What's wrong with art in Seattle? Our art schools, according to SAM's outgoing contemporary curator.

Michael Darling Schools the Schools

What's wrong with art in Seattle? Our art schools, according to SAM's outgoing contemporary curator.
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Michael Darling has been the king of contemporary art in Seattle, and it's been a Pax Romana. He's used his power for good, bringing Seattle artists back into the fold at Seattle Art Museum, where he has been the modern and contemporary curator for four years. Recently, he accepted the job of curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, starting this summer. Unlike past SAM curators, he never stood apart from the city and its talent, and he brought in audiences without sacrificing intelligence in two major exhibitions, Target Practice and Kurt. He earned the ability to criticize—and he has something to say.

"Seattle needs to revolutionize its master of fine arts program at the University of Washington... I think that's the number one thing holding back the Seattle art scene," he said in an interview in his office last week. He is lanky and has an innocent face—he doesn't set out to upset people.

"This is probably where I'm going to get into some real trouble," he went on, "but if you look at the faculty at the University of Washington, there are not a lot of people in that faculty who have a national reputation. I mean, you have it in certain pockets in certain disciplines—especially, I'd say, within the ceramics department—but these aren't people who are showing in big galleries in New York or L.A. or London, who are leading the discussion. And that's what students respond to—that's why students flock to UCLA, that's why students flock to Yale, that's why, nowadays, students flock to USC. USC is a big draw, and USC is an interesting case because they also offer free tuition for their MFA students, which has made it the most desirable MFA program in Los Angeles. And, of course, the UW's got a lot of financial issues, but I think that's well within the UW's possibilities. If that department had free tuition for MFAs and started to really bring in some hotshot professors who have name recognition, I think this city would take off like nobody's business when it comes to contemporary art."

Specifically, he sees a "lack of rigor" that leaves UW art grads with "blind spots." Compared to Chicago, Darling sees a gap in Seattle's whole art-school universe—that includes not just UW but Cornish College of the Arts (where there are only undergraduates and where, full disclosure, I have taught an art-history class for the last three years), and Seattle University (mainly undergraduate).

This is just one man's opinion—that Seattle is not going anywhere until its art schools get better—but he's a powerful, knowledgeable man, and it's a strong opinion, not easy to dismiss, something that's going to be argued over for probably years.

"It's too easy to blame the schools," counters Timea Tihanyi, a sculptor and mixed-media artist who graduated from UW with an MFA in ceramics in 2003 and is now a full-time lecturer there. "For heaven's sake, at least look at the ceramics program, where historically they made a huge effort of gathering faculty who would be cutting-edge, and they turned out students who became really well-known. This is a research university, not an art school, in a way, and we are trying to do our best to have an art school at a research university, but the university's priority, as you know, is not the arts."

Christopher Ozubko, chair of art at UW and a graphic designer, did not respond to a request for an interview.

Lois Harris, provost of Cornish—where David Ulrich, art department chair, recently resigned effective August 31—says it is too early to talk about what kind of chair the college will look for in its upcoming national search. An interim director will be appointed this summer.

"I'd prefer not to comment on improving the program, because that makes it sound like we come from a deficit position," Harris says. "Quite frankly, we're in a transition period. We're going to be doing some soul-searching in the next year that's going to determine the direction we'll be going. I don't want to say in any way that our main goal is improving. What we need is a little grace time to figure out, okay, what is the next big step and what are the next little steps we need to take to continue our role within the city."

Seattle University's comparatively small art department was sleepy until four years ago, when its Hedreen Gallery opened. The department has been steadily inventing itself since then, bringing Seattle's leading artists not only into the public gallery but also into the classrooms to teach such subjects as performance and video (Wynne Greenwood is teaching, for instance). "In the past, the university was sort of hidden and by itself," says art associate chair Francisco Guerrero. "We're starting to face the community."

For administrators, professors, and artists alike, Darling's words hit like a fireball.

"Wow! He went there! Finally, we're talking about it," says Sharon Arnold, a Seattle artist who graduated from Cornish after attending Pratt Institute in New York. "It feels like there aren't a lot of choices in Seattle, and the departments are lackluster. It's frustrating and confusing."

Matt Browning graduated from UW with a bachelor of fine arts degree in fibers in 2007 and is now represented by leading Seattle contemporary art gallery Lawrimore Project.

"There are little gems within the UW, individuals who are incredible, but I agree with Michael," Browning says. "I think the schools here are single-handedly the worst thing about art in Seattle."

Performance/sculpture trio SuttonBeresCuller is one of Cornish's proudest recent exports; the three recently completed a residency at MacDowell, the oldest artist colony in the nation—past guests include James Baldwin, Glenn Ligon, Stephen Shore, Thornton Wilder, and Francesca Woodman.

"I want to be proud of my college, but I'm disappointed in the direction Cornish has gone," John Sutton says. "It became a corporate identity with its move to South Lake Union. It's got plenty of talented people, and there's no reason why it shouldn't be providing a stellar educational experience, and I don't think it even comes close."

"The Cornish art department is at a crossroads," says Marc Dombrosky, an artist represented by Platform Gallery who was a popular teacher at Cornish (he now teaches at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where his artist wife, Shannon Eakins, is studying). "Given its history with artists, it's set up to be as innovative as it wants to be, but the curriculum is just dated across the board."

The godfather of art dealing in Seattle, Greg Kucera, graduated from UW in 1980 and a couple years ago delivered a commencement address there.

"When you think of what's brilliant about this university, should the art department be a brilliant thing like it is, say, at UCLA or Yale, where it's a renowned part of a renowned school?" he asks. "I wish it were more so—let's leave it at that."

L et's not.

The University of Washington has a special place in the history of artist education. According to Howard Singerman in his book Art Subjects: Making Artists in the American University, the master of fine arts degree—the equivalent of a license to be an artist, though its value is plenty questioned—itself was begun in the mid-1920s at the universities of Washington and Oregon, even before at Yale and Syracuse, the nation's oldest campus-based art schools.

In the 1970s and '80s, when hotshot Jacob Lawrence was a faculty member, UW was predominantly a painters' school. In the 1990s, the highlight was the ceramics program. It was ranked fifth among ceramics schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report (the overall UW School of Art is ranked 37th), and the ceramics grads had two things in common: They rarely specialized in ceramics and they became successful. Tim Roda, who makes gritty black-and-white photographs of himself and his young son in outlandish settings, is a classic example; Susie Lee, another ceramics grad who animates still objects with videos and sound, is another. Ceramics was just code for the best students at the school.

A restructuring three years ago means nobody gets a degree in ceramics anymore; now, the sculpture department is called 3D4M and the other majors are painting and drawing, photomedia, and interdisciplinary visual arts. The restructuring was an attempt to catch up (quite late) to the fact that few artists define themselves by medium any longer—more often, mediums are applied to ideas on a project-by-project basis, and development of ideas is as important as study of techniques. This has been happening in earnest since the 1960s, in part because modernism expanded the list of valid art materials from paint, marble, and bronze to include photography, everyday objects, newly patented plastics, moving images, bodies, entire swaths of land, and virtual reality—all the stuff of life. A university that isolates single mediums may well be putting graduates at an immediate disadvantage in their chosen profession, which is not so divided.

