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CAA News


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
President

Hunter O’Hanian
Executive Director
Chief Executive Officer



One of CAA’s annual Distinguished Artists’ Interviews at the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC—the artist Rick Lowe in conversation with the photographer LaToya Ruby Frazier—is among the first events of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s year-long series of performances, discussions, and other events to celebrate the thirty-fifth anniversary of its iconic fellowship program. The MacArthur Foundation will collaborate with a diverse set of partners for 2016 programming, including Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, Washington’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and New York’s 92nd Street Y. Most events will be open to the public for free or at low cost. Video of many events will be published online.

Lowe received a MacArthur fellowship in 2014, and Frazier won the prize in 2015. The Distinguished Artists’ Interviews will take place on Friday, February 5, 2:30–5:00 PM, in the Thurgood Marshall Ballroom East/South, Mezzanine Level, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Preceding their conversation will be another interview: the artist Joyce Scott interviewed by George Ciscle of the Maryland Institute College of Art. Both talks will be live streamed on CAA’s YouTube page.

“Working across every field imaginable, MacArthur fellows capture the public imagination and inspire people to nurture creativity in their own lives and communities,” said Cecilia Conrad, managing director of the MacArthur Fellows Program, during a luncheon at the City Club of Chicago that also featured the labor organizer Ai-Jen Poo and the artist Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, both MacArthur fellows. “This year-long celebration will showcase fellows’ work, foster new collaborations, and enable these highly creative people to further inspire us all.”

Programming is under development and subject to change; but it is expected to include the following events:

  • Lowe will deliver a lecture on “Art in the Social Context” at Stanford University’s Haas Center for Public Service in California, as part of the Mimi and Peter E. Haas Distinguished Visitor program(February 4)
  • In conjunction with an exhibition of her work, the Whitney Museum of American Art will host a discussion with the documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (New York, February).
  • Sixth & I, a historic synagogue and cultural event space in Washington, DC, will present a panel discussion featuring MacArthur fellows (March)
  • The 92nd Street Y in New York will present a panel discussion featuring MacArthur fellows (March)
  • The Economics Club of Chicago will feature two conversation pairings with the arts entrepreneur Claire Chase and the music educator Aaron Dworkin, as well as the computational biologist John Novembre and the historian Tara Zahra (May 25)
  • MacArthur fellows will be featured in a plenary session at the annual convention of Americans for the Arts in Boston (June)
  • The Chicago Humanities Festival will incorporate MacArthur fellows into its regular annual programming (September)
  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, will host two free public performances by MacArthur fellows through its Millennium Stage series (October)

The anniversary celebration will also include an online component, featuring one MacArthur fellow each month responding to public questions on Reddit as well as interviews with fellows on popular YouTube channels.

The MacArthur fellowship—called “genius grants” by the media—recognizes exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future. Fellows each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, which comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions. Since 1981, 942 people have been named MacArthur fellows. Fellows are selected through a rigorous process that has involved thousands of expert and anonymous nominators, evaluators, and selectors over the years.



2016 Annual Conference Website Is Live

posted by Christopher Howard


The website for the 104th Annual Conference in Washington, DC, to be held from Wednesday, February 3 to Saturday, February 6, 2016, at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, is live today. Get a taste of conference highlights and discover the benefits of registration, including access to all program sessions and admission to the Book and Trade Fair.

The dynamic energy of Washington, DC—known for its world-class museums and as an international destination for American history and culture—provides the backdrop for our annual gathering of more than four thousand artists, art historians, museum directors and curators, arts administrators, scholars, and educators. Look forward to the best in new scholarship, innovative art, and in-depth discussion of issues in the visual arts today.

Highlights of this year’s conference include the presentation of CAA’s 2016 Awards for Distinction, an opening reception at the Katzen Arts Center at American University, and the sixteenth annual Distinguished Scholar Session honoring Richard J. Powell of Duke University. The two Distinguished Artists’ Interviews will feature the sculptor Joyce Scott, speaking to the curator George Ciscle.

Among the highly anticipated sessions are: “South to North: Latin American Artists in the United States, 1820s–1890s,” chaired by Katherine E. Manthorne; “Transforming Japonisme: International Japonisme in an Age of Industrialization and Visual Commerce,” led by Gabriel P. Weisberg; and the two-part “Formalism before Clement Greenberg,” chaired by Katherine M. Kuenzli and Marnin Young. Other exciting session topics range from art as adventure to the Hudson River School, from digital cultural heritage to algorithms and data in contemporary art, and from diversity in curatorial work to staging design in museums.

