College Art Association

CAA News Today

Several university art museums or their school administrations have recently sold, or have attempted to sell, artworks and objects in their collections to offset operating costs. In response to this, CAA has joined a task force supporting the educational importance of preserving collections at university museums and galleries. The task force—which includes representatives from the American Association of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation—has established a two-pronged effort: 1) to recognize museums as integral educational resources in the university accreditation process; and 2) to heighten public awareness of the educational value of art museum collections.

Members of the task force are meeting with accreditation organizations throughout the country to enlist their support for the recognition of art museums as integral educational resources.

A petition has been prepared that reaffirms the integrity and value of university and college museums.

Please show support for our efforts by adding your name and affiliation to this petition, which will be published in the Chronicle of Higher Education this fall. Please encourage your university, college, or museum to sign it as well.

Thank you for your support on this critical issue.

Paul B. Jaskot, President, and Linda Downs, Executive Director

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Part-time faculty in the state of Oregon scored a victory late last month, when their state legislature overwhelmingly approved the Oregon Faculty and College Excellence (FACE) Act. The bill will provide access to healthcare insurance to part-time faculty at community colleges and universities through the Oregon Educator’s Benefit Board plan. The bill also requires schools to track and annually report on faculty staffing and salary ratios, to be reviewed by the legislature and governor.

The Senate vote was unanimous: 30-0; the House passed the bill 54 to 1. The FACE Act now goes to Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski for his signature. Jillian Smith and Rob Wagner from AFT Oregon have the complete story.

Faculty and College Excellence (FACE), a branch of the American Federation of Teachers, is a national campaign that advocates for equity in pay and benefits for contingent faculty members through organizing, legislative advocacy, and collective bargaining. Another goal is to ensure that three-quarters of undergraduate courses are taught by full-time tenure and tenure-track faculty, and that qualified contingent faculty have the opportunity to move into such positions when they become available. The Oregon legislation is the first time that elements of FACE have been adopted by a state.

CAA has 135 individual and 21 institutional members in Oregon.

Andrea Kirsh, an independent art historian based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a member of the CAA Board of Directors, was one of several CAA delegates who attended Humanities Advocacy Day and Arts Advocacy Day, both of which took place in March 2009 in Washington, DC.

In an article for the forthcoming May issue of CAA News that is also posted online, she writes about her experiences advocating for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, among other government programs and legislation.

Photo: The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Josh Groban (center) advocates for the arts with CAA board member Judith Thorpe (left) and Jean Miller at the Congressional Breakfast during Arts Advocacy Day

The board of overseers at the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University released a statement yesterday, found here and here, to counter provost Marty Wyngaarden Krauss’s missive from last week about keeping the building open to art exhibitions beyond this summer. Since late January, when the university first announced plans to close the museum and sell its collections, the school administration has backpedaled several times, claiming to transform the museum into an art study and exhibition center (which it already is), to not sell the entire collection, and to continue hosting exhibitions. To which the board responds:

In her letter, Krauss attempted to clarify future plans for the Rose Art Museum once the University closes it on June 30, 2009. Despite the existence of the current Board of Overseers for the museum, Brandeis has named a new committee to “explore future options for the Rose.” In addition, the current position of museum director will be eliminated. According to Jon Lee, chair of the Rose Art Museum’s Board of Overseers, “Without a director or curator, the Rose cannot continue to function as a museum under any meaningful definition. Since the University’s announcement on January 26, 2009 that it would close the museum, membership and Rose Overseer dues, and all donations have ceased or been asked to be returned. This amounts to more than $2.5 million.”

“When the Rose family originally founded the Rose Art Museum, they were very clear about its mission and the integral role it would play as a part of the Brandeis community,” said Meryl Rose, a member of the Rose Art Museum’s Board of Overseers and a relative to the original museum founders. “A museum with a collection and reputation such as the Rose needs a director, and while Krauss’s letter states that the collection will be cared for, it does not erase the fact that the Rose as we know it will cease to exist under the administration’s current plans. The administration is carrying out an elaborate charade, the first step of which is to turn the Rose from a true museum as its founders intended, into something quite different….”

Again, the full statement can be found here and here. Richard Lacayo, art and architectural critic for Time, wrote about Brandeis’s announcement last week and quotes Rose director Michael Rush:

So long as the Rose remains open as a museum, it remains subject to the ethical guidelines of American museum groups that do what they can to discourage the kind of emergency sales that Brandeis is contemplating. But I spoke later with Michael Rush, the director of the Rose, who will soon be gone, along with several other significant Rose staffers. He was skeptical about what the university was doing. “They’re talking about keeping the Rose open,” he said. “But there’s no director, no curator, no education director, no funding stream and no program.”

An update to Lacayo’s report is a message from Jon Lee, Rose board chairman, which notes that Massachusett’s Attorney General office is watching developments closely. Relatedly, Art in America has published an interview with Meryl Rose, in which potential legal action is briefly discussed.

