August 29th, 2011
According to DeGrandis, she has “always complained about [space], and the answer is always that because they’re academics, that because they don’t need a massive amount of space to actually work on something and everybody has a laptop, so they can go anywhere with it. That’s always the excuse I get from administration about not having a larger common space than what I have.”
But Paul Coffey, Vice Provost, points out that the communal computers are installed with a reader to track how often they are being used.
If use isn’t particularly high, the administration will interpret that as evidence that there’s no need for a space expansion. To support his claim, he points to the communal lounge on the seventh floor of Sharp, shared between the Art Education department, the Art Therapy department, the Art Administration department, and the Writing department; according to the readers, usage of those computers is actually fairly low.
In Coffey’s opinion, the administration is receptive to the needs of expanding departments, and collaborates closely with department heads to meet the most pressing priorities. This oftentimes includes space, since “we are on an urban campus, and space is at a premium.” However, the school does attempt to meet this need whenever possible. As proof, he points to the Writing Department’s new Book Lab, which will be opening on the second floor of the Legacy extension; he also made mention of the new space for Art History students that DeGrandis requested.
Coffey believes it is important that students realize that funding is dispersed in different ways and according to different needs. “The education of an MFA student is structured around a different paradigm than an MA student,” he says, and the paradigm of the MFA is rather dependent upon space: space to create, space to critique, space to be critiqued. “The education of an MA student is course-based, centered around smaller classes and more interaction with more faculty.”
Coffey claims funding is balanced accordingly; but, consequently, the funding allocated to MFA students is much more visible than that of MA students. “MA students look at studios and ask, ‘Why don’t I have that?’ and they can actually point to that, a white cube, and they say, ‘I don’t have that, and yet my tuition is the same.’” Coffey says he is sympathetic to their frustration, but he believes that once all the details are unpacked, all the nuances of the situation become apparent.
When asked if she regrets her decision to attend SAIC, Hanna Yoo is quick to point out all the benefits that scholars and artists derive from being near one another. “I’ll ultimately work with artists throughout my entire career,” she says. “Similarly, I believe that artists also learn how scholars or art journalists see their work and integrate their feedback into their practice.” Since both are integral parts of the art world, “it’s beneficial to be surrounded by both and get prepared for the real world.”
Leif Sandburg, however, believes that such contact is unfortunately rare. “I have not met too many people in the MA department,” he says. He admits that “part of that is my own studio practice, but part of it is the school is not quite as cross-disciplinary as it seems.”
According to Sandburg, professor Daniel Quiles in the Art History, Theory and Criticism department tried to bridge that gap, and deeply impressed him. “He organized studio visits/critiques for MFA students and had people in the MA programs come in and talk about our work.” While such a project works perfectly in keeping with SAIC’s interdisciplinary mission, Sandburg is left wishing that “there were more ventures like that.”