Online registration for individuals and institutions is now open. In addition, you can book your hotel reservations and make your travel arrangements—don’t forget to use the exclusive CAA discount codes to save money! Register before the early deadline, December 21, 2015, to get the lowest rate and to ensure your place in the Directory of Attendees. You may also purchase tickets for special events and for a place in one of eleven professional-development workshops on a variety of topics for artists and scholars.

CAA will regularly update the conference website in the months leading up to the four-day event, so please be sure to check back often. Averaging more than 40,000 unique visitors per month, the conference website is the essential source for up-to-the-minute updates regarding registration, session listings, and hotel and travel discounts. Visit the Advertising section to learn more about reaching CAA membership and conference attendees.

We look forward to seeing you in Washington, DC!



Insight and Inclusion: Expanding Visions of American Art

posted by Christopher Howard


Initiatives in Art and Culture will present “Insight and Inclusion: Expanding Visions of American Art,” a conference on American art to be held May 15–17, 2015, at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.



Filed under: Humanities, Research

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), an independent federal agency created in 1965 and one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States, is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2015–16. To mark this historic event, we would like you to tell us about an NEH grant or grant product that has made a difference in your life, career, community, or academic field. To contribute stories about NEH’s past or for more information, send an email to NEH50@neh.gov. Please include your name and telephone number in your message.

Because democracy demands wisdom, the NEH serves and strengthens our republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The endowment accomplishes this mission by awarding grants for top-rated proposals examined by panels of independent, external reviewers. NEH grants typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, and radio stations, and to individual scholars. The grants:

  • strengthen teaching and learning in schools and colleges
  • facilitate research and original scholarship
  • provide opportunities for lifelong learning
  • preserve and provide access to cultural and educational resources
  • strengthen the institutional base of the humanities

Since 1965, the endowment has opened new worlds of learning for the American public with noteworthy projects such as:

  • Seven thousand books, 16 of which have won Pulitzer Prizes and 20 of which have received the Bancroft Prize
  • The Civil War, the landmark documentary by Ken Burns viewed by 38 million Americans
  • The Library of America editions of novels, essays, and poems celebrating America’s literary heritage
  • The United States Newspaper Project, which catalogued and microfilmed 63.3 million pages of historic newspapers and paved the way for the National Digital Newspaper Program and its digital repository, Chronicling America
  • Annual support for 56 states and territories to help support some 56,000 lectures, discussions, exhibitions, and other programs each year

We look forward to hearing from you!



The Monograph in the Humanities

posted by Linda Downs


The National Endowment for the Humanities has just announced a new grant category to support popular scholarly books: http://www.neh.gov/news/press-release/2014-12-01. It will be an outstanding opportunity to reach the public with scholarly books on topics of general interest and will provide a stipend from six to twelve months. The applicants must be published scholars who are in academia or independent.

This is wonderful news for the humanities field and is part of a larger effort that is also being supported by the Andrew S. Mellon Foundation to support the publication of monographs. At a recent conference on the monograph, “Wanted Dead or Alive—The Scholarly Monograph” organized by the Association of Research Libraries held in Washington, D.C. on October 9, 2014 Don Waters, Senior Program Officer, Scholarly Communications and Information Technology at the Mellon Foundation announced new front-end seed-fund grant to willing institutions where they would select authors, establish peer reviewers and the author’s institution pays for the publication, preserves it, sets up a Creative Commons license, provides book awards and could distribute through derivative markets.

Three thousands scholarly monographs in the humanities are published each year at an average publication price of $8,000 (without illustrations) and each one carries with it issues of high publishing and rights costs, the challenges of new technology, the lack of evaluative guidelines for digital dissertations and monographs, the demand for increased technical expertise. This forum on the future of the scholarly monograph attempted to address many of these issues. Four panels discussed 1) future possibilities for the monograph in the digital world, 2) its current role and value in current scholarship, 3) the monograph in the global environment and 4) strategies for support. Research librarians, university presses, digital humanities centers, university administrators and learned societies were represented at the conference.

