CAA News Today

Our three federal cultural agencies—the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services—are in danger of underfunding for fiscal year 2011.

As the economic downturn places increasing pressure on arts and educational institutions throughout the country, now is the time to increase, not diminish, federal investment in the arts and humanities through the NEA, NEH, and IMLS. Read on to find out how you can help.

Ask Your Senator to Commit to Increasing NEH Funding

Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is circulating a “Dear Colleague Letter” in support of increased funding for the NEH. The letter asks for $232.5 million for the endowment, a $65 million increase above what it received last year, and $71.2 million more that what President Barack Obama has requested for fiscal year 2011.

The deadline for senators to sign onto this letter has been extended to Wednesday, May 12, 2010. Please write your senators today, using online advocacy tools from the National Humanities Alliance (NHA), and ask them to demonstrate their support for the humanities by adding their signature to this letter. You can also contact your senators by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

The sign-on letter, addressed to Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-HA) and Vice Chair Thad Cochran (R-MS), and to Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN), is available on the NHA website.

Support a Budget Increase for the NEA

President Obama suggested a decrease of $6.4 million for the NEA when he proposed his 2011 federal budget. Rather than allocate $161.3 million to the NEA, CAA urges you to contact your legislators to request $180 million for the agency for the next fiscal year.

Since the 1960s, the NEA has assisted artists and organizations in the visual arts, dance, design, music, opera, theater, and more. It has also supported crucial CAA programs, including a $20,000 grant to fund ARTspace at the 2010 Annual Conference in Chicago, and a stimulus grant of $50,000 to save a key staff position.

Help the IMLS Continue Giving Grants to Museums and Libraries

A federal agency that supports all kinds of museums and libraries nationwide, the IMLS received $282.2 million in fiscal year 2010, but now faces a $16.7 million drop in funding. The IMLS’s Office of Museum Services is currently funded at $35.2 million, and the American Association of Museums (AAM) and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) have joined the NHA to advocate $50 million for the office. Download the AAM issue brief or visit the NHA website to read more about IMLS funding.

The magazine US News and World Report has just published its rankings of graduate programs in the visual arts, among other fields. The MFA rankings, completed in 2008 but only released this week, are tallied from a “peer assessment survey” of deans and high-ranking academics (two per school) administered in fall 2007. Two hundred twenty programs were analyzed on “academic quality” on a scale of one to five, one being marginal and five being outstanding. (Read more about the methodology.) US News and World Report received a 39 percent response rate from the art schools and programs it surveyed.

The top-ten schools ranked the best overall are:

1. Rhode Island School of Design
2. Yale University
3. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
4. Cranbook Academy of Art
4. Maryland Institute College of Art
4. Virginia Commonwealth University
7. California Institute of the Arts
7. Carnegie Mellon University
7. University of California, Los Angeles
10. Alfred University, New York State College of Ceramics

Read the complete list of the top twenty-five graduate schools in the visual arts and beyond.

Survey results also break down schools and programs into twelve specialties by medium, based on up to ten nominations per institution from administrators and top academics. (It is suggested but not entirely clear if lower-level educators gave the nominated schools a numerical rating for specialties.)

Here are the top-ranking schools for each specialty. Click on the specialty name to see the full ranking for that category:

Since the survey was taken in fall 2007 and compiled the next year, one wonders why it took so long to publish the results. Also, the survey’s criterion of “academic quality” is not defined in the methodology. Further, the impact of the current global economic crisis on higher education (through enrollment, teaching loads for professors, and other issues) seems not to have been considered. Have prospective MFA students, for example, been favoring public institutions over expensive private schools? The survey does not say.

In addition, US News and World Report failed to include graduate programs in art history in its section on social sciences and the humanities—a grievous, unfortunate oversight.

CAA recommends that interested people consult its two directories, Graduate Programs in the Visual Arts and Graduate Programs in Art History, both of which are available for purchase today.

Filed under: Education, Research, Surveys

The Center for Curatorial Leadership is conducting a research project that seeks basic information on the educational and career choices made by art historians working in the United States who enter the museum and academic professions.

