Moreover, socially conscious administrators will concede that “diversity” initiatives have yet to succeed
in racially desegregating American art at a transformative scale, as research by BFAMFAPhD
(a collective concerned with the restrictive cost of art degrees), the American Association of Museums, the National Endowment for the Arts—and the views of First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama
In this regard, a troubling phenomenon of American higher education is that African-Americans proportionally make up far more of the athletic student body than those focused on other disciplines. (One study shows that in Division I men’s basketball, African-Americans accounted for 57.2 percent of student-athletes and whites accounted for 29.4 percent, while African-American student enrollment at large is 14 percent.) The extraordinary efforts to secure top football and basketball talent—many of whom are black—are sanctioned by most trustees, alumni, and administrators with enthusiasm. Imagine a similarly endorsed, organized, and funded initiative to recruit, cultivate, and educate African-American students of art. Such an initiative, informed by African-American Studies scholarship, could dynamically expand the curriculum, concepts, and content of arts education—and American art at large.
While aesthetics and art history should and will remain a part of teaching and learning, those university art departments that develop curricular and campus identities through interdisciplinary and trans-departmental collaborations, engage in efforts targeting alumni support, and generate curricular platforms for socially engaged art practice, new educational models, and funding proposals directed at foundations focused on democracy and equality (such as the Ford Foundation
) will remain standing among the fallen.
Arguments for studying art cannot rest upon a defense of tradition or the status quo. Faculty claims to creativity, innovation, and visionary leadership are meaningless if the response to the challenges facing art in higher education are not commensurately creative, innovative, visionary, and above all, bold.