The search through the Art Workshops folder was a vast one that started with documents from 1962. The first document was a schedule of classes which were divided into a couple of categories: “Calendar of Painting,” “Calendar of Sculpture,” “Calendar of Woodcuts-Ceramics-Jewelry,” and “Calendar of Photography.” These categories provide insight into how art was viewed at the New School in the beginning of the 1960s. Painting and Sculpture were mentioned first, indicating that those were the primary concentrations focused on at the school. Photography was its own category, but was mentioned last. Then Woodcuts, Jewelry, and Ceramics were all lumped together into one category. The collaboration of these concentrations tells us that they were less valued–less faculty to teach them and fewer students to register for them. Thus, our conclusion is that the start of the 1960s decade saw Painting and Sculpture as the main concentrations of art.
From there the documents were mostly correspondences dealing with suggestions for a new program direction. In the 1960s, the Art Workshops went through a big administrative shift. The shift began where the folder began, with suggestions for the new program from faculty members. The first two suggestions were barely legible, so we are not sure who wrote them, but they proposed more cohesiveness and leadership, a replacement of “old, worn equipment” (apparently there were a lot of student complaints about the easels, chairs, and tables), and a BA degree for art. Then a clear typed proposal by Clare Romano proposed a two-semester basic design course, and a cohesiveness to the courses that would offer guidance to the student from beginner to expert level without losing the independent atmosphere of the New School. This shows us that the school desired a way to guide students’ skills along a path that would sharpen them over time without losing the original intentions of absolute freedom. Then Henry David wrote to the dean, asking if the issue with the courses lied in the split-fee system, the course descriptions, or the actual students in the classes. There was something not working, perhaps some miscommunication or something unappealing that was keeping students from registering. The final suggestion before the faculty meeting on September 17 was from R. DeMaria who recommended improvements for the art department, which were mainly concerned with space, equipment, and materials. The drying of over-sized canvases was DeMaria’s biggest concern, as well as a separate section recommended for the sculpture room. The suggestion of more space for sculpture also hints at the medium’s value at this time, and perhaps even that it was a growing value.
By Emily Richardson, Lang ’14
Once the Art Workshops faculty met, it was decided that Julian Levi would reluctantly take the position as Director of the Art Program. This agreement was to last only for the fall 1962 semester. The records state that Julian Levi really did not want the position. Jan Doubrava was appointed Levi’s assistant, and another faculty meeting was called for October 4 to discuss the changes. This meeting apparently called for faculty to submit their thoughts from the meeting as a slew of faculty came in from the letters concerning the meeting after the fact.
The first letter was from someone with an illegible name, which looked possibly to be an L. Knisley. It was dated October 9, 1962. One topic of concern from the meeting addressed by this letter was that of job security, and of “a more equitable basis for determining salaries.” However, it was expressed that issues of this kind could take a backburner to all the other departmental problems to be addressed. This faculty member also urged to keep part-time student participation in the art classes, but also to have an integration of the art department for the (assumedly) more serious full-time students. There seemed to be mixed faculty opinion on this issue, and there was even a faculty committee surrounding it. This committee was referred to as “The Committee on Program” and was made up of a Soyer, Carton, and Connover with L. Knisley as the head. A topic discussed and agreed on by this committee was that the New School should have an integrated program that led to a degree.
L. Knisley wrote another letter on October 14. This letter expressed a desire for “young, professionally dedicated students,” who in his opinion could “only be attracted to the school only by means of a liberal scholarship program.” Then a meeting of the Committee on Program was summarized. The results of this meeting addressed the following:
There is a need to move on from the old focus of the art department, which was on independent studios.
Funds needed to be found to strengthen the art workshops.
That the faculty members “[conceived] themselves as artists employed to teach by the hour” and they cannot be expected to attend committee meetings or other outside-of-classroom projects.
The faculty ABSOLUTELY “expects to rely upon a chairman who will work energetically on their behalf,” and who will “organize the activities of the department without interfering in the management of the individual classes.”
The new chairman needs to give time-specific intentions among other certain assurances if he is to gain faculty trust.
The demands of this meeting described in the letter (and all the suggestions up until now) show that the art department was going through changes due to a desperate need for leadership and cohesion. However, the faculty still wanted to keep their independence, and would only accept a head who could earn their suspicious trust with immediate action.
Another one of the letters was by Robert Conouer, dated October 29, which proposed Anthony Toney as permanent chairman for when Levi decided to step down. The most important bit of information in the letter was a side-note. Conouer was asking for his woodcut class to be offered in the spring, as his fall class was cancelled due to lack of student registration. The lack of interest in a woodcut class from students shows that perhaps woodcutting was losing value.
The first letter found from Julian Levi as Director was to thank the Dean for fixing the Art Workshops facilities and supplying new equipment to the department. He also let the Dean know that he was not paid his stipend for his role of art director in the past fall semester. This mention, this forgotten pay, may have sparked a fateful conversation. After, a note from the Dean discussed Levi’s stipend and Levi’s acceptance to continue as art director in the spring 1963 semester. It may have taken Levi some convincing because his stipend in the fall was the same as the stipend he was paid to teach his class, $500, and in the spring semester his stipend was to be increased to $600 (making a total of $1,100 as Levi’s salary as art director for the 1962-63 academic year). [B. 1, F. Art Workshops, NSPE Executive Dean’s files, NSA.]