painting, and the Chiaro Award from Headlands Center for the Arts.

The newly created Award for Excellence in Diversity recognizes the work of an individual in the visual arts whose commitment to inclusion in scholarship or in practice stands out as groundbreaking and unifying.

The inaugural winner of the Award for Excellence in Diversity is Kellie Jones, Associate Professor in Art History and Archeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Jones’s research and teaching concerns African American and African Diaspora artists, Latinx and Latin American artists, and issues in contemporary art and museum theory. Her most recent book, South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s, was published by Duke University Press in 2017.

CAA will also award for the first time two Distinguished Feminist Awards, one to a visual artist and one to a scholar. The winners of the 2018 Distinguished Feminist Awards are Lynn Hershman Leeson (visual artist) and Lowery Stokes Sims (scholar).

In publishing, CAA recognizes the achievements of several authors and editors.

Charles Rufus Morey Book Award

Benjamin Anderson

Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art, Yale University Press, 2017

Laura Anne Kalba

Color in the Age of Impressionism: Commerce, Technology, and Art, Penn State University Press, 2017

Finalists:

Susanna Berger

The Art of Philosophy: Visual Thinking in Europe from the Late Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment, Princeton University Press, 2017

Dorothy Ko

The Social Life of Inkstones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China University of Washington Press, 2017

Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award

Barbara Drake Boehm and Melanie Holcomb, editors

Jerusalem, 1000–1400: Every People Under Heaven, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016

Finalists:

Wanda M. Corn

Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern, Brooklyn Museum, DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2017

Matthew Affron

Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910–1950, Yale University Press, 2016

Robert Cozzolino, Anne Classen Knutson, and David M. Lubin, editors

World War I and American Art, Princeton University Press, 2016

Pilar Silva Maroto

Bosch: The 5th Centenary Exhibition, Thames & Hudson, 2016

Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Libraries, Collections, and Exhibitions

Melissa Rachleff

Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965, Grey Art Gallery, New York University and DelMonico Books, Prestel, 2017

Finalists:

Jane A. Sharp, editor

Thinking Pictures: The Visual Field of Moscow Conceptualism, Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, 2016

Kevin Sharp, editor

Wild Spaces, Open Seasons: Hunting and Fishing in American Art, University of Oklahoma Press, 2016

Frank Jewett Mather Award for Art Criticism

Elise Archias

The Concrete Body: Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, Vito Acconci, Yale University Press, 2016

Art Journal Award

Heather Igloliorte

“Curating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: Inuit Knowledge in the Qallunaat Art Museum,” Art Journal, Summer 2017

Finalists:

Nazar Kozak, “Art Embedded into Protest: Staging the Ukrainian Maidan,” Art Journal, Spring 2017

Allison Young, “Visualizing Apartheid Abroad: Gavin Jantje’s Screenprints of the 1970s,” Art Journal, Fall/Winter 2017

Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize

Aaron M. Hyman

“Inventing Painting: Cristóbal de Villalpando, Juan Correa, and New Spain’s Transatlantic Canon,” The Art Bulletin, June 2017

AWARDS FOR DISTINCTION IN TEACHING, WRITING ON ART, AND CONSERVATION

Helen Frederick is the winner of the 2018 Distinguished Teaching of Art Award.

Edward S. Cooke, Jr., and Alex Potts are the winners of the 2018 Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award.

Joseph Masheck is the winner of the 2018 Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art.

The CAA/American Institute for Conservation Award for Distinction in Scholarship and Conservation award for 2018 will be given to Paul Messier.

Learn about the juries that select the recipients of the CAA Awards for Distinction.