UW is still too divided, says Peter Nelson, a standout among this year's graduate students. He majored in photomedia, and for his final project, on display now at Henry Art Gallery, he interviewed his parents about the history of their relationship, then performed their words with his wife, each of them wearing papier-mâché masks and hands modeled after the parents. The resulting video plays the awkwardness of the costumes against the moving nature of the testimony, and at the opening last month, Nelson's parents themselves sang an original musical score along with the video. Someone in the audience audibly sobbed; plenty of other people talked later about having teared up. Nelson is leaving Seattle to teach photo and video at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York in the fall; UW prepared him well for a teaching job, but he was hungry for more chances at artistic development within the program.

"My biggest complaint is the separation, both physical and philosophical, between photo, painting, 3D4M—and DXARTS [another UW department entirely, devoted to digital and 'experimental media'] is like a completely different world," Nelson says. "I don't even know my fellow students in painting, which I think reduces the rigor because I am only comparing myself to the few other photo students, and that goes for the other students, too; there's a sort of isolated and insular approach as a result of that physical distance."

Beloved ceramics professor Jamie Walker says the same thing: "I believe in less segregation. But it's a discussion we've been having for 20 years."

What does he think of Darling's indictment? If he were a young artist who wanted to make his name, would he go to UW for graduate school?

"Well, that's a good question," Walker says. He does not answer it. He explains that it's complicated: Funding is tight right now, and faculty members are expected to teach pretty much full-time, which keeps them from doing their own work (which keeps them from developing what they can then teach). "I love my job. I love these people. But there's no doubt that being a faculty member at the University of Washington is challenging."

It's easier (and more fun) to describe what's fresh and where the energy is. Starting with the anarchic, exploratory approach of the ceramics faculty. "We'll try anything," Walker says. "Sometimes that has led to spectacular failures, but that spirit is what makes it fun and interesting." And art. "Right. Right!"

Walker sees the art school as a research lab as much as, say, the science and tech departments that university bigwigs are more likely to recognize as such. He applauds the hire, two years ago, of artist Mark Zirpel to head a new glass program; Zirpel is skilled and wild and far-ranging, not a studio-glass fixture who'd prefer to run a production-line hot shop. But no faculty members have been hired since then or are scheduled to be, and Walker says there's a stubborn generation gap between students and faculty, who are, on average, in their mid-40s. He's trying to create a residency program to bring younger artists to campus as mentors.

According to Nelson and the buzz on the street, one of the most exciting things to happen to UW art students this past year was Western Bridge director Eric Fredericksen's experimental lecture class that brought a sparkling lineup of leading contemporary artists from New York, Los Angeles, and Great Britain, among other places, to talk/perform every week. (The lineup of visiting artists at a single Portland art school—Portland State University's social-practice program, run by Harrell Fletcher—puts to shame all of the lineups of visiting artists at all of Seattle's art schools put together. A year ago, PSU brought Mark Dion back to Seattle to see for the first time since he installed it how his massive nurse log had grown at the Olympic Sculpture Park. A Seattle school didn't do that; a Portland school did.)

There's reform in the air. Fredericksen used to be as harsh a critic of UW as Darling, but even he's softened.

"I agree with Michael that strengthening the schools in Seattle—Cornish, too, for that matter—would have a huge impact on the city," Fredericksen says. "I don't get the sense that art is a huge priority for UW. But what I am interested in about UW now is their receptiveness, both at a student and faculty level, to new energy."

The move is simple: against narrowness. Two years ago, Cornish hired its first full-time art historian, Elizabeth Darrow (the critical-minded great-niece of legendary litigator Clarence Darrow), and its first staff curator, Jess Van Nostrand, assigned the job of creating a generative showplace. This fall, Seattle U begins a brand-new artist residency to galvanize conversation and augment faculty instruction; Browning is the first artist. Seattle U's Hedreen Gallery was steadily experimental under the direction of Yoko Ott, who organized performances, talks, and arguably the best exhibition in the entire city last year (10 years of intense videos by Japanese artist Meiro Koizumi, which drew crowds at a university that barely had a gallery five years ago). Whitney Ford-Terry and Jessica Powers, Hedreen's new curators starting this summer, are kicking off with a manifesto worth cheering:

Our goal is to provoke thought and action, inciting change from the outside in. The programming... will reflect our shared interests in ad hoc collaboration, radical experimentation, free choice learning, social justice activism, interdisciplinary study, and endurance. We... plan to take full advantage of our ability to move and make faster than traditional organizations in the academy.

In the coming months, as UW struggles to make do with limited resources, as Cornish considers how to fill a major open position, and as Seattle U continues brainstorming its new identity, those words would make a good mantra. Radical experimentation... Inciting change... Provoking thought and action. What else is school possibly for? recommended


Comments (71) RSS

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e.strange 1
This is a great article. I feel a lot of this has been said quietly, in small circles, many times over for many years, but I don't know if I've ever seen it in such a public forum. Props to Michael Darling for speaking out.
Posted by e.strange http://wtfontbook.blogspot.com/ on June 16, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
dj 2
I received my Photo BFA from UW in 2007 and I cannot help but share many of the sentiments Darling mentioned. There is also a much broader and simple observation that I noticed, and still do as I monitor the darkroom every week: The UW Art building is devoid of any inspiration, art or shared creative space. That building is not conducive in the least for generation. Pale, beige, narrow and brick, it doesn't feel receptive to art. Its not a blank slate, it's a blank stare and I still feel discouraged when I'm in that building.

Aesthetics aside, my experience with the faculty was very enjoyable as you build a rapport that could feel like you are both working towards honing your craft but it always seemed like professors were so busy (especially with the grossly oversized intro photo classes) and so stretched thin that both the students and the professors fell short in their experience.

Additionally, I think a greater emphasis in medium cross pollination should have been more enforced. Only now am I having to find the qualities of paint and sculpture exciting and potential vehicles for my ideas. A drawing class, a poorly taught 2-D design class, a speedy 'contemporary art' seminar and a surprisingly therapeutic 3-D class is all we needed for our foundations. It never felt ambitious or experimental. The only time I really felt encouraged to break out of my comfort levels was with an Installation course which is now a staple. I worked with frozen dye and space, it eventually seeped through the whole building and became part of the building itself. It was a great turning point for me in regards to how my personal aesthetic translated into another medium. More classes like this would really stimulate better work and new material sensitivities.

I also cannot feel quite discouraged by students in the Photo dept as no one is in their making work. My whole quarter found me washing photograms only all quarter! Childs play! That's supposed to be a singular assignment that teaches you the inverse nature of exposure. Instead it was the whole studio experience for the intro class, a rip-off in my book.