The situation at Brandeis is one of many taking place concerning unusual uses of restricted endowments and related funding. In his article “New Unrest on Campus as Donors Rebel,” John Hechinger of the Wall Street Journal writes, “As schools struggle more than they have in decades to fund their core operations, many are looking to a rich pool of so-called restricted gifts—held in endowments whose donors often provide firm instructions on how their money should be spent.”

Read more of CAA’s coverage of the Rose Art Museum. The museum itself has been keeping a comprehensive log of articles and reviews.

The website of Art in America magazine reports that the Rose Art Museum is not closing this summer as previously expected: “Current exhibitions—‘Saints and Sinners’ and ‘Hans Hofmann: Circa 1950’—will remain on view through May 17th; after a brief de-install, the museum will re-open on July 22nd with works from the permanent collection.” Four museum staff members are expected to retain their positions, although Michael Rush will no longer direct.

Further, according to the museum administrator Jay Knox, Brandeis University plans to dissolve the museum’s board of directors, and the longterm stability of the collection is still unknown.

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THIS WEEK AT THE ROSE ART MUSEUM

posted by February 06, 2009

News about the closing of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University and the selling of its collection slowed down this week, but not without several highlights. Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz issued a formal apology—not for the decision to dismantle the museum’s collection but rather for his mishandling the announcement to do so. He also regretted leaving out the Brandeis community in the board of trustees’ deliberations.

Michael Rush, director of the Rose, posted his statement on the closing and sale directly to his museum’s website this week. The university’s Department of Fine Arts also joined the chorus of protest voices, issuing a statement to all university faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the department. Also, the New York Times condemned the Brandeis decision in an article by Roberta Smith and in an unsigned editorial.

Jeff Gilbride of the Daily News Tribune in Waltham, Massachusetts, was at the “funeral march” held this week by Brandeis students as an “emotional and rowdy counterpart” to last week’s sit-in at the museum. Relatedly, Jeff Weistein fromObit wonders, “Can a Museum Die?”

Greg Cook reviews the current exhibition at the Rose, Hans Hoffmann: Circa 1950, for the Boston Phoenix, and Daniel Grant considers donor responses and restrictions on gifts in his article “Is the University’s Museum Just a Rose to Be Plucked?” for the Wall Street Journal.

The Rose Art Museum website is chronicling the press on the closing and sale. Laurie Fendrich has been passionately following the story in the Chronicle Review, the blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education. And, of course, theBoston Globe has been leading the charge with daily reports.

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Yesterday about two hundred students and other protesters staged a sit-in at the Rose Art Museum, reports the Boston Globe, which has been following the story closely since Monday. A Facebook group and a website, established this week shortly after the news of the closing, played a major role in rallying students and support.

The Boston Globe also presents some of the larger issues surrounding Brandeis University’s finances. Modern Art Notes has published an general email sent by Brandeis president Jehuda Reinharz to those who wrote to him. In it Reinharz gives a few more details about his school’s financial situation. The Justice, the independent student newspaper at Brandeis, and the Wall Street Journal are also looking into this part of the developing story.

The Brandeis Hoot also weighs in on the situation, and Emily Leifer of the Justicewrites an op-ed about Brandeis’s public image.

Art & Education, the academic wing of e-flux and Artforumrepublished and emailed CAA’s statement against the closing.

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Rose Art Museum Updates

posted by January 29, 2009

Ford W. Bell, president of the American Association of Museums, has issued a Statement on the Closure of the Rose Museum at Brandeis University. Read it at the Boston Globe’s Exhibitionist blog.

Artinfo.com has published the response from the Association of Art Museum Directors.

The Association of College and University Museums and Galleries, a CAA affiliated society, has published its statement, ACUMG Responds to the Closure of the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University.

Also as reported in the Boston Globe, the president of Brandeis University, Jehuda Reinharz, said that while he would not reconsider closing the museum, he is entertaining the possibility that his school might not sell the Rose Art Museum’s art collection and reaffirmed that the museum building would become a “fine arts teaching center with studio space and an exhibition gallery.” CAA notes that the Rose Art Museum as it stands now is already this.

Other updates and articles can be found at Bloomberg.com, the New York Times, and Modern Art Notes, including a Q&A with Michael Rush, director of the Rose Art Museum. Time also interviewed Rush on Tuesday, and Lee Rosenbaum at CultureGrrl has additional information.

Donn Zaretsky at Art Law Blog is also writing about the Rose situation, with deaccessioning in mind.

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The College Art Association (CAA) was shocked and dismayed to learn of the decision by Brandeis University to close the Rose Art Museum and sell its entire art collection for operating revenue.

CAA supports the Codes of Ethics of the American Association of Museums and the Association of Art Museum Directors, which clearly state that works of art in museum collections are held as a public trust and that any proceeds of sales must only support the acquisition of new works. However, perceiving an entire art collection as a disposable financial asset and then dismantling that collection wholesale to cover other university expenses is deeply troubling for all college and university collections.

The closing of the museum at Brandeis will be devastating to the academic community, not only affecting our colleagues at the museum and students and faculty in the Department of Fine Arts, which offers programs in both studio art and art history, but also depriving the entire arts-loving public in New England and around the world. The teaching of art and art history in higher education is untenable without the direct study of physical works of art, and it appears the Brandeis Board of Trustees has disregarded the kind of scholarship and creativity that have been the hallmark of CAA members for nearly one hundred years.