While sometimes regarded as “the two art histories,” museum and academic careers share a common starting point in college and graduate studies. In order to understand how the Center for Curatorial Leadership might mentor young art historians and form bonds between disciplines more effectively, it has assembled a brief survey. Comments and any suggestions are welcome as well.

The survey should take approximately ten minutes to complete. Deadline: Monday, April 19, 2010.

Peter Conn of the University of Pennsylvania writes a dense article for the Chronicle Review on the realities of unemployment in the humanities. Deftly sifting through various studies on employment, attrition, and other factors, this professor of English and education considers the situation from several points of view and offers possible and pragmatic solutions.

It’s no surprise to hear that full-time tenured and tenure-track jobs in the humanities have been shrinking over the past decade in both public and private institutions. Conn widens the field of inquiry, for example, by looking at how the for-profit University of Phoenix—with more than 400,000 undergrads and 78,000 graduate students nationwide and internationally—has expanded the field of education while perhaps exacerbating the rise of part-time and adjunct professors. In addition, the number of humanities doctorates produced has increased almost 50 percent during the last twenty years, but the job market has remained flat or declined.

Conn notes that the federal ban on mandatory retirement in 1994 has contributed to an aging workforce that is reluctant to retire, especially in the present recession. Also, the “star system” that attracts well-known and thus higher-paid professors negatively impacts the lower ranks. Attrition is another concern: 43 percent of students never finish their PhD. Thus they linger in higher education longer than they should, drain resources, and add to the part-time workforce. Even if they finished they’d be consigned to a “dysfunctional job market.”

While Conn argues for fewer students admitted to doctoral programs, he recognizes that current professors would object because, on the whole, they enjoy teaching graduates over undergraduates, and those undergraduates still need their survey classes, which are often staffed by graduate students. He lists several other objections to his proposal of smaller programs, including the unfortunate situation of denying education to those who want it.

Other recommendations include having graduate programs give realistic pictures of postdoctoral professional life, whether that’s offering classes on the subject, maintaining an informational job-placement webpage (listing past successes), or promoting careers outside academia. Of the latter Conn writes, with admittedly soft data: “These women and men found somewhat more job satisfaction than did members of their cohorts who continued in academic careers, in part because they ended up in locations of their choice, and in part because they tended to make more money.” But at the same time, “My own conversations with graduate students over several decades indicate that most of them do not find the idea of nonacademic careers particularly appealing.”

Filed under: Education, Workforce

Despite the humanities playing a core role in higher education with strong student interest, four-year colleges and universities are increasingly relying on a part-time, untenured workforce to meet the demand. These facts, common knowledge to many professors, have been confirmed in the recently released results of the Humanities Departmental Survey, conducted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a consortium of disciplinary associations, including CAA.

The survey includes data collected from departments of art history, English, foreign languages, history, the history of science, linguistics, and religion at approximately 1,400 colleges and universities. It is the first comprehensive survey to provide general cross-disciplinary data on humanities departments. The results are available on the academy’s Humanities Resource Center Online.

According to the Humanities Departmental Survey:

  • Across the humanities, but especially in English and combined English and foreign-language departments, professors at four-year colleges and universities are evolving into a part-time workforce. During the 2006–7 academic year, only 38 percent of faculty members in these departments were tenured. English departments had the greatest proportion of non-tenure-track faculty (49 percent)
  • When minors are included, undergraduate participation in humanities programs is about 82 percent greater than counting majors alone would suggest. For the 2006–7 academic year, 122,100 students completed bachelor’s degrees and 100,310 completed minor degrees in the three largest humanities disciplines: English, foreign languages, and history
  • Reflecting the demands of a global economy, student interest in foreign language is strong: during the 2006–7 academic year, foreign-language departments awarded 28,710 baccalaureate degrees and had the largest number of students completing minors (51,670). Yet investment in a stable professoriate to teach and study foreign languages and literatures appears to be declining, with a significant reduction in recruitment of full-time faculty members (39 percent fewer recruitments for full-time positions in 2008–9 than hires for 2007–8) and fewer total graduate students than faculty members, the only surveyed discipline for which this was the case
  • Turnover rates among humanities faculty were low—only 2.5 percent of humanities faculty left the profession through departure, retirement, or death during the two academic years preceding the survey. Combined with recently instituted hiring freezes on many campuses, career opportunities for the next generation of scholars (there were approximately 84,000 graduate students in the surveyed fields during the 2006–7 academic year) are limited
  • Approximately 87 percent of humanities departments reported that their subject was part of the core distribution requirements at their institution