Contacts

Nick Obourn, Director of Communications, Marketing, and Membership
nobourn@collegeart.org, 212-392-4401

Joelle Te Paske, Media and Content Manager
jtepaske@collegeart.org, 212-392-4426

IMAGES AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Hashtags: #CAA2018 #CAALA #CAAworks #CAAadvocacy #CAAfairuse

Photography by Daniel Seth Kraus, 2016 Professional-Development Fellowship Awardee

October 2 (PhD candidates) and November 10 (MFA candidates) are the deadlines for the CAA Professional-Development Fellowships. The program supports promising artists, designers, craftspeople, historians, curators, and critics who are enrolled in MFA, PhD, and other terminal-degree programs nationwide.

Fellows are honored with $10,000 grants to support their work, whether it be for job-search expenses or purchasing materials for the studio.

“I remember sitting in my graduate school studio applying for the award. I was day-dreaming about how it could help me be a self-sustaining artist and maybe start my career in teaching. A few months later I received notification of the award and I’m happy to say the grant has helped me enormously with both of my day-dreams, artistic and academic. CAA’s Professional-Development Fellowship for Visual Artists has stabilized a shaky phase of my career and life, continuing an artistic practice after graduate school. The award funds helped me to kick-start my studio space, travel for photography research, and secure teaching positions right out of graduate school. CAA’s support of developing visual artists is certainly outstanding and to an even greater extent, appreciated. I’m happy to now be a CAA member and encourage others to apply for the fellowship without hesitation.” —Daniel Kraus, 2016 Professional-Development Fellowship Recipient

One award will be presented to a practitioner—an artist, designer, and/or craftsperson—and one award will be presented to an art, architecture, and/or design historian, curator, or critic. Fellows also receive a free one-year CAA membership and complimentary registration to the 2018 Annual Conference in Los Angeles, February 21-24. Honorable mentions, given at the discretion of the jury, also earn a free one-year CAA membership and complimentary conference registration.

CAA initiated its fellowship program in 1993 to help student artists and art historians bridge the gap between their graduate studies and professional careers.

Learn more about eligibility and the application process for CAA’s Professional-Development Fellowship.

 

Staff members from CAA flew to the windy city to exhibit and meet the attendees at the 2016 National Art Education Association (NAEA) Convention from March 17-19. The NAEA, a CAA Affiliated Society, is the leading professional membership organization exclusively for visual arts educators. Similar to CAA’s own Annual Conference, the NAEA Convention provides professional development services including sessions, workshops, events, and activities aimed at improving visual arts instruction in American schools.

The NAEA Convention was held at the McCormick Place Convention Center and the Hilton Chicago Hotel, where CAA will hold its 108th Annual Conference in February of 2020. In the Exhibit Hall, CAA’s booth was visited by hundreds of NAEA members working and practicing across all areas of arts education.  CAA staff Tiffany Dugan, director of programs, and Vivian Woo, marketing and development manager, talked with attendees and provided CAA information including institutional and individual membership brochures; the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts and Use Fair Use buttons; and information about the 2017 CAA Annual Conference in New York. Examples of Art Journal and The Art Bulletin were also on hand.

CAA looks forward to reconnecting with NAEA attendees next year in New York. For a limited time only, all NAEA members can receive a $10 discount off membership with CAA. For more information please contact the CAA Membership Department at 212-691-1051, ext. 1.

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

DeWitt Godfrey, professor of art and art history at Colgate University and president of the CAA Board of Directors, delivered the following presentation during a panel on trigger warnings at the one hundredth anniversary conference of the American Association of University Professors in Washington, DC, on Friday, June 12, 2015. In addition, Linda Downs, CAA executive director, has written a response to the panel.

Trigger Warning Presentation AAUP

First I would like to thank Joan Bertin and Shaden Tageldin for the invitation to the College Art Association to participate in this panel. I would also like to thank CAA’s executive director Linda Downs, Nia Page, Director of Memebership and Michael Goodman, Director of IT for their support. Special thanks to Angela Gibson, Associate Managing Editor of Book Publications at MLA who created and analyzed the survey results.

I feel it’s just safer, teaching in the state of Texas, to put a clear statement on my syllabus at the beginning of the term. That way, I can point to it and say that the individual had been warned.