The monograph continues to be the humanities coin of the publications realm in disseminating new research and an evaluative measure for tenure and promotion since it requires peer review. Yet, it has become more difficult for authors to find a publisher due to the limited number of presses that will publish them. (CAA disbanded publication of monographs more than a decade ago.) With the introduction of digital humanities, co-authored and dynamic publications and the call for open access, the standard monograph in printed form has begun to appear as the scroll was to the codex. And on a departmental level, digital publications pose greater evaluative challenges to tenure and promotion committees and to the provosts who set the evaluative parameters.

Distinct perspectives were presented throughout the day. Laura Mandell, Professor and Director, Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture, Texas A&M University promoted the use of the Virtual Reality Environment for dissertations, select crowd-sourced moderation with editorial boards, a dual peer review system with experts in the content and experts in the data base or electronic platform, and she predicted that digital humanities centers at universities should disappear as the digital environment is embraced by the humanities. She noted that her Ph.D. candidates have more difficulty getting their digital dissertations evaluated than getting a job.

Timothy Burke, Professor and Chair, History Department, Swarthmore College announced that the American Historical Association through a grant from the Andrew H. Mellon Foundation is developing guidelines for the full spectrum of digital publications from the dissertation that is digitized as a PDF to publications that challenge the form of the monograph itself. Currently, Ph.D. candidates who submit digital projects as dissertations are required by many universities to write an explanation in a non-digital format explaining the process, format and value of the digital dissertation. He emphasized that universities must make a choice to embrace digital publications before the choice is made for us. As part of the new guidelines at the AHA they are considering setting up expert evaluators in digital publications who can be called upon by tenure and promotion committees who do not have that expertise available.

David Shulenburger, Former Vice President for Academic Affairs, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and an economist, stated that the monograph is the most highly valued by the humanities not the STEM disciplines. He reminded the gathering that the role of the provost at any university is to assure that the evaluative measures for scholarship accurately reflect their field—are they flexible enough? Are the accessible to other disciplines? Is interdisciplinarity important? Is the form of research media accessible?—and if the answers to any of these questions is “no” then the tendency is not to change evaluative criteria. There is also a natural resistance to change on a departmental level.

Presenters from the UK included Roxanne Missingham, University Librarian, Australian National Library who discussed the rise in downloads of open access monographs and increase in research methodologies monographs; Frits Pannekoek, President Emeritus and Professor, Athabasca University, Canada’s open university where he introduced the concept of allocating 1% of the university budget to publishing and the social responsibility of scholarship to the community; and Roger Tritton, Head of Projects (acting), Jisc Collections, discussed its national strategy to archive monographs and plans to provide open platforms for publishing.

Brian Schottlaender, Chair, ARL Advancing Scholarly Communication Steering Committee, and Audrey Geisel University Librarian, University of California, San Diego summed up the presentations:
• the scholarly monograph is essential for the dissemination of research in the humanities;
• both financial and digital opportunities exist at universities to revitalize the monograph by utilizing a collaborative approach to research, dynamic digital platforms and by maintaining its expert status through peer review;
• general guidelines on digital scholarship need to be established by learned societies so that each department and university, which has its own measure of the value of scholarship, are able to develop specific guidelines that conform to the field but reflect the demands of their institution;
• leadership and teamwork is needed to change the infrastructure as Walter Isaacson stated in The Innovators, “…the ability to collaborate and master the art of teamwork made them even more creative.”



Filed under: Books, Humanities, Publications

Digital Art History Takes Off

posted by Linda Downs


Written by Anne Collins Goodyear and Paul B. Jaskot.

This summer four institutes held on the east and west coasts provided opportunities for art historians—both academics and museum professionals—to increase their familiarity with the tools and opportunities presented by a computational approach to “doing” art history. These programs, underwritten by the Getty and Samuel H. Kress Foundations took place at Harvard’s metaLAB (Beautiful Data: Telling Stories About Art with Open Collections, June 16–27, Getty Foundation), George Mason University’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (Rebuilding the Portfolio: DH for Art Historians, July 7–18, Getty Foundation), UCLA’s Digital Humanities Program (Beyond the Digitized Library, July 28–August 6, Getty Foundation), and Middlebury College (Summer Institute on Digital Mapping and Art History, August 3–15, Kress Foundation). The firm groundwork laid by these programs as well as the enthusiastic response by participants suggest that the field of art history is in an ever-stronger position to take advantage of the opportunities provided by new technologies and to lead the digital humanities in key areas.