The survey results provide a snapshot of US humanities departments at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century. The survey covers a broad range of topics, including numbers of departments and faculty members, faculty distributions by discipline, courses taught, tenure activity, undergraduate majors and minors, and graduate students. The data provide new information about each of the disciplines; they also allow comparisons across disciplines. These data are especially important because the US Department of Education has indefinitely suspended the only nationally representative survey providing information about humanities faculty, the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty.

Several national learned societies collaborated with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences to develop, field, and interpret data gathered by the Humanities Departmental Survey: the American Academy of Religion; the American Historical Association; the College Art Association; the History of Science Society; the Linguistic Society of America; and the Modern Language Association. The American Council of Learned Societies and the American Political Science Association also provided important assistance. The survey was administered by the Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics, which also performed the basic data analysis.

Even though the humanities disciplines represent an essential core of the liberal-arts curriculum, they have long been data deprived. The empirical data now available in the survey, along with the rich collection of information already found in the Humanities Indicators, begin to fill that gap and to establish baselines that will allow stakeholders to track trends in the future. The academy hopes that the Humanities Departmental Survey can be expanded to include additional disciplines and updated regularly, producing trend data that could be incorporated into the Humanities Indicators.

Launched in 2009, Humanities Indicators include data covering humanities education from primary school through the graduate level; the humanities workforce; humanities funding and research; and the humanities in civic life. Modeled after the National Science Board’s Science and Engineering Indicators, the Humanities Indicators serve as a resource to help scholars, policymakers, and the public assess the current state of the humanities. The academy continues to update and expand the Humanities Indicators.

The academy looks forward to working with the National Endowment for the Humanities to advance this critical work. The Teagle Foundation provided support for the Humanities Departmental Survey project, and grants from the William and Flora Hewlett, Andrew W. Mellon, and Rockefeller Foundations have advanced the academy’s overall humanities data initiative.

Those who wish to receive announcements of new data and research on the humanities can subscribe to an email alert system at the Humanities Resource Center Online.


The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has posted PDFs of two response papers, from David Laurence and Robert Townsend, on its website for download.

For journalistic analyses of the project, please read Scott Jaschik’s “State of Humanities Departments” at Inside Higher Ed and Jennifer Howard’s “Humanities Remain Popular Among Students Even as Tenure-Track Jobs Diminish” at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Association for Information and Media Equipment, a group of educational film and video producers and distributors dealing with copyright issues related to libraries, universities, and media centers, has threatened to sue the University of California, Los Angeles for streaming copyrighted video content on course websites. UCLA is claiming fair use, but the issue—involving royalty payments, academic-subsidized research, and current copyright law—is much more complex.

Steve Kolowich of Inside Higher Ed reports that negotiations between the organization and the school are private, and a debate about the legality of libraries making digital copies of DVDs it owns for wider dissemination to students has arisen. In his article Kolowich talks to librarians, professors, and media-industry experts to provide a larger, if not clearer, picture of what is at stake.

February 5 update: J. B. DeVries of Academic Impressions discusses policy issues when dealing with streaming video.

Today in Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik reports on recent work of a task force, comprising representatives from seven national and international organizations, that is raising awareness of the value of university and college art museums and galleries in light of recent events involving attempts by schools to sell work from their collections.

