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Carma Gorman


Carma Gorman


The College Art Association is my professional home and has played a central role in my career in academe. I presented my first-ever conference paper at CAA when I was still in graduate school and have attended the conferences annually ever since. I found my first job in a hard copy of CAA Careers and interviewed for it at a CAA conference. I refer to CAA guidelines and publications frequently in the course of my work today. These benefits, among many others, have in my estimation more than repaid the cost of my annual membership.

However, academe has changed profoundly since I joined CAA as an art history graduate student twenty years ago. Academic job postings are now usually viewable in multiple online forums for free. Most preliminary interviews are now conducted by Skype rather than at the Annual Conference. And there are far fewer faculty now who will ever have the need to consult CAA’s tenure and promotion guidelines. In short, CAA membership is no longer crucial to emerging professionals, or at least not for the same reasons it once was.

To effectively serve the many needs of emerging professionals within the fields of art and design today, I believe CAA will need to do three things:

1) Reconfigure the board and the election process to ensure that contingent faculty—who constitute an ever-increasing proportion of the professoriate—play a commensurate role in governing and shaping the mission of CAA. Allocating a substantial percentage of CAA board seats to contingent faculty and emerging professionals, and helping subvent those board members’ travel expenses for meetings (or providing for videoconference attendance at meetings), would ensure that the board remains representative of and advocates effectively for the field as a whole.

2) Decide consciously how to address the fact that the number of American undergraduates completing degrees in design now surpasses the number completing degrees in studio art. CAA could choose to remain an organization focused on its traditional—and considerable—strengths in the fields of art history and studio art, or, alternatively, choose to remake itself as the College Art and Design Association, serving the interests of artists, designers, art historians, and design historians equally. Both options present risks and opportunities, but either seems more likely to be sustainable than splitting the difference.

3) Determine whether to revise the format of the Annual Conference to make it more accessible to and inclusive of graduate students, emerging professionals, and contingent faculty who rarely have the incomes or the travel budgets to afford in-person attendance. Allowing video submissions and teleconference presentations at the conference is one possible way forward.

CAA has been central to my own professional development. If elected to the CAA board, I will work hard to ensure that CAA continues to change with the times so that it can remain financially sustainable and also continue effectively serving the needs of a new generation of young professionals.


Carma Gorman is an associate professor and the graduate advisor and assistant chair of the Design Division of the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. She earned a BA in art history from Carleton College and a PhD in the history of art from the University of California, Berkeley. She taught the history of art and design for fifteen years in the School of Art and Design at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where she worked closely with colleagues and students in the fine arts, studio crafts, graphic design, industrial design, art history, and art education. At The University of Texas at Austin, Gorman serves on the department’s executive committee alongside colleagues in the Divisions of Art Education, Art History, and Studio Art, and is actively engaged in curriculum and program development.

A design historian specializing in the history of US industrial design of the long twentieth century, Gorman edited the primary-source anthology The Industrial Design Reader (Allworth Press, 2003), which is used nationally and internationally as a course text; coedited with David Raizman the book of essays Objects, Audiences, and Literatures: Alternative Narratives in the History of Design (Cambridge Scholars, 2007); and has written reviews and articles on US design of the long twentieth century for American Quarterly, Design and Culture, Design Issues, Journal of Design History, Studies in the Decorative Arts, and Winterthur Portfolio. She is currently writing a book that traces how the unique system of laws in the US has shaped the national character of American industrial design since 1890.

Gorman has been a CAA member and regular conference attendee for twenty years; has served on two CAA task forces; is a past president of the Design Studies Forum (DSF—a CAA affiliated society); is the owner-manager of the DSF’s announcement list; and serves as an associate editor of the peer-reviewed DSF journal, Design and Culture.


I am writing to provide my most enthusiastic support for Carma Gorman’s candidacy for membership on the CAA Board of Directors. Carma is a leading historian of design, one of the scholars defining this developing field today and into the future. Her Industrial Design Reader (Allworth Press, 2003) has become a standard work within the field, used in courses across the globe. An outstanding writer and thinker, her article, “Educating the Eye: Body Mechanics and Streamlining in the U.S., 1925–1950,” which appeared in the leading journal of American Studies, American Quarterly, had the extremely rare and perhaps unique distinction for an art/design history article of being anthologized in the annual collection The Best American History Essays (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), published by the Organization of American Historians. Her work has thus been recognized as interdisciplinary in the best way possible: as being of interest not only to colleagues in our field as an example of the incorporation into art/design history of other disciplinary outlooks or methodologies, but also as vital to scholars in allied fields. Her forthcoming history of modern American industrial design promises to be another landmark interdisciplinary work: its focus on issues of American copyright law and intellectual property is destined to change conceptions of the basis for a distinctive “American” design. Her institutional academic career, first at Southern Illinois University (SIU) (where we were colleagues) and now at The University of Texas (UT), has been in programs that include the full complement of fine arts disciplines, as well as art history and design, so she has worked productively with colleagues representing all of the various constituencies that CAA serves. She has effectively taken on leadership positions on the faculties at both SIU and UT, as well as in the field of design studies. In this latter area, she has been a driving force behind the Design Studies Forum, bringing an international community of scholars and practitioners into productive dialogue. I am confident that as a member of the CAA Board of Directors she will provide stellar service to the organization and to the field, applying her sharp mind, generous spirit, ethical outlook, and outstanding work ethic fully to whatever tasks the board undertakes.

—Peter Chametzky, Professor of Art History and Director, School of Visual Art and Design, University of South Carolina


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