According to news reports, neither Brandeis University nor the Rose Art Museum is on the brink of economic collapse, nor are they unable to maintain the collections. Given that no clear explanation has been offered on the school’s financial exigencies, the closure of the Rose Art Museum and the sale of its collection appear to be in violation of professional museum standards and of academic transparency and due process; the decision also demonstrates a lack of academic responsibility and fiduciary foresight. We appeal to the Trustees of Brandeis to revisit and reverse their decision.

Paul B. Jaskot
President, College Art Association
Professor of Art History
Department of the History of Art and Architecture
DePaul University

Linda Downs
Executive Director, College Art Association

Download a PDF of this letter from the CAA website.

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The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems, has unveiled the Humanities Indicators, a prototype set of statistical data about the humanities in the United States that is organized in collaboration with a consortium of national humanities organizations.

“Until now the nation has lacked a broad-based, quantitative analysis of the status of the humanities in the United States,” said Leslie Berlowitz, chief executive officer of the American Academy and project codirector. “We need more reliable empirical data about what is being taught in the humanities, how they are funded, the size of the workforce, and public attitudes toward the field. The Humanities Indicators are an important step in closing that fundamental knowledge gap. They will help researchers and policymakers, universities, foundations, museums, libraries, humanities councils, and others answer basic questions about the humanities, track trends, diagnose problems, and formulate appropriate interventions.”

CAA worked closely on the Humanities Indicators project since its inception and eagerly looks forward to the essays that will interpret the first set of statistical information. CAA provided information on hundreds of art-history departments at colleges, universities, and art schools that were then contacted to participate in filling out questionnaires to add to the statistics. For the first time, statistical information on academic art history and art museums will be represented in separate categories instead of being summarized (as in the US Department of Education and US Department of Labor statistics) in the general arts category.

Visual art in higher education and elsewhere, however, was not considered. Linda Downs, CAA executive director, notes that “the visual arts are only represented by art history in the indicators because the American Academy chose to follow the current definition of the humanities used by the National Endowment of the Humanities. I have argued for the inclusion of statistical information on artists, and the academy has promised that they will include visual artists in next year’s collection of statistics. Visual-arts statistics are not kept separate from performing-arts statistics by the Education or Labor Departments. So, any step in this direction will be useful for CAA.”

The Humanities Indicators reveal that:

  • The picture of adult literacy in the US is one of polarization. Among Western industrialized nations, we rank near the top in the percentage of highly literate adults (21 percent) but also near the top in the proportion who are functionally illiterate (also 21 percent)
  • Public debate about teacher qualifications has focused mainly on math and science, but data reveal that the humanities fields suffer an even more glaring dearth of well-prepared teachers. In 2000, the percentage of middle (29 percent) and high school (37.5 percent) students taught by a highly qualified history teacher was lower than for any other major subject area. The definition of “highly qualified” is a teacher who has certification and a postsecondary degree in the subject they teach
  • Humanities faculty are the most poorly paid. They also have a higher proportion of part-time, nontenured positions compared to their counterparts in the sciences and engineering. But almost half of humanities faculty indicate that they are “very satisfied” with their jobs overall
  • Since the early 1970s, the number of Americans who support the banning of books from the public library because they espouse atheism, extreme militarism, communism, or homosexuality decreased by at least 11 percentage points, although from 26 percent to 34 percent of the public would support banning some type of book. In the case of books advocating homosexuality, the decline was a particularly significant 20 percentage points
  • Recent federal legislation identifies certain languages as “critical need languages” (Arabic, Persian, Hindi, Bengali, Turkish, and Uzbek, among others), but the data show these languages are rarely studied in colleges and universities. At the same time, there has been a substantial increase in the number of students studying Chinese
  • Charitable giving to arts and cultural organizations grew between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s before leveling off. But little public- or private-sector funding for the humanities goes to academic research. This trend undermines both academia and the public since public institutions rely on humanities scholars to provide much of the knowledge on which these activities are based
  • The number of American adults who read at least one book in the previous twelve months decreased from 61 percent to 57 percent in the decade between the early 1990s and the early 2000s. The greatest rate of decline (approximately 15 percent) occurred among 18-to-24-year-olds

The project collected and analyzed data from existing sources to compile a prototype set of seventy-four indicators and more than two hundred tables and charts, accompanied by interpretive essays covering five broad subject areas. The indicators will be updated as new information becomes available, including data from a survey administered last year to approximately 1,500 college and university humanities departments. The academy views the indicators as a prototype for a much-needed national system of humanities data collection.

Among the organizations collaborating with the academy on the effort are the the College Art Association, American Council of Learned Societies, the American Academy of Religion, the American Historical Association, the American Political Science Association, the Association of American Universities, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, the Linguistic Society of America, the Modern Language Association, and the National Humanities Alliance.

Update: Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has the first review of the Humanities Indicators, with comments from readers.

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