Each program had its own personality and addressed different needs in the field. At Harvard, attendees found themselves working on digital archival collections and exploring different approaches to using this kind of information, such as curating, annotating, and visualizing digital collections. The institute at George Mason provided self-identified newcomers to digital scholarship with broad exposure to digital environments and specific tools, including the use of social media, data mining, and visualization techniques. UCLA organizers focused on methodological and theoretical issues at stake in the digital humanities and encouraged participants to critically address their approaches. A one-day conference on publishing and the digital environment at UCLA allowed participants and audience members a chance to reflect on participant’s projects and the future of digital scholarship. For the Kress mapping institute, fellows were asked to come prepared with specific spatial questions related to their area of research and to include a database of spatial information. In the short period of the workshop, they were exposed to the methods of digital mapping through Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and, on the last day, presented extraordinary maps of their own that pushed their research questions forward. Collectively, the summer institutes show the diversity of approaches as well as the depth of interest in digital scholarship, something unusual for any humanities field in recent years.

Digital or computational art history has been gaining ground since the advent of innovative projects like the Digital Roman Forum and Mapping Gothic France, among others. Work in our discipline has been further sustained by new publishing venues for digital work. These include not only new authoring and publishing platforms such as HyperCities and Scalar, but also more substantial interventions in long-standing print periodicals, such as the Journal of Society of Architectural Historians online edition, which allows authors to include a variety of digital formats with their texts. Indeed, CAA’s adoption of an electronic format for its print journals earlier this year through its partnership with Taylor & Francis continues the important role of facilitating new sorts of scholarly publishing.

More important, however, are the new forms of analysis and data sharing that digital art history makes possible or, alternatively, the ways in which digital methods push known scholarly questions in innovative and exciting directions. Addressing the “stuff” of art history from a computational standpoint may initially seem counter-intuitive, particularly given the field’s propensity for qualitative analysis and the stress placed on our ability to look closely. However, reflection upon the nature of the information we might encounter, particularly in the era of “big data,” suggests how rapidly the field might benefit from alternatives to traditional research methods. Depending on the nature of the art-historical problem, such analysis may involve the identification of trends in bodies of literature: the use of certain key terms for example, and their frequency. It may enable us to identify economic, social, or stylistic relationships between key entities through network analysis. It may utilize tools to analyze more minutely geographic settings and the relationships between buildings and human actors, or to study the physical evolution of sites over time. Each of the summer institutes took a different approach to these possibilities, with some offering a wide view while others provided a more focused set of inquiries. Tweets from the UCLA colloquium and the individual workshops have been gathered at #doingdah14.

While the summer institutes show the energy around the digital humanities in art history, CAA has also been continuing its strong investment in responding to member interest in this area. For example, in addition to hosting its third annual THAT (The Humanities And Technology) Camp, CAA will offer a number of digital humanities workshops at the upcoming CAA Annual Conference in February in order to meet the needs of both artists and art historians. These include: Building Scholarly Digital Archives and Exhibits with Omeka; Scalar; and Making Sense of Digital Images, which explores how to describe and develop optimal reproductions, both for current projects and for preservation.

Furthermore, CAA is now examining the question of tenure and promotion based on projects using digital tools. In our reading of the field, the digital future of art-historical scholarship rests in part, and for the near future, on its acceptance by those responsible for evaluating tenure and promotion applications. Since 1973, CAA has formulated and published standards and guidelines on its website after careful research and ratification by its Board of Directors, thereby offering guidance to arts institutions as they create policies and make decisions. In a 2005 addendum to CAA’s current guidelines concerning tenure, the Association recognized “that the well-documented “crisis” in scholarly publishing in the humanities is especially acute for art historians, and threatens the integrity and continuity of the discipline if colleges and universities continue to insist on books as the chief criterion for tenure and promotion.” This concern grows larger with the development of new forms of digital publishing.