In all, funding, adequate and contemporary space and cross pollination are the sectors that need the most improvement.
Posted by dj http://www.derrickjefferies.com on June 16, 2010 at 12:58 PM · Report this
sharonArnold 3
I for one am (obviously) glad to get this conversation on the surface. Thanks for writing this Jen, I hope it sparks a metric shitton of conversation and, if we're lucky, some action to follow. And thanks to Michael Darling for saying it out loud - although I wish he'd done it earlier ;)
Posted by sharonArnold http://lengthbywidthbyheight.com on June 16, 2010 at 1:32 PM · Report this
The same holds true for the music schools. I teach music privately and always recommend that my graduating seniors consider studying music elsewhere and it gets me in trouble with the parents sometimes. Seattle doesn't have much of a music scene downtown and kids studying music have a tough time finding good jam sessions. If you study in New York, LA and New Orleans you can often sit in with your professors at evening jams. Seattle just needs to understand this and quit pretending this is the place to be for art and music. There is very little support outside the classroom and there doesn't seem to be much excitement generated in the classrooms.
Posted by gorgonzola11 on June 16, 2010 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Having gone to both the University of Washington and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago I have mixed feelings. The sense I got in Chicago is that the artistic community is more open to interaction with the surrounding schools and there are more opportunities for art students to develop their work and ideas about art into a more cohesive practice. In Seattle there are so few Art Schools (or so few good programs) that, combined with what I perceive to be a "closed off" art community it's hard to feel like you can grow in the development of your practice once you get out of school.
By closed off I mean you have to be young and hip or older and established. there feels like there is no room left if you don't fit into one of those groups...
makes me want to move back to Chicago sometimes - or start a revolution...
Posted by Jenerate http://jenniferltowner.com on June 16, 2010 at 2:51 PM · Report this
I'm an ignoramus about Art but there might be too many artists trying to be important and not enough trying to be good.
Maybe that's another way of saying rigor.
Posted by rigor on June 16, 2010 at 3:41 PM · Report this
Maybe there is something to do with art education in the Northwest, but I think that's way down the list.

How about we start with the fact the SAM has sucked for sooo long and done everything possible to not show leadership in contemporary art until very recently? How about a stodgy Seattle art establishment that frowned on young nouveau-riche techies who wanted to get involved? How about a group of area museums that saw the Bellevue Art Museum as competition, rather than a partner in broadening the scene when it hired a Class A curator to shift its focus and lead at the bleeding edge of art/craft?

I can't help think that Mr. Darling's remarks are either ill-informed by his lack of time on the so-called Seattle art scene, or he's trying to play nice with his benefactors and avoid the harder truth.

Bad reporting, Stranger. You should know better.
Posted by Thhbpt on June 16, 2010 at 5:49 PM · Report this
The schools in Southern California turning out great artists are UCLA, CalArts, Art Center, and UCSD. Maybe USC is up and coming but in my time in LA no one is talking about their program even if it includes free tuition.

The scene in Seattle has always been craft and artisan based. There are pockets of conceptualism but they're small and can't seem to make a dent in all the galleries full of pretty colored glass. The MFA program at UW is simply a reflection of these trends. A fibers concentration? Really? Despite all the social activism in Seattle, it's not at all present in most of the art being produced.

Posted by JimiG on June 16, 2010 at 6:05 PM · Report this
Lucas Spivey 9
Why is this article a rarity? Why do Michael's comments stand out?

Because we rarely speak our mind here in Seattle, and that's what's holding us back - holding our art-schools back from criticism hinders growth. Visiting artists - great. Seattle artists at SAM - cool. But none of that exchange sticks unless you're open to criticism and honest enough to give it back. Does a curator have to accept a job in another city before he can really speak his mind?
Posted by Lucas Spivey http://www.lucasspivey.com on June 16, 2010 at 6:51 PM · Report this
real art happens outside of the art world- The 'art world' is irrelevant and doesn't even know it. get over it
Posted by Lise on June 16, 2010 at 7:06 PM · Report this
The SAM and Seattle's uptight 'arts community' (if you can call it that) can be blamed for some things, but it's gotten better recently. Kurt, Target Practice and the Andy Warhol thing are the best exhibits they've done in the 2 1/2 years i've lived here, and the 5 i spent going to art school.

The article is spot on though when it places most of the blame on schools. The schools here have just not kept up to date. At all. Everyone I know has complained about this quietly forever, glad to see it out there finally.
Posted by unregisteredasdfasdfasdf on June 16, 2010 at 9:04 PM · Report this
To blame the problems of seattle art on the art schools of seattle is short sighted. As a graduate of the MFA program I acknowledge there are many shortcomings of the institution and what it has to offer but that is true with any institution, including Yale, UCLA and USC. The city of seattle should nurture and enrich the educational institutions in the same way these institutions enrich and nurture the city. If you want faculty who are "leading the discussion" on a national and international level then the city should lead the discussion on a national and international level as well. It is in my opinion, wishful thinking to compare Seattle to LA, New York, Chicago or San Francisco. The most well known artists (not the same as best) teach in those cities because the cities offer possibilities that Seattle cannot. This is a cyclical problem not simply a problem of art schools.
Posted by rsawyers on June 17, 2010 at 6:32 AM · Report this
on a side note: I Thought Joey Veltkamp was the 1st artist in Residence at SU? He created a very cool Salon series, that Jeffrey Mitchell, Matthew Offenbacher, Gretchen Bennett, Sol Hashemi and Jason Hirata, Kimberly Trowbridge, myself and others led workshops in. Sadly there weren't many SU students coming to the workshops, but it was still an amazing place to mix, mingle and make art. Joey did a great job to start it, and I look forward to seeing what Browning will do.

Sadly too, the UW doesn't even have a k-12 teaching art program, to help students who want to be educators in the worlds of the pre-art scene. I also see large gaps in k-12 art, but this past year it was wonderful to have Seattle School district students show art at SAM for the first time since I have been teaching. SAM was superb in hosting our students.

I hope this conversation continues and that the lines can blur more. As an educator in k-12 art in Seattle, I do see some gaps in the art realm here, but I am also see places where those gaps are filling. As an artist...I see them too, but many of us are trying to eliminate them, and as a student about to earn an MFA in a low-res program where I have had the opportunity to work with Harrell Fletcher, Marc Dombrosky, Stokely Towles and more from the visiting faculty at my school...it's opened my eyes immensely to what is going on beyond Seattle, all the while I have been here. We can build it, but some folks might need to stretch their comfort zones a little.
Posted by eshafkind on June 17, 2010 at 8:32 AM · Report this
The point Darling makes is very well put. I wish Graves would focus on it--that Seattle is lacking in the realm of Graduate studies in art. The undergraduate art departments in Seattle are as good as any in New York, SF, Chicago. You don't need world class instructors to educate the essentials. Actually, it is probably better to have no-names doing it. But adding Graduate departments, visiting faculty, lecturers, older students, more intelligent students, etc, can have a profound effect on undergraduate students, "regular" instructors, discourse within the community, the galleries...the stranger.
Posted by undergrad is undergrad on June 17, 2010 at 10:48 AM · Report this
Forgive the digression but since graphic design doesn't really get discussed on SLOG or in the Stranger, I thought I would chime in and say I've been really impressed with the quality of work coming out of BFA graphic design programs in the NW. I have seen a lot of portfolios over the years in New York and now here, and IMHO Seattle is producing some designers with great potential.
Posted by Strath http://pacific-standard.blogspot.com on June 17, 2010 at 11:43 AM · Report this
Have you noticed that the UW painting program only allows students to use oil on linen? Not only is cross-disciplinary interaction between programs thwarted, but if you're a painter you can't even freely explore most painting materials on the market today. Anyone who still thinks oil on linen is some kind of holy grail isn't paying attention. And if they're dishing out that kind of uneducated dogma about materials, just imagine what they're doing with ideas.
Posted by tenure=death on June 17, 2010 at 12:38 PM · Report this
Ceramics? First thing I think of when I hear ceramics is yard sculpture. Are these the people that brought us the garden gnome? Well at least it isn't glass bongs. Glass glass glass and more glass. Well what do expect from a town where most of the art critics are still mesmerized by ... The Dadaists.