In “Avoiding the Next Brandeis,” Jaschik talks to the task-force cochair David Alan Robertson, director of Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, who is “trying to impress upon [regional higher-education accrediting agencies] that museums shouldn’t be viewed as extras, but as ‘teaching institutions and research institutions.’” Jaschik continues, “Another strategy being discussed is encouraging colleges to define the financial exigency plans—or what they would do in a severe financial crisis—and to make the case that museums should not be the first institutions to be closed.”

Lyndel King, task-force cochair and director and chief curator of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, tells the reporter that “we need to educate college administrators and governing boards that disposing of their collections can’t be a way to fill the coffers or seen as an easy way to bring in money.”

The task force comprises representatives from CAA, the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, the International Council of Museums, the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, and the Association of Art Museum Curators. The next meeting of the task force will take place on January 9, 2010, in Sarasota, Florida, in conjunction with the midwinter gathering of the Association of Art Museum Directors.

You may read the petition, published by the task force in July 2009, and include your name and affiliation in the growing list of signatories. A prominent advertisement will appear in the Chronicle for Higher Education later this month; you can download a PDF of it or click and save the above image for use in blogs, press, and more. The task force had planned to include all signatories in the ad, but the list has exceeded 2,200 names and institutional affiliations—too many to include in print.

A report issued by a Brandeis University committee recommends that the school’s Rose Art Museum remain open, but the future of the collection of modern and contemporary art is still in doubt.

In the Boston Globe, Tracy Jan writes that the committee, comprising teachers, students, and university trustees and officials, also suggests better integration between the museum and academic departments, which include not just visual art but also math and science. In addition, a full-time director, who would also teach, and an education director should be hired.

This past summer several members of the Rose Art Museum’s board of overseers filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts in an attempt to prevent Brandeis from selling the art collection. Last week the university filed to dismiss that lawsuit, according to Greg Cook of the New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. An October 13 hearing date has been set.

In response to troubling trends in university museums and galleries—including the sale of Maier Art Museum paintings by Randolph College, the closure of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, and the threat of sale of important modernist works at Fisk University—a task force was formed that includes CAA, the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, and the Kress Foundation to address ways to educate university trustees about the educational value of university museums and to explore protective avenues. A petition was circulated to various associations and also set up online, which received several thousand signatures—including many from CAA members. The petition will be published in the Chronicle of Higher Education later this fall. Quiet conversations are continuing with Brandeis trustees, and several university accreditation commissions have been apprised of the concerns of the task force and the visual-arts field.

On the same topic, recently published an essay entitled “Curricular Connections: The College/University Art Museum as Site for Teaching and Learning.” The author, Laurel Bradley, who is director of exhibitions and curator of the College Art Collection at Carleton College, provides a brief history of university museums and galleries since the mid-twentieth century before exploring several recent initiatives—some funded by the Mellon Foundation’s College and University Art Museum Program—that combine academic and curatorial teaching and education in novel, and often successful, ways.

Today the Musée du Louvre in Paris has launched an English-language version of its online collection database, Atlas. This interactive research tool will allow visitors to access information on 22,000 artworks from the Louvre, view high-resolution images of masterpieces, and locate exhibited works and galleries throughout the museum. Previously available only in French, Atlas is accessible free-of-charge.

Users can enter via the main Louvre website, choose English at upper right, and then go to Collections –> Databases and select Atlas.

The launch of the English version of Atlas was initiated by and funded with a €300,000 ($380,000) grant in 2004 from the American Friends of the Louvre, which was founded in 2002 to strengthen ties between the museum and its American public. The new version of the site will provide in-depth information on the Louvre’s extensive collection to the museum’s two million English-speaking visitors as well as to educators, students, researchers, and scholars.

Launched in 2003, Atlas provides quick and easy access to an exceptionally rich database of 26,000 of the 35,000 works on permanent display at the Louvre. Currently, 5,500 artists in a variety of media are represented on the site. In addition to gallery views, Atlas also provides online visitors with a virtual “Album” through which they can gather a selection of artworks and create and navigate their own personalized tour of the Louvre.

The English-language version of Atlas will include entries on 22,000 works of art, or approximately 80 percent of the original Atlas database, showcasing works most representative of the depth and scope of the Louvre’s collection.