School of Art Announcement about the Fall 2020 Semester

Hello everyone,

I know many of you are getting impatient to know what the Fall semester will look like. Well, we have all been working hard this past month to figure out how to deliver as engaging and challenging a semester as ever, while adhering to health guidelines from the state. The faculty in each program now has a plan, and, having worked things through with the Lab Directors and John Hogan, along with Facilities staff, we are close to having a policy for studios and the Labs. I’m going to outline where we are at this moment, but please bear in mind that the larger situation is far from stable, and that we might have to change things quickly if the rate of infection in the state continues to rise as it has been doing recently.

The Art School has long designed its pedagogy around the principle that theory and practice exist in a symbiotic relationship to each other. This means that art history and theory are embedded in the studio, and, conversely, ideas become real through making. During Fall 2020 this will continue to be the underlying assumption driving the curriculum in all our programs. To effect this, we intend to ensure that all of our students have adequate workspace to continue developing their work. We are also working to make necessary tools available, and when appropriate, gallery space to exhibit finished work for assessment. To best manage social distancing protocols the programs have drawn up plans for a semester with restricted choice at every year level. Classes based in studio production or critique will mostly follow a hybrid model, while most lecture and seminar-based classes will be taught remotely.

To reiterate, providing adequate studio workspace is central to the work of all of the programs in the Art School, and we will continue to make sure that everyone has the space they need. But we do need to be mindful of distancing protocols and cleaning timetables. This means that individual access to studios will be organized on a schedule that will limit the number of hours you can work in your space on any given day. This is to allow us to limit how many people are on campus at a particular time in an attempt to control infection vectors, accommodate the janitorial staff as they endeavor to keep our workspaces safe, and give us the ability to trace contacts, should anyone fall ill. Although no decision has yet been made, you should be prepared for less than the 24-hour access we have always considered the norm.

All of our production facilities – SuperShop and Ceramics Lab, Print/Media Lab, MacLab, VideoLab, PhotoLab – will be open to support student production and various classes. Wearing a mask in these spaces is mandatory, and access will be limited to allow for safe distancing. Classes will adhere to the schedule worked out with the teaching faculty, and other access will be by appointment. Each Lab Director is establishing the rules that make most sense for their facility, and their decision on matters of access will be final.

The galleries will be operating more or less as normal. Much of the schedule for Fall is already in place, and an online lottery will be held for those eligible for the remaining spaces. One caveat is that, with the Institute imposing a 2-week quarantine on anyone who travels, you will have to forgo plans to leave the area if you are planning a show in the weeks following Thanksgiving. You will be able to have in-person meetings in the gallery during the week of your show, but crit class numbers will need to be limited in accordance with the state guidelines in place at the time of your show. We will all need to come together in Fall to discuss how best to re-invent Thursday night receptions.

The content of the semester is always driven by your ideas, your work, cajoled and influenced by faculty input. To re-up that input, we have all been rethinking our classes to address the new situation, not just the pandemic, but also the nationwide rising for social justice.

Over the next days and weeks you will be hearing directly from your programs about class details, and the full Course Catalogue will go live August 11. Many classes will have an on-campus component, and most will also be taught remotely. Some will be totally online. The same mix will hold for Independent Studies; you will develop a schedule to work in your studio, and then set up meetings with faculty. You and the faculty will agree if these meetings are in person or remote, perhaps they will be a combination. Likewise, you should expect your initial mentoring meetings to be online, but you and your mentor might decide that subsequent meetings could take place in your studio.

These are undoubtedly strange days, but in that strangeness lies great potential for new thinking and new action. I’m excited to see what we collectively make of it.

Looking forward to seeing you in September,


Thomas Lawson

Dean, School of Art
Jill and Peter Kraus Distinguished Chair in Art