BTW the Seattle Art MUseum sucks. With all the money that place takes in there collection is the size of a closet compared to most cities of equal size. I am sure they will just go out and buy more boring abstract paintings, or maybe more glass. I know hang some junk cars from the ceiling.

Maybe another installation with found objects from the dump ... that would be so avant-garde.
Posted by fattie on June 17, 2010 at 12:51 PM · Report this
The biggest problem with Seattle is that we all keep comparing ourselves to other art towns that are much bigger than we are. How about Seattle vs. San Diego, or Minneapolis, Detroit, Phoenix? At least make it a fair fight.
Posted by visit the space needle and get some perspective on June 17, 2010 at 1:21 PM · Report this
metro Seattle is about the same size as metro Boston according to Wikipedia. And as we know from Spinal Tap, Boston isn't a big college town....
Posted by one louder on June 17, 2010 at 1:32 PM · Report this
This article is based on a faulty premise: that art in Seattle is "bad".

But I suppose that's the purpose of The Stranger - to tell us how bad things are in a city rich with people making art and music.

Jen Graves just writes about this sort of stuff because her weight problem makes her feel insecure.

Posted by suckitall on June 17, 2010 at 1:43 PM · Report this
The one thing not mentioned here is the general vibe of the city. People here are not friendly and they don't stick together like in other places and that's true of both the art and music community. It's each man for himself in a town that's really geared toward the tech industry. The weather here makes it easier to produce indoor software types and the cost of living is so high that many artists keep day jobs that get in the way of their creativity. You can live on a shoestring budget in other places and focus on art, but very very hard here. While I'm sure Seattle will produce relevant artists and musicians in the future, I just don't think it's an attractive place for most artists looking for national recognition and a supportive environment. Our expectations should be more realistic. A budding 18 year old artist will more likely study somewhere else when they weigh the pros and cons and I'm not sure making the art programs better will help. Capital Hill doesn't have the same electric vibe you'll find in say Soho or other art communities.
Posted by nuttynut12 on June 17, 2010 at 2:15 PM · Report this
Mr. Darling, living in an ivory tower much? Free tuition for MFAs? Here's his argument that the UW could afford free tuition for MFAs.

"And, of course, the UW's got a lot of financial issues, but I think that's well within the UW's possibilities."

Yeah, sure, EXCEPT for the FIRST part of that sentence the SECOND part makes a lot of sense.

If Mr. Darling is so UTTERLY CLUELESS about the financial realities of public colleges in Washington State, perhaps he should just "zip it".

Posted by Paul from Seattle on June 17, 2010 at 2:17 PM · Report this
Dear Tenure=Death,

Painting students at UW are not restricted to oil on Linen. I have no idea where you got that idea. Go look at the MFA show at the Henry.
Posted by WhatAreYouTalkingAbout on June 17, 2010 at 3:39 PM · Report this
While making some good points, this article leaves out a great deal of information and fails to acknowledge the excellence of the Painting program and the national reputations of most of its faculty who exhibit their work in galleries and museums in LA, New York, Europe and Asia. The sadly ill-informed reader comment above claiming that the painting program restricts materials to oil painting on linen is a complete fabrication.

Also unacknowledged here are the blows the entire school of art suffered from the sad losses of the Printmaking, Fiber and Metals MFA programs that were the source of much innovation in the 90's. Budget cuts that created these losses as well as the loss of tenure line positions have shrunk the programs and the faculty while injuring the morale of a remaining hardworking community.

If the School of Art lacks unity, perhaps a building that houses all programs under one roof would create avenues for dialog to build a stronger, more vibrant community. Also, if the state believed in the excellence of the students entering the School of Art enough to provide of tuition waivers and financial support, great things would happen, but only a fortunate receive tuition waivers. This keeps students away, creates a great struggle those who come and puts up many barriers to dialog and creativity within the programs.

Essentially, if the State of Washington supported the School of Art, it would be killer fantastic. In more prosperous times, my experiences as an MFA at UW were fabulous–largely due to its faculty. In the current lean period, my recent experience as a Visiting Lecturer have been great. It is regretful that the School of Art has become a red-headed stepchild in the eyes of the State. Thus, the art community suffers the consequences.

Posted by Jeffry's Grrrl on June 17, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
While making some good points, this article leaves out a great deal of information and fails to acknowledge the excellence of the Painting program and the national reputations of most of its faculty who exhibit their work in galleries and museums in LA, New York, Europe and Asia. The sadly ill-informed reader comment above claiming that the painting program restricts materials to oil painting on linen is a complete fabrication.

Also unacknowledged here are the blows the entire school of art suffered from the sad losses of the Printmaking, Fiber and Metals MFA programs that were the source of much innovation in the 90's. Budget cuts that created these losses as well as the loss of tenure line positions have shrunk the programs and the faculty while injuring the morale of a remaining hardworking community.

If the School of Art lacks unity, perhaps a building that houses all programs under one roof would create avenues for dialog to build a stronger, more vibrant community. Also, if the state believed in the excellence of the students entering the School of Art enough to provide of tuition waivers and financial support, great things would happen, but only a fortunate receive tuition waivers. This keeps students away, creates a great struggle those who come and puts up many barriers to dialog and creativity within the programs.

Essentially, if the State of Washington supported the School of Art, it would be killer fantastic. In more prosperous times, my experiences as an MFA at UW were fabulous–largely due to its faculty. In the current lean period, my recent experience as a Visiting Lecturer have been great. It is regretful that the School of Art has become a red-headed stepchild in the eyes of the State. Thus, the art community suffers the consequences.
Posted by Jeffry's Grrrl on June 17, 2010 at 4:35 PM · Report this
I totally agree with @9. To criticize UW in Seattle is to paint a big target on your back - no wonder Darling waited until he was headed out of town to speak his mind. It is so good to hear the issue of mediocrity in our art departments aired, but I wish that the same scrutiny would more often be applied to our schools as a whole.

Seattleites need to loosen up and learn to take some constructive criticism. UW is a good school, but it is not an amazing school - and we have no excuse. In a city with brains, wealth and tons of creativity, we could be one of the country's great centers for education. Why do we settle for mediocrity and pretend that it is excellence? We should expect more.

Thanks for this article.
Posted by newfie! on June 18, 2010 at 4:54 AM · Report this
"...historically they made a huge effort of gathering faculty who would be cutting-edge..."

Is that a thing, a thing that art schools do? Holy shit. You just blew my mind. Someone should have told me this when I decided to waste 5 years of my life at a horrendous "art" school.