This is all new to me, but it’s made me think twice about each and every assignment that contains material that might make one student uncomfortable, but that is necessary for me to deliver the course as I believe it should be taught.

Self censorship is the worst form of censorship.

My concern is for the insidious ways that things like trigger warnings induce doubt, fear and intimidation.

During CAA’s Mellon Foundation supported Fair Use project, we learned shocking fact that 50% of scholars and 30% of artists had abandoned projects due to fear and misunderstanding of copyright. The chilling effects of this restrictive culture of permissions on cultural production and production of knowledge cannot be overstated; how many articles, books, exhibitions and dissertations have been lost to a culture that overemphasizes ownership and unfairly removes works from study and distribution?

I would like to place trigger warnings in the context of other ideological assaults on intellectual freedom, the ways that this brings well meaning persons from the left—often feminist left—into an uneasy (and I hope unintended) alliance with an anti-intellectual conservative right; each marshal oppressive forces of fear to stifle debate.

We are in a moment that requires academics, in my opinion, to reenage with the world, and regrettably the debates around education are currently on terms that are no longer our own. There sounds a steady drumbeat of demands that we justify the value and place of the arts and humanities in our institutions and culture; there are moves to shift already eroding funding and support towards alledgedly more practical, more instrumental areas of education and study with more quantitative deliverables of jobs and careers. And the old arguments that the humanities and arts are “good” for you or even the overwhelming evidence that arts and creative communities deliver measuable economic benefits are no longer adequate. These arguments are reactive and reduce what we do to the adjunctive and peripheral, where we cede the terms of the debate.

So what do we do in a context that can only relate to cultural production in terms of the liberal economic model? What are the counter narratives that lead us away from the place of hand wringing and learned helplessness passively awaiting our eventual destruction?

We must reassert the humanities as the space of speculation and imagination that is at the center of human experience and the creation of culture. Art is where cultures and communities work things out, where we come to terms with the unfamiliar and rexamine the familiar; we are the canary in coal mine and we hold our own string, we help define, create and then transgress the boundaries of the normative. We propose frameworks for discernment, we cultivate the value of small and subtle differences, we consider from more than a single perspective, we look closely, we see through ideologies of stark difference. We explore shifting criteria, ideally we teach our students how to construct their own, we help create the capacity for sound judgement, to understand the contingent nature of such judgements, to be comfortable with uncertainty.

A neuroscience colleague at my University put it this way: during a conversation with a group of faculty, one remarked on recent work in his field that seemed to promise, one day, that all of our feelings, emotions and sensations could be reduced to series of well understood electrochemical interactions, the merely mechanical. He replied that in the unlikely event that ever came to pass, we would still have to figure what to do about it, we would still have to decide what it would mean.

Ideological Attempts to proscibe what can and can’t be taught, even those based in good intentions like trigger warnings, put that process in jeopardy.

Very few of us, I suspect, want to deliberately or inadvertantly hurt our students but, as the survey response show, most of us want to challenge them, to provide spaces in which they confront the unfamiliar.

The idea of “safe” space has been transformed so far that the educational mission itself becomes framed as “unsafe.” I write this as a woman who works on difficult material by marginalized groups. I understand discursive inequality and the ways that texts can be experienced as deeply personal. But the “safe” idea has itself become quite dangerous, I think. A student this fall put it best: “I don’t want a safe space to protect me from the world; I want to develop tools to change the world.”

Conceptual art example.

Derived from the context shifting ready-mades of Duchamp, conceptual artists assert that the un-embodied idea alone can be a work of art. As a consequence, anything or nothing can be a work of art. Such realizations can require a wrenching shift in ones entire worldview. One day the cup and saucer on your breakfast table have clear and certain utility and meaning, the next you cannot be so sure, things slide back and forth losing and gaining defining qualities. Imagine your world-view as a completed puzzle, where the many variegated pieces fit neatly into a coherent bounded image. Changing the shape or orientation of one piece, your definition and understanding of what is and isn’t art for example, means that many—maybe even all—the other pieces must be rethought, reshaped and replaced to restore coherence, to reestablish a consistent, workable world-view.

