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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts and the black revolution II

Rouse, Mary J.; Reynolds, Douglas
Editorial comment: art education in the negro colleges,   pp. 419-[430] PDF (11.3 MB)

Page 423

A majority of the predominantly-Negro
college programs own collections of
reproductions and prints, but there are a
few that have none at all. Several are
reported to have been assembled only
because the faculty bought them personally.
Of the Negro colleges reporting such
collections, our figures show an average
of 1158 units. In contrast, the program
of our comparison group average 17,797
units. The predominantly-Negro colleges
report that they can rarely spend over $50
a year to add to their collections, while
the comparison group reports an annual
mean expenditure of over $1000.
Very few of these programs have either
galleries or museums as such. They have
an average display space of 1,458 square
feet. Full-time directors or curators are
almost non-existent; most often teaching
faculty also serve in this capacity. Their
collections largely consist of contemporary
drawings, paintings, sculpture, decorative
arts and prints. With the exception of some
rather notable collections of African art and
artifacts, few have much to offer of a
historical nature. At least two of the
most extensive African art collections suffer
from a lack of display space and are in
buildings subject to almost instant
destruction in case of fire. A constant
problem is the uninsurability of collections
due to unsafe physical conditions, such
as dampness, or the possibility of fire
or theft.
In asking the departments to rate their
studio facilities, we set up categories for
almost every type of art activity and
included under each category all of the
items thought necessary for efficient
operation. Only one item, "industrial
design: laboratory space" was rated as even
average in quality by the Negro college
programs. Every other category and item
within each category (including painting,
sculpture, industrial design, commercial art,
graphic arts, ceramics, jewelry, textile
design, and art education) were rated as
below average or totally inadequate.
The students were asked to rate the
quality of their art programs as they saw
them. Some 39% of the predominantly-
Negro college art students rate theirs as
mediocre or poor, while only 2% of the
other group of students hold their programs
in such low esteem. On the other end of
the continuum, only 16% of the Negro
college students rate their programs as of
the highest quality while 59% of the
comparison group do. The students believe
that their studio courses are higher in
quality than either art history or art
education courses. Of the various studio
courses offered, they prefer painting,
drawing, ceramics and sculpture most, and
printmaking and weaving least.
What We Learned About the
Administrative Support For Art.
From the 51 presidents of the predominantly-
Negro colleges who responded to our
questionnaire, we learned that 35%
consider art "highly important" on their
campuses, 19% think it "as important
as other areas," 39% regard it as
"primarily a service to other areas," and
approximately 5% think it "not very
important." Slightly over half report that
they are thinking of strengthening their art
programs but have not yet formalized plans,
while 42% write that they have already
made rather definite plans for this purpose.
It is interesting to compare their responses
with those of their own faculty who in
their part of the survey report that 29%
of their administrators probably regard their
art programs only as of peripheral
importance while only 16% could be
considered to be really supportive.
One faculty respondent wrote, "The program
as it appears today is a hodgepodge of
whatever the administrator could or
pretended to understand . . . I wonder why
administrators employ persons to do a
job and then dare them to do it?"
One must keep in mind, of course, that
these presidents constantly face the
difficult task of attempting to do the most
they can with limited funds, facilities, and
personnel. The question of whether or
not funds should be spent in any
substantial amount on the development
of an art program probably haunts most of
these administrators. They quite likely
find it easy to rationalize less support for
the art programs in order to bolster areas
which not only have more prestige but
afford clearer economic opportunities for
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