Great piece. We need more like this.
Posted by shivvvers on June 18, 2010 at 8:28 AM · Report this
You can't have the cake and eat it too. Seattle is known for software, coffee and Boeing, not art. Every 20 to 25 years someone revolutionary may come along, but it's just not a conducive place for the arts. A little town like Tucson has more viable artists because it's cheaper to live and you don't necessarily have to hold down a day joy to sustain your art career. It's also a dog eat dog city and I don't see too much healthy comaraderie among artists like I've seen in other places. I don't think the art programs at any of the schools can do anything about this. The art and music scene in Seattle is very sugar-coated by locals. Anyone who has been to city with a vibrant art and music scene knows what I'm talking about, but all too often people formulate their opinions in a vaccuum here in Seattle. Furthermore, other cities have Art walks that feature live music and the different mediums help each other. For a city that brags about it's education level, you'd think it would have figured this out. I think sometimes we are all head and no heart.
Posted by tickytacky2 on June 18, 2010 at 11:26 AM · Report this
BeckyPlant 29
Great piece! I found this article quite interesting.

I just recently graduated from Seattle University with a degree in English and loved it, but as a self-professed drama major at heart, was heavily involved with the theater department for the entirely of my time there.

The challenges the department face are many, most notably lack of adequate funding and lack of visibility - both on and off campus. Incredibly, when attempting to promote our plays, I found many students didn't even know we have a theater on campus!

For theater kids who need to stay in Seattle and who can't get into UW and don't want to go to Cornish for whatever reason - many of which you've covered - there's not much else for aspiring actor.

It is important that we recognize the issues with our art schools and admit that they need improvement. For a city that prides its self on its small but energetic arts and culture scene, our schools should reflect that pride and dedication.
Posted by BeckyPlant http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=541430727 on June 18, 2010 at 11:31 AM · Report this
CAPITAL HILL is not soho, but soho is not electric or eclectic. art in seattle is bad.
Posted by LAWoFFICEpANTHER on June 18, 2010 at 1:34 PM · Report this
I hope this conversation about creativity and art becomes less city self-referential and less gallery/art world myopic.
I chose to leave a position at a well established Art Institute precisely to teach and practice Sculpture at the UW.
Why? The UW is similar to other Research One Universities. It is a powerfully diverse, high caliber resource from which to teach, mentor, learn and practice art. What makes the 3DForum at UW School of Art a potential leader in an academic studio art practice? It values and recognizes ambitious, experimental and disciplined methods of both teaching and making art.

Hiring "hotshots" to teach is such a common, quick-fix solution to claim status. That tact only works if the environment(the city and school) wishes to be a sustainable, inspiring, provocative "hotbed" from which "hotshots" can forward their careers. (from emerging, into mid career and maybe, even prominence)
I'd much rather be identified with the creative place that makes and maintains the cultural cutting-edge, rather than a place that only hires them in and retires them.
Do we have higher expectations for the role of an artist than to check off their gallery show card?
I work in a program that proves to be nothing less than highly motivated, curious, dedicated; the R&D of contemporary culture in our society. Step it up.

Posted by BlackPack6 on June 18, 2010 at 2:44 PM · Report this
Good point. In art schools across the country there are many opportunities to work with "hotshots" 20 minute a year while they look at their watches, and then walk out to leave you floundering, but few opportunities to be mentored, pushed and sustained in a laboratory community of the conceptual and physical act of cultural practice. I would say that this work is not restricted to the 3DForum however.
Posted by Jeffry's Grrrl on June 18, 2010 at 4:31 PM · Report this
Eshafkind: Just to respond to your point, SU is calling Matt Browning the first artist-in-residence and Joey Veltkamp's programs the pilot.
Posted by Jen Graves on June 18, 2010 at 5:07 PM · Report this

When Chris Ozubko became the Director of the School of Art at UW, his goal was to emphasize computer and digital art. It was a growing field at the time, and along with the boom in computer science, it was the best option for offering a lucrative program to prospective students. In 1998, the UW Graduate School had asked the School of Art how it could remain a nationally viable program that showed its MFA graduates were landing reputable jobs across the country. Unfortunately at that point, the MFAs were weak: the graduates were not placing well, if at all.

*Disclosure: I worked at UWGS' Academic Program Review from 1997 - 2001 and was present at the review of the School of Art.

Anne Wagner (art historian) was on the review committee and found that the paltry amount of state funding that is set aside for arts education was astonishing, since the government in her state of California had regularly set aside a significant percentage of arts funding annually, regardless and with no questions.

So what the UW School of Art is lacking is a state government that does not adequately support arts education as well as the lack of quality donors from its alumni. In addition the question is, why do UW graduates not want to donate back to their school? The assumed answer is due to the fact that the degree did not amount to much for the alumni.

It looks like the DXARTS program is radically interdisciplinary. Although DXARTS models itself from MIT's Media Lab Program, its goals, to me, sound much more like the fashion program at the New School: one that churns out robust students who can land jobs in their industry rather quickly.

This story is complex and could definitely be scooped deeper and there could be a much larger grass roots organization upon the part of the Seattle art community. But most are probably not aware of the School of Art's relation to the UW Administration and most especially the excessive lack of state funding that comes from the State Legislature.

As Scott Lawrimore wrote: "where are all the arts patrons at?" The School of Art has been saying the same thing for years. Could, for example, the True family or the Shirleys set up endowed professorships or regularly contribute to the development of the school, and make sure that the funds do not go to support DXARTS? While it's easy for Darling to blame the schools, it really should go in the direction of the state and those who have the resources to help.

The reports that I am referencing are available for public viewing:

The Graduate School's recommendation to the President of UW in 1999:


The Review Committee's report on DXARTS in 2008:


The School of Art is under review this year:


Jill Conner
Art Critic, NYC

Posted by Jill Conner on June 18, 2010 at 7:20 PM · Report this
Okay. I'm no expert just yet, and I haven't gone to art school, but I'll be attending the School of The Art Institute of Chicago next fall. Though I was accepted to the UW, I didn't even consider it for a heartbeat. To me it seems that part of art school will be school, the other part will be networking, and Seattle...well. Might as well not take that risk.
And thank you #2, I always just got this feeling that the UW is concrete, serious, cold...yes, a research school.
Posted by redstickwoman on June 18, 2010 at 7:39 PM · Report this
Why would anyone go to UW for a fine art degree? That's like going to the mall for custom jewelry. Not to dis UW. It's an amazing leader in so many disciplines. UCLA has proven a giant can have a sensitive side. So it can be done. It will take a few generations to retool UW into a UCLA regarding art patrons, faculty, and reputation.
Posted by Wes Ray on June 19, 2010 at 12:19 AM · Report this
This is a great article and I really appreciate reading and learning from it. I love modern and contemporary art and take the opportunity to see as much as I can here and in every city I visit. Obviously everyone has their own tastes &c but it doesn't really seem that difficult to assess when something is well done within its sphere, whether you love it or not. The art I've seen here just seems so mediocre. Since I know nothing about the art schools here I found Darling's comments (as well as the various responses) quite interesting. But coming to it from outside the "art scene", that is to say I read the art press and visit as many shows as I can but didn't go to art school and am not an artist myself, I think that the local art press is equally part of the problem. They are champions of mediocrity at best and enablers at worst. So much self-indulgent, idea free, derivative, craft-less art is lauded and elevated to a truly undeserved stature. The hyperbole can be pretty glaring: nobody labeled a "genius" even remotely rates. Honest critical feedback is so valuable to an artist, even if you dismiss it out of hand. Always hearing that everything is fantastic, that you are a "genius" can stunt development (why would a "genius", need to develop, pretty hard to improve from there), see the myriad cases where people surrounded by yes men become completely myopic and detached from reality.

