by Emily Richardson, Lang ’15
On January 25, a course proposal came through from Marjorie Grimm. This letter is special for two reasons. It shows that by 1966, Acting Dean Austill from 1964 had become Dean Austill. Therefore the transition of deans in the art department happened over the 1963-66 period. The letter also shows that unorthodox classes were accepted at the New School in the 1960s, and perhaps even encouraged. Austill says of Marjorie Grimm that she “has been teaching an interesting and unusual Art History course this year, but she is also something of an artist herself.” Austill’s statement shows that unorthodox teachings could be excused when taught by artist faculty members who were viewed as unorthodox or especially creative. It would be really interesting to get a look at the actual art history course Grimm taught. However, we did not come across it in our research.
A memo from Dean Austill to Doubrava shows how the administration started to calm down from just focusing on fulfilling the dire needs of the department. This memo deals with shifts in administrative duties, and also shows a restriction of faculty freedom. Austill is informing Doubrava in this memo that Miss Day has been instructed not to place any further orders for supplies or equipment without receiving prior consent. She was told to submit requests in writing that explain her purpose for the supplies to Doubrava, and then Doubrava should send it to Austill. Dean Austill was “sorry to burden [Doubrava] with this problem but, for the moment, it [was] the only possible solution.” This memo speaks to a formulation of administrative process, how suggestions should move to the higher ups. Faculty freedom is limited in restricting their ability to make orders, and Doubrava is being bogged down with minor administrative duties.
Then on February 9, a memo was sent out to the Art Workshops faculty regarding an invitation from the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency (claimed to be the world’s largest at the time) to hold an exhibition of works by the Art Workshop’s faculty in their 420 Lexington Ave gallery. (Memos seem by now to be the solidly adopted form of communication with the busy artist faculty.) The faculty was then informed that the request came from Miss Dione Guffey–former student of the New School and current curator of the Thompson Collection. She stated that all expenses (such as insurance and transportation) would be covered by the agency, and tried to sell her proposal by mentioning–but not promising–that Thompson’s frequently makes purchases of the art they display. Both Levi and Austill agreed “that it would be of value to the school and perhaps to the exhibiting painters and sculptors” for the Art Workshops to accept Guffey’s proposal. Guffey promised to be in contact with details of the exhibition later. The main findings from this document are that exhibitions were seen as a possible way to make the school look better, and former students of The New School were holding prestigious positions–even female former students.
The final documented administrative shift in the New School Art Department during 1966 was regarding tuitions awarded by the New School Art Scholarship Committee. A letter from Julian Levi was distributed to the Art faculty on October 10. Apparently the prior spring there was an approved change in the administration of those tuitions. Beginning fall 1966, instructors were requested to recommend one nominee from each present class in writing, and then to forward those written recommendations to the Art Scholarship Committee, Educational Advising Office by November 15. From there, it would be the Committee’s duty to contact the nominees for three work samples that would be arranged for “a competitive showing before a panel of judges.” No late entries were to be considered. The process for these rewarded tuitions are kind of like finals critiques at Parsons today. Competition among students was encouraged, and work made by the students was meant to be judged and completed promptly. A memo to remind faculty of the deadline came out November 7, which shows that Levi was really pushing for faculty involvement in submitting recommendations (also that faculty were not submitting them). This also shows that power was being put in the hands of the faculty through putting them in charge of distributing scholarships (as far as recommending candidates). It is also important to note that this faculty power was bestowed through a tighter administration. Was The New School finding a way to function on its old ideals with something seen as the antithesis of those ideals? [B. 1, F. Art Workshops, NSPE Executive Dean’s files, NSA.]