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On April 20, 2010, the US Supreme Court struck down, on First Amendment grounds, a federal statute (18 U.S.C. § 48 ) that criminalized the commercial sale, dissemination, and possession of depictions of animal cruelty, as well as of acts showing the wounding or killing of animals. The decision in United States v. Stevens endorses rights of free expression, especially as they relate to the sale and distribution of images. In summer 2009, CAA joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) in filing a friend of the court brief that urged the court to strike down the law.

The Stevens case involved an appeal of a conviction on charges that the defendant had sold videos of dog fighting. The court’s 8–1 decision (only Justice Samuel Alito dissented) held that the law was overbroad because it swept in the commercial sale and use of images clearly protected by the First Amendment, including acts of hunting that were lawful in one state but unlawful in another, as well as various other activities in which animals may be wounded or killed. The court noted that its decision only protects the depictions of activities involving animals, and does not affect the criminalization of cruelty to animals.

As NCAC and CAA emphasized in their brief, CAA in no way supports cruelty to animals. Although the statute allowed for exceptions, for representations that had “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value,” CAA was concerned that this exception would allow courts to make decisions whether a challenged work had such value. So, for example, while one court may agree that an animal-rights video that documents atrocious conditions in a factory farm is political speech and therefore legally permissible, another court, unaware of particularly aesthetic approaches, may see an artist’s sale of a work dealing with the same imagery as outside the exception and thus prohibited by the statute. In addition, CAA was concerned that if the court had held § 48 constitutional, that would set a precedent for Congress to expand the categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment, potentially including various types of artistic speech.

CAA filed its brief not only because § 48 had a potential direct affect on artistic creation of works that use animals, as well as the reproduction of those works and of other images depicting animals, but also because the possibility that other categories of speech could be criminalized could result in limiting the expression of CAA members as artists and teachers. The US Supreme Court endorsed the position taken by CAA in its brief.

The Art Newspaper recently reported on the decision. You may also read more about CAA’s position on US v. Stevens and download a PDF of the NCAC and CAA brief.

Lee Rosenbaum, an arts journalist, has brought the recent controversy over the Getty Research Institute’s plans for the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA) to a wider audience in today’s Wall Street Journal. The Getty had announced earlier this month that it was placing the formerly subscription-based service online for free use to scholars worldwide. It will, however, cease updating the resource, which has been in operation since 1972.

In her piece, Rosenbaum talks to Paul B. Jaskot, an art historian at DePaul University and president of the CAA Board of Directors, among other key scholars and librarians in the field. She also updates her ArtsJournal blog with information and quotes that did not make it into the published piece.

A Getty task force will convene a meeting today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and CAA representatives will be present. Look for a summary of the meeting later this week.

Filed under: Libraries, Online Resources, Research — Tags: ,

This month the International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art, known as RIHA, has launched a new online publication, RIHA Journal. This peer-reviewed, open-access e-journal provides a unique publishing platform for international research articles in the history of art.

Open to the entire range of art-historical topics and approaches, RIHA Journal will feature articles in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Three essays have already published so far: read Michèle Hannoosh on Eugène Delacroix’s Journal (in French), Maria Poprzęcka’s ruminations on the experience of viewing paintings under reflective glass (in English), and Manuel Weinberger on a cartography collection at the Austrian National Library (in German). Contributions can be subscribed to via an RSS feed.

The not-for-profit RIHA Journal makes all articles available free of charge. Manuscripts undergo a double-blind peer-review process and are published within a few weeks of submission. A joint project of twenty-seven institutes in eighteen countries, RIHA Journal has an editing processes that is locally organized, with each RIHA institute being responsible for acquiring submissions, organizing reviews, and copy editing. In the United States, these are the Getty Research Institute, the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, and the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.

The Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich is responsible for developing and organizing the journal. Funding is provided by the German Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien).

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced on April 14, 2010, that Jason Schupbach will join the endowment as director of design at the end of May.

Schupbach brings to the NEA an impressive background of support for the creative economy and the design field, along with experience working with local, state, and federal agencies. He currently serves as the creative economy industry director for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where one of his primary focuses is the growth and support of all types of design businesses. Schupbach has also worked as capital projects manager for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and director of Boston’s ArtistLink, an organization that creates a stable environment for Massachusetts artists as they seek workspace and housing.

Schupbach will manage the NEA’s grantmaking for design and its design initiatives, such as the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, as well as the proposed Our Town, which is part of the NEA fiscal year 2011 budget request and would provide funding in recognition of the role that the arts can play in economic revitalization and in creating livable, sustainable communities.

After receiving his BS in public health from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Schupbach earned his master’s degree in city planning with an urban-design certificate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Read more about him on the NEA website. Judith H. Dobrzynski of the ArtsJournal blog Real Clear Arts worries that his appointment is leading toward a more commercialized NEA.

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 99th Annual Conference in New York—which kicks off CAA’s centennial year—takes place February 9–12, 2011. Listing more than 120 sessions, the 2011 Call for Participation arrived in the mailboxes of all CAA members earlier this month; you can also download a PDF of the publication from the CAA website immediately.

This publication describes many of next year’s panels and presentations. CAA and session chairs invite your participation: please follow the instructions in the booklet to submit a proposal for a paper. This publication also includes a call for Poster Session proposals and describes the Open Forms sessions.

In addition to attending and participating in the wide-ranging panels on art history, studio art, contemporary issues, and professional and educational practices, CAA expects participation from many area schools, museums, galleries, and other art institutions. The Hilton New York is the conference hotel, holding most sessions and panels, Career Services and the Book and Trade Fair, receptions and special events, and more. Deadline for proposals: May 3, 2010.

The Art History Newsletter, a website that has “endeavored to synopsize news and opinion of interest to art historians and to provide original reporting on conferences, lectures, and other special events,” seeks contributors to expand its content.

Since 2006, Jonathan Lackman, a doctoral student at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, has run a mostly one-person blog with weekly posts, with added writers covering the CAA Annual Conference, among other events. Now that expanded coverage may appear year round.

For more information, visit the Art History Newsletter. To become a contributor, please write to Jonathan Lackman.

Filed under: Blogs

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

Several organizations, including the American Society of Media Photographers, the Professional Photographers of America, and the Graphic Artists Guild, have filed a class-action lawsuit against Google, claiming that by scanning millions of books the internet company has infringed on their members’ copyrights and failed to compensate them for their work.

According to Miguel Helft of the New York Times, the new lawsuit is separate from the Google Book Settlement between the company and a consortium of individuals and authors’ organizations. That decision is pending in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Helft writes, “Google’s settlement with authors and publishers largely excluded photographs and other visual works. Legal experts said it was not unexpected that Google would face claims from groups that were not part of the original case and are not covered by it.”