Which, I want to stress, isn't to say the local art press aren't good critics and writers, I think they are when they put themselves to it. But they really give a pass on the local artists (and I can sort of understand why, it'd be pretty depressing to always be down on the locals) and I think are part of the problem of the current state of Seattle art.
Posted by Big Unshaven Man on June 19, 2010 at 11:01 AM · Report this
I'm surprised nobody mentioned The Art Institute of Seattle yet.
Or is that the point?
Posted by auntie grizelda on June 19, 2010 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Shared dreary basement studios (devoid of any inspiration, art or shared creative space as DJ put it), limited funding for teaching assistants, questions regarding the future of the MFA program and the inherent value of my graduate degree defined my experience at the University of Washington.

When it was announced via email that my department would not be excepting any new graduate students (cementing its fate as a defunct program) during my second quarter I decided to pursue other options.

For the record, I feel that I made the correct decision. It is a "sad loss" to see departments crumble under budget cuts but its even more so to see how the University of Washington treats its students and faculty without the dignity or respect they deserve.

Posted by Grace Willard on June 19, 2010 at 6:40 PM · Report this
Shared dreary basement studios (devoid of any inspiration, art or shared creative space as DJ put it), limited funding for teaching assistants, questions regarding the future of the MFA program and the inherent value of my graduate degree defined my experience at the University of Washington.

When it was announced via email that my department would not be excepting any new graduate students (cementing its fate as a defunct program) during my second quarter I decided to pursue other options.

For the record, I feel that I made the correct decision. It is a "sad loss" to see departments crumble under budget cuts but its even more so to see how the University of Washington treats its students and faculty without the dignity or respect they deserve.
Posted by Grace Willard on June 19, 2010 at 6:59 PM · Report this
As much as one can argue that students have the freedom to take classes outside of their discipline (ie- photomedia, 3d4M, painting)this is not exactly expected beyond the three or four "foundation" classes that we are required to take before/around the time we declare our major.

The fact that the majors are physically segregated from each other (specifically photomedia in the basement and 3d4M at the CMA near U Village) has two flaws: 1) it is inconvenient to cross-pollinate and maintain a consistent practice, which requires the availability of discipline specific technology/ tools and 2) students are generally not allowed to use such tools without being enrolled in a course. What are we paying for then? How can we be expected to thrive as artists in an increasingly interdisciplinary field when our educators make it difficult for us to develop in such a way? If the UW expects to compete with leading undergrad arts institutions (which I believe it can, but can only do so if the institution believes in what it has to offer), regardless of geographic location, then these issues need to be addressed. Bravo to those who have sparked the discussion.
Posted by A'alia Marilyn Brown on June 20, 2010 at 11:52 AM · Report this
persephonerocksmyworld 42
Listen- I am currently enrolled at Cornish College of the Arts for my junior year in the theater department. I found this article to hold some truth- as of right now Cornish is trying to find a new president and due to the new dorms and furthur endeavors, it seems like it's trying to become more of a university- but mostly, I saw this article as a statement with no real solution. The statement is that our art schools just don't have the same "rigor" as other ones? So... do we all have to go to Julliard or Yale to study art? All of my teachers have studied movement in other countries and most of them have learned The Method. I like the fact that I'm being taught world reknown methods, but that my teachers are also adding in thier own ideas and methods as well. It's nice to work with teachers who do actually work in the city. They work and they have thier successes and thier failures- and it's the process they share with us. I love the freedom to make my own choices within a structured cirrculum, which in fact, can't be dated. I know several teachers who add and take away certain things every year. I love Cornish and I love that it's in Seattle.
Posted by persephonerocksmyworld on June 20, 2010 at 7:52 PM · Report this
Being originally from and a current visitor to Seattle, as well as having attended one of the nationally prominent art programs repeatedly mentioned in the article and the comments, I found this piece personally very interesting.

I think the thesis that art in the NW suffers because there are no good regional programs is a very sound one. The Art Academy is traditionally where students congregate to create a creative atmosphere, to get lost in studio, and to form friendships and relationships that will form the basis of lifelong intellectual and artistic community. This locally grown and organic intellectual and artistic atmoshere is as important to local art as locally grown food is to regional cuisine. If a program can't develop a national or international reputation, then it will fail to both attract students as well as retain those who do attend after they finish. The institution that houses the art program needs to create an environment that enables artistic and intellectual dialogue.

But it isn't only the schools (or lack of them) that is to blame. You have to create an entire constellation of opportunities and relationships for art to thrive here. There's a whole economy and ecology of art and design that is missing in the Northwest.

A program like Yale works not only because of the talented students it attracts and its rigorous admissions process, but also because of its proximity to New York City's art, culture, and design world. Relationships and connections that are built in an institution such as Yale are activated and built upon in the environment of the City. Similarly, UCLA, CalArts, and Art Center work because of the economy of Hollywood that sustains artists. In short, there is a 'scene'. But these 'scenes' aren't just created organically, they are also helped along by public policy and funding.

I tend to agree with those commenters who cite economic and political factors the primary reason art doesn't do well in Seattle. Art scenes are as engineered as they are organic. You need funders to underwrite more critical endeavors and initiatives for the arts in Seattle. Those endeavors need to be written up in the national press. An aura around art in the city needs to be built up, and that aura needs to be somehow tied to economic vitality. One thing is to provide subsidized art space, something New York City is doing now. City officials realize that its own economy is strangling its art scene, and affecting its international reputation.

While Seattle isn't comparable in art or design terms to the art economies of New York or LA, it is comparable to Austin, Minneapolis, Providence, and Rotterdam (NL), all small to mid-level cities that have great universities, institutions, and art schools that support a vibrant artistic or design life. What I find both encouraging and discouraging about Seattle's art scene is that it always seems to be emerging -- promising, but never quite there. I've read the stranger for nearly 20 years, and this critical piece seems to say what it often says about this City, that it's never quite good enough. But the perspective always seem to be one of personal disdain. It's a good essay about one person who makes enlightening comments about the city's art scene, but unfortunately, the article doesn't seem to offer any direction in terms of proactive, policy and institutional-level change.
Posted by Art and Design Alum on June 21, 2010 at 1:29 AM · Report this
Mediums. Really? Really?
Posted by mixed MEDIA on June 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM · Report this
"Seattle needs to revolutionize its master of fine arts program at the University of Washington..." very true. MFA programs are great. People come from all over the country and world to enter a dialog and, when it works, can change the politics and identity of the their location. Last i checked, Seattlites wants nothing to do with those damn Californians! Where else would they come from?
Posted by Head North No More on June 21, 2010 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Seattle's navelgazing and self-obsession, constant questioning "IS THIS ART YET?" in conversation and press all contribute (or rather don't).