Other scholarly societies have developed or are investigating guidelines, including the Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association. Professional literature also addresses the need and components for useful guidelines in The Journal of Digital Humanities, society reports, and in compendiums such as Debates in the Digital Humanities, edited by Matthew Gold (University of Minnesota Press, 2012), Digital­­_Humanities, by Peter Lunenfeld, Anne Burdick, Johanna Drucker, Todd Presner, and Jeffrey Schnapp (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012). Additionally, NEH-funded workshops have addressed the need for guidelines, including an institute sponsored by NINES.[1] These initial efforts to promulgate advancement and tenure guidelines serve as models for other humanities disciplines.

An equally crucial question facing the field is the sustainability of digital scholarship, particularly in light of the rapid development of new technologies. Rather than allowing such scholarship to “sit on the shelf,” digital work must be networked in order to survive. The question of the interoperability of the programs utilized for scholarship aside, technology platforms become outmoded and CD-ROMs, disks, and external drives will inevitably deteriorate. The field would benefit from the development of “best practices” for the creation of digital scholarship, from mechanisms of data storage and retrieval, to the development of trustworthy digital repositories, and a careful analysis of the benefit of open-source versus proprietary software for particular forms of writing and data analysis. In addition, funding institutions need to consider the need for further training, like the four summer institutes, to assess what works and what doesn’t for the long-term sustenance of new scholarly innovation.

Despite these challenges, which may, in fact be invitations for future collaborations among art historians and across disciplines, the realm of the digital offers exciting new possibilities. Perhaps most significantly, digital scholarship may demonstrate the significance of some of the skills we tend to take for granted as humanists and experts in visual analysis: namely the ability to think critically about the function and production of images and language, as well as the source of these representations. Just what assumptions may be embedded in the very way we interact with the digital realm and how might we tease that apart? Digital art history, then, permits not only a new way for us to interrogate our data and our own assumptions, but for the very visualization of both traditional archival information as well as the digital itself to be rethought.

Anne Collins Goodyear, Co-Director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, is now CAA Past President. She served as president of CAA from 2012 to 2014. Paul B. Jaskot is currently Andrew W. Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts (CASVA), Washington, DC (2014–16). He served as CAA’s president from 2008 to 2010.

[1] We thank Anne Helmreich for sharing her thoughts on the resources developing in this arena.



Filed under: Digital Issues, Humanities

New Developments among ACLS Associations

posted by Linda Downs


Each fall the ACLS convenes a meeting for the chief administrative officers (CAOs) of learned societies to exchange information on new developments in our organizations and to explore possible conference sites. This year’s conference was held in Louisville, KY. My takeaways from Louisville were the unforgettable gleaming white nine-ton Carrara marble statue of Louis XVI (the city’s namesake) by Achille-Joseph-Étienne Valois (1829) commissioned in 1829 by the king’s surviving daughter Marie-Thérèse which stands in front of the Louisville City Hall; and the contemporary art museum-cum-hotel called 21C with an installation of Pierre Gonnord’s striking photos of people in rural Spain and a great menu at the restaurant called Proof (as in bourbon).

Among the new developments within the 50 associations that attended were:

The CAOs also heard presentations from the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature on how these societies dealt with the threat of union strikes at their conference hotels.

Trevor Parry-Giles of the National Communication Association presented a history of the development of impact factors and the pros and cons, inflation and gaming of current systems such as Thomson Reuters http://thomsonreuters.com/journal-citation-reports/, SCImago http://www.scimagojr.com/, Google Scholar Metrics http://scholar.google.com/citations?view_op=top_venues; and the latest metric under development, Microsoft Academic http://academic.research.microsoft.com/?SearchDomain=3&entitytype=2 . Digital factors have yet to be fully addressed such as counting downloads versus citations and tracing social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

In 1964 the ACLS supported a Commission on the Humanities whose report eventually led to the establishment of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Some of the recommendations from the Commission were to fund the humanities at the level of the sciences, give more national emphasis on higher education humanities, attract a more diverse faculty, and a demand for faculty to work together. Three learned societies compared then and now. It was noted that there was enormous expansion in humanities departments in the 1960s and so many teaching positions that PhD candidates left school before finishing their degrees to take teaching positions. While the humanities have not attracted a more diverse faculty and faculty positions and departments have been compressed, one very positive result is that faculty has embraced collaboration in both formal (humanities and digital humanities centers) and informal ways, and advocacy of higher education in the public sphere has assisted greater understanding of the value of a humanities education.



Filed under: Humanities, Learned Societies

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