One can understand then where the resistance and rejection of conceptual art’s challenge originates. I do not expect students to necessarily share my reading of art, I do not proselytize, but I do expect that their rejection or acceptance of this mode of art practice be based on an engagement with it, not merely because it doesn’t “fit” their current understanding.

Art often provokes emotional responses ahead of intellectual ones, students—and fellow faulty—are often offended by the challenges presented by the avant-garde, morally outraged.

Conceptual art happened, it cannot be unhappened.

How can we teach such things as war, homophobia, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and violence if we cannot expect students to read such texts or material? How can we educate students about such violence (and thus hope to end such violence) if students refuse to engage with it in the classroom? And what about students who might refuse material that is contrary to other belief systems? For example, might fundamentalist students (of any religion or political philosophy) refuse to read books on sexuality, feminism, or women? In a word, trigger warnings feel like a reasonable issue in terms of supporting student survivors of sexual violence. But what about other kinds of censorship? And painfully, it is the very students who ask for trigger warnings (often open-minded, progressive, well-meaning, feminist students) who dont understand that their feminist request sounds like a conservative one for many progressive teachers.

The appealing dangers of certainty, fanning the conflagration of fear and anxiety.

I have had my share of trauma, but I am not sure if the best way of coping is to have yet another paternalistic/maternalistic authority figure interfering with what may be a trigger or not. Let me be the judge.

I would be very wary of any policy that required instructors to provide trigger warnings, because essentially that would mean the University was regulating certain kinds of speech/imagery and denoting it as deviant or disturbing.

I have colleagues whose experience with students sensitized by such warnings, prepped for PTSD I would say, serves as appalling evidence of the manipulation of young women into self-conscious victim positions and the closing down of discourse. As a life-long feminist and survivor of kidnap and gang-rape myself, who has helped many others cope with the aftermath, I have no evidence that trigger warnings lead to anything but the cultivation of a posture of fear. And the damage to freedom of speech–and simply to education, particularly feminist education—is incalculable.

The shift from Political Correct to Individual Correctness, any one persons trauma is by definition, the greatest of traumas. The right to never be offended.

The “trigger warning”, which forces teachers to change their teaching plans based on calculations about what topics might hurt students’ feelings or make them feel “unsafe”, forces teachers into the work of affirming the narcissism of many privileged students. It also buys into the notion that learning, study and education is a consumer experience, and that the consumers (the students) get to decide whether they like the goods on offer.

How can one predict what experiences students bring so that one can provide the correct warnings? What may seem totally innocent to the faculty member may trigger a reaction from a student. It’s almost as if faculty now have to adapt each course to the number of students enrolled: independent studies would be a more accurate description of a course if accommodations have to be made for everyone.

As someone who teaches predominantly non-white literature that often times critiques white privilege, comments by white students regarding this course material seems to miss the actual point regarding trigger warnings—it refuses to acknowledge (and actually desires to protect) the very privilege that many of the texts critique.

Ideology, like theory, bends and twists all available material into the pursuit of its own agenda, and casts out the rest. Its uses are by definition limited.

We seem to be in a golden age of passive aggression, whereby the speech of others can be controlled or stopped if one feels ‘uncomfortable.’

PTSD is real, accomodations can be made as they already are for other conditions that impact a students participation, performance and evaluation.

I feel that students should assume agency and talk to their professors about any personal needs. To offer blanket trigger warnings sends the message that some triggers are more important than others. I don’t believe it is pedagogically useful to sanitize spaces of learning of anything that could cause discomfort. The “real” world does not come with trigger warnings.

Filed under: Education, Students, Teaching