Michael Darling might have also reminded Graves there is only one paid art critic in Seattle and we all could have gained some perspective. Such a damning statement about our schools should have been handled with more balance, and not sent out into the world with a tone of resignation (to be read by potential grads and instructors, not to mention alumni and employers).
Posted by Slog-o-rama on June 21, 2010 at 11:58 AM · Report this
Michael is a wonderful curator, but not the brightest cultural bulb if he thinks that art schools are the problem with art in Seattle. The problem with art in Seattle is, surprise, surprise - money - and the administrative oversight of the few resources there are. Lack of funding hurts institutions, exhibition spaces, and artists, and it squeezes art departments, slashing faculty, programs, facilities, ideas, and time. Many of the faculty at the UW School of Art and Cornish are excellent artists and teachers, but they are left high and dry without the time and funding to make the changes they propose for their programs and to create opportunities to broaden their ranks. The problem is the nickel-and-diming mentality that stifles growth, and the lack of private, corporate, and public funding that leave both schools and artists adrift. In other regions, many thriving art departments and schools have a much stronger economic base.

As for the cause and effect principle, many artists who were schooled here live elsewhere and are doing just fine, thanks, and many artists who are here now went to school elsewhere but are languishing here. Why? The economic base is lacking. Despite the creative-geniuses-rise-above-struggle stereotype, lack of money destroys more often than it creates. Therein lies the original sin.

As for Jen Graves' take on things, more research, skepticism, and balance would have been in order. Michael is not Moses. And if would be heartening if you could try to get beyond the shallow water of snarky disgruntlement, self-righteousness, and myopia now and then.
Posted by JN on June 21, 2010 at 12:55 PM · Report this
Great article. I think having strong MFA programs would be great but I think there are additional ways to make for a stronger art scene. I am temporarily living in Houston, a big town with a strong art scene. Houston does not have a big art school yet the city is home to many great artists. First off the city is wealthy and its residents value the arts. There are top notch museums and interesting arts organizations that are well funded. The galleries are strong - people buy art. The MFAH has a kick ass residency program, the core. This program brings curators and artists to Houston for 2 years. Many residents decide to stay because Houston is very affordable and an incredibly supportive community. They tell their friends, their friends come. Finally, the word gets out and people just graduating with their MFAs, looking for a supportive community, move there. This could be Seattle...

Also, I can think of a handful of really interesting artists coming out of UW's MFA and BFA programs over the past few years (i think of the crawl space crew). It is not as if everyone coming out of usc, ucla, columbia, yale, etc is making compelling work.

I turned down going to a big name school for a school that gave me a full ride. I didn't graduate with the connections some of my colleagues had but I don't know if I would have grown as much at another school. School is where you begin to find your voice. where you can fail miserably and where you can begin to say what you mean. this can happen in surprising places...even in Seattle.
Posted by ckc on June 21, 2010 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Seattle may not be LA, but it beats the hell out of places like Wash. DC, for instance, and is much more accessible to recent grads and other young artists than the largest centers like NYC and LA where most of them are eaten alive.

All this bears out my belief that the health of any art scene is fundamentally driven by money and real estate and developed by critical writing. Only a very tiny group of artists across the country have much of either even when they are successful, thus it is unrealistic to expect alumni to offer much financial support. The only person I can think of who is in this elite group is Chuck Close so someone get on the horn to him.

It is an excellent point that endowed scholarships from people like the True's and corporations like Microsoft or Amazon would raise the bar tremendously. Come on folk! This area has great wealth and even Dick's Drive has a scholarship program!

Posted by Jeffry's Grrrl on June 21, 2010 at 4:51 PM · Report this
How curious that Jen Graves should write an article criticizing the art school educational system in Seattle, when in fact, she is part of the problem. While a student at Cornish, I had the displeasure of taking one of her "art history" courses. What I learned was not only is she disorganized and a horrible instructor, but also homophobic and racist. When I filed a complaint with Cornish Provost Lois Harris and crew, what I got was written off, while they defended Graves. In short, I received an education in school politics, but very little about art history.
Posted by clearwater on June 21, 2010 at 8:18 PM · Report this
I'm a proud drop out of Cornish College of the Arts - transferred to some other mediocre art school, and I feel I'm all the better for it. Cornish was dated, and yes you could say it lacked rigor, yes you could definitely say that. That being said I miss getting high in the parking lot :), flirting with the dancers, a few of the teachers, and doing what ever the fuck I want and it being okay with everyone.
Posted by joopybutt on June 21, 2010 at 11:55 PM · Report this
The quality of the schools is a symptom of a bigger issue and few are talking about it. Seattle is a cold and unfriendly city (despite what locals will tell you). That doesn't bode well for an arts community. A smaller city like Santa Fe has better quality art and attracts collectors because the artist have an alliance and help each other promote and survive. It's dog eat dog here, but people say nice things to people's faces while stabbing them in the back. Seattle lives in a vacuum and continues to talk a big game while not delivering. Save this months stranger and look at it a year from now. 90% of the bands and artists will no longer exist. Nothing sticks here and there is very little support from an audience for art or music to get something good going. Before a person talks about how great the arts are here, they should have visited New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans to name a few. I hear people say we shouldn't compare ourselves to these cities, yet claims are made here that suggest we are in the same league. Not by a longshot.
Posted by gorgonzola11 on June 22, 2010 at 11:24 AM · Report this
Hey, that's not the first time I've heard Lois Harris spout B.S. Cornish will never grow because their faculty is bogged down by self serving personal agenda. Their interior design department lost it's accreditation in 2007. And members of the design faculty omitted students from it's email circulations addressing Job opportunities, internships and industry functions.

Cornish college of the arts lacks integrity.
Posted by J.I.T. on June 22, 2010 at 12:55 PM · Report this
well joopybutt, if you were getting high in the parking lot then you weren't college material and it figures you got a mediocre degree, which fits your likely mediocre art.
Posted by clearwater on June 23, 2010 at 5:38 PM · Report this
I'm a former resident of Seattle, and current resident of New York. I can tell you one advantage that Seattle has over New York and San Francisco, affordable rent. When you live in Seattle it can seem expensive relative to Portland, but it's not in comparison to other cities. Seattle should capitalize on this by loosening it's live/work regulations.

I hear people in New York talking about how supposedly cheap it is to live in Portland. They should be talking about Seattle which is a much larger city in closer proximity to Vancouver BC, which is internationally recognized in the arts. Seattle needs an international art fair to raise it's profile.

