by Edward A. DeCarbo

I am encouraged looking back through our efforts and successes in 2008-2009 and even more  hopeful than I expected to be in assessing our aspirations for 2009-2010.

Our real success can be measured in degrees, theses, and paths, personal and professional, academic  and aesthetic.  The breadth of thesis topics, and the many internships and the relationships with an  almost as wide a range of institutions all demonstrate points of strength and convergences generated  by the History of Art and Design at Pratt.

Njoya, Throne - Early 20th Century, Cameroon
Njoya, Throne - Early 20th Century, Cameroon

Student life in the Department is clearly linked to the aspirations and strength of purpose and to the  voice of students in Pratt Community.  Hiring practices,  programming driven by the interests and  aspirations of the populations spanning the joint programs sharing the Pratt platform,  a shared voice  from Fine Arts, History of Art and Design, School of Information and Library Science is increasingly  heard from student organizations.  That voice has weighed in to redirect student activity fees to  sponsor gallery exhibits of the work of fine arts students curated by art and design students,  gallery, museum and other cultural organizations and institutions, student professional travel and  lectures.  With this groundwork now in place, the path can only widen.  In the same way Art and Design  MS Symposium was co-sponsored by HADSA, the student organization, and by the Department.  The most  recent Symposium spanned four topics and was presented in an all-campus venue in the Library, two of  the four presentations drawn from the 6 theses deposited in the Spring Term.

Our accomplishment of perhaps greatest impact is the addition of a full time position.  Not only did  this mark the opening of a widened focus of inquiry into the 21st Century, but also the demonstration  of an ability to bridge wide differences of view, even of possible direction for the Department,  opening conversations and questions of unknown outcome.  Particularly heartening was the high level  and continuingly strong participation in both the student and faculty members of the Department.  A  significant number of the citizenry of the Institute (five Art and Design Faculty and one from Fine  Arts and a cohort of students from the two schools who are joint degree grantors and a significant  number of our Department) came to observe the presentations of the five short-listed candidates.   Perhaps the best news came in the fact that so few faculty chose to absent themselves from those  presentations while so many students chose to attend to actively engage in the interviewing process.  In addition to the appointment of Eva Diaz, the recognition that hiring is the beginning of on-going  effort is a most encouraging assessment and demonstration of the vitality of departmental life.

All of this is not to lessen the on-going accomplishments of an academically based effort.  As has  always been the case, the Art and Design faculty has been marked by accomplishments including a wide  variety of publications, books, articles, participation and lectures in professional meetings, invited  lectures, grants, awards, consultancies, and commissions.

It is a true credit to us as a Department to stand as a locus of cooperation, willingness, and shared  energy.  It is in this commonality of purpose, rising out of student organizations, shared student fee  monies, joint allocation among all three populations, and one student from each school.  From the  ranks of faculty Joyce Polestina, while advising a thesis realized the benefits that will accrue from  the tightening of the thesis guidelines, volunteered to survey her peers and to clarify the mechanisms  for the presentation of the theses.  Similarly, Diana Gisolfi volunteered to personally contact  accepted applicants.  Certainly the work of the search committee, chaired by Marsha Morton was one of  the most solid efforts that stretched across the Department and was expanded to a broad representation  of other Departments as well as a student voice in the recruitment of a full time contemporary  position.  That effort will be marked in this next year by the appointment of a search committee  formed around comments on the last job description as the basis of the Department Chair and named by  the Dean of the School of Art and Design.

While I have associated each of these undertakings with the person who led a particular effort, I want  to be clear that it is the generosity and sense of a departmental contribution, not merely the  specific accomplishment that merits recognition.   In the same way we can expect see the welcoming of  our new colleague, attendance at Commencement, a vastly  broadened impact of graduate students, even  in a year of a small class, are a demonstration of a sharpened sense of professional community.  That  growth is mirrored in the seven theses that where deposited this term and almost equal number of  summer deposits.

Looking forward there are several significant short term results that will come to fruition from what  is noted above.  The already begun activities of Survey/Curriculum Committee will move beyond the data  collection, frame building stage.  The people who have laid that ground work, led by Marsha Morton,  are Gayle Rodda Kurtz, Nick Napoli, Vanessa Rocco, Dimitri Hazzikostas, and supported by a graduate  research assistant.  As the descriptions of survey sequences are compiled the blog or several  mechanisms for data collection and processing will be devised over the summer.  To reiterate, the  Survey Committee will follow the momentum of its success, starting from the large points of  organization, administration, pedagogy and content.

One of the most important undertakings of the next academic year will be the search and recruitment of  a Department Chair.  I have been pleased to get so many observations about the job description and the  sorts of people for whom we should be looking.  Let me remind you that the Search Committee will be  assembled by the new Dean of Art and Design.  She will have this as high hill to climb as an  introduction to the processes and challenges of large-scale task taking at Pratt.

An equally specific task that is a corollary of recruitment is the integration of a new faculty member  and that person’s area of expertise into campus life.  This brings the current year precisely to a  point toward which we aspired and to which we have now come.  I am grateful to have had the  opportunity to share the accomplishments with you and to sincerely believe that while I have little  idea what will mark the path, I have every confidence that the direction will be flexible enough meet  the challenge that unfolds and can be sufficiently adjusted to accommodate shifting size,  collaborations and directions, and to re-envision the reciprocity of art and design, aesthetics and  utility, object and idea; the challenge to refashion, rename, and reinstitute our task.  I have found  it a most engaging set of pursuits and hope that the next cycle is as pleasurable in the months to  come.  Let me end with the gratitude with which I began.