Seattle is the largest American city in the region. If the city supports artist friendly infrastructure they will come.
Posted by seeho on June 24, 2010 at 10:51 AM · Report this
With art, more is better. More teachers, more ideas, more approaches. What are you learning but process and approach? With only 6 people to choose from (and no real choice of when and what you take thanks to the degree track anyway) what are the odds that something they say will be resonant enough to have made all the accumulated quarters and hours worth your time? Not very. Much better to invite young, old and middle-aged artists to give lectures and critiques, if even just for a week!
And, please, please, let's abolish studio classes that are just that (people working by themselves, yet crowded among themselves), and actually do some reading, force some discussion in an ART class (not art history!); for once, asking students to take in information and discuss it with eachother, to learn something new, and see an article through another's perspective. Just doing that, might make art school feel less exhaustively self-absorbed. Looking forward to learning from my classmates and professor's perspectives, for more than a scattered 5 minutes here and there, I might actually get to class on time! (uh, you're right, maybe I am missing something glorious in those first 5 to 10 minutes)
Never-mind the UW's ridiculously restrictive degree tracks and the intense push for Interdisciplinary Visual Arts which requires taking a slew of intro classes and in so doing makes it difficult to pursue a single track far enough to take upper level classes... And never-mind those upper level classes... !. !. !. .... OK! ok, I'm done.
Posted by artstudent on June 27, 2010 at 9:46 AM · Report this
fyi... Elizabeth Darrow is not and has never been related to Clarence Darrow! Ask her...
Posted by In Lieu Exhibit Space on June 28, 2010 at 4:51 AM · Report this
New Orleans? Are you kidding me? If you aspire to the New Orleans art scene you have never been there and are clearly hallucinating.

The faculty at Cornish is probably bogged down with signing up for food stamps not their personal careers. Cornish is notorious for paying obscenely low faculty salaries. They are nationally famous for consistently appearing on the bottom of the faculty pay scale in salary surveys that cover the entire country.
Posted by aggint99 on June 28, 2010 at 5:13 PM · Report this
I moved here from New Orleans after Katrina destroyed my home. Seattle and New Orleans should NEVER be mentioned in the same breath. Arts for Arts sake is an awesome weeklong art show walk in New Orleans that features local live music and attracts collectors like Marcus Allen. I love Seattle for many reasons, but the art and music scene are a joke to anyone who has spent time in a place like that. Seattle is 80% talk and 20% action. People generally have less money down there and music and art is something they cling to as a way of life, not a hobby. I don't want to offend anyone, Seattle has contributed a lot in the tech industry, but let's be real about the arts here.
Posted by dirtydeed9 on July 1, 2010 at 11:19 AM · Report this
I feel sick. What is this , comment #60? The art scene here is logging-town front-row S=H=I=T with all the advan and disadvan, so Darling can go to his next job w/out ever having connected here ( two shows in four years, (("we have a new collection, go curate"));Jen you are also from southern CA, have no clue after how many years); I taught at Cornish too, 7 years, so what if local faculty are 2nd class, it's a LOGGING TOWN in the BACK ASS ELBOW of the USA, not Chicago, East Coast; every 30 years we get the nation's attention and in between gather RUST, so all you WHINERS who skimmed 60 comments, GOOD JOB, you care enough to reply to JG (btw,'Kurt' show at SAM is a joke):

the scene is changing, no more Lawrimore or Billy Howard or vauge alt-contempo or Kucera hogging WT exclusively -- even SOIL is amusing as an anachronism -- what does it cost to belong now, $1500/year -- har har suckers, you too Tim

Nowadays in the 21st c. people rent condos, they buy cheaper art -- don't wait for customers to return -- it's a new scene just beginning to emerge- DF
Posted by Doorvid on July 7, 2010 at 2:40 AM · Report this
I wish we could have the same dialogue about the music scene. It's beyond broken. There's so little work for full-time musicians that it gets downright ugly and insulting. On top of that you've got hundreds of wanna-be indie bands clogging the scene. Here today, gone tomorrow. There is alot of talk, but little walk in terms of support for local music. I teach music privately and my high school age students tell me they go to shows to see their friends but make sure to miss all of the other bands playing that night to make some sort of point. This place has a big city facade, but small town mentality. Sorry, it's true. Without a caring audience, even the best bands fall apart, or tour elsewhere. This attitude is so ingrained that I don't think we'll see a change for a long time. Most people are in denial and don't want to hear this.
Posted by Nuttynutt12 on July 7, 2010 at 9:07 AM · Report this
Cornish is looking for a new president. Can anyone give three good reasons why someone would want the job after reading this?
Posted by birdbird on July 15, 2010 at 10:01 AM · Report this
Sure, birdbird, comment number 62.
1. There are lots of good artists there, both students and faculty, who were done a disservice by the remarks of Mr. Darling and Ms. Graves (her presence on the faculty there notwithstanding) and also by the quotes of a few disgruntled prima donnas, who know who they are and why.
2. Cornish is already doing a great job, despite its funding limitations, but it is in a prime position to help serve the underfunded art community here even more, especially if the new president can bring in more bucks to help in that regard.
3. The faculty at Cornish have been trying to make changes they themselves have proposed, but it has been in a context of bean counters and building restrictions, so there is all that potential there for a new President to unleash.

Posted by JN on July 15, 2010 at 10:19 AM · Report this
#63, your comment is typical. No specific names mentioned as far as good artists are concerned, but the words "underfunded" "if the president can bring in more bucks" and "the faculty have been trying" stood out like a sore thumb. These wishy washy statements are indicative of the wishy washy scene. Please have lived in successful art community before you talk. Seattle is a joke to those in the know. Sorry.
Posted by jujubean22 on July 16, 2010 at 10:05 AM · Report this
#64 - Many artists who have graduated from and taught at area art schools have lived in successful art communities and, therefore, as you put it, "can talk."
And I suppose that you think you are "in the know" with your naive and wishy washy unregistered remarks. Hahahahahaha.
Posted by JN on July 17, 2010 at 12:55 PM · Report this
You can continue to look through rose-colored glasses but Seattle is not on anyone's radar in places where it matters. It lives in a vacuum. I'm very connected to the arts and music community in several cities across the US and the general sentiment is that Seattle is a camping trip and not worth going through the trouble of exhibiting artwork here. The sooner you accept that, the sooner bridges can be built to other communities.
Posted by nuttynutt12 on July 18, 2010 at 7:06 PM · Report this
Furthermore, JN, you make my point by using terms like "many artists" with no names mentioned. And yes, they "talk", but that's about it.
Posted by nuttynutt12 on July 18, 2010 at 7:09 PM · Report this
gettingtoknowyoubetter 68
don't know if you read comments on old posts. but, whoa. i just listened to your exit interview with Michael Darling. listing off SAM's acquisitions, he named ten artists whose work they bought for the collection. only one was a woman.

damn. what a downer.
Posted by gettingtoknowyoubetter http://gettingtoknowyoubetter.wordpress.com/ on July 30, 2010 at 9:12 PM · Report this
I find it really interesting to read this article because I actually work at the MCA and have met Michael Darling. He's really a brilliant man, and he's going to bring some incredible things to the MCA. Sorry you guys are losing him though! haha
Posted by mca chi on August 5, 2010 at 5:12 PM · Report this
This article is the first place I've heard that contemporary artists are rarely defining themselves by medium. Why then, would the Rhode Island School of Design (Ranked #1 in fine art by US News)still be offering separate MFA degrees in Ceramics, Glass, and Sculpture -the new consortium that is offered at UW?
Posted by clay1 on June 25, 2011 at 2:58 AM · Report this
guys i think is a good idea bery good.
Posted by junki on December 17, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this

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