Art Department replaces ceramics with new genre arts courses

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March 11, 2011

Ceramic vases and bowl await the kiln in the Ceramics studio. Though the Ceramics class will be canceled next semester, the kilns and other facilities will remain available to students. (Anna Corson)

Beginning next Fall the art department will no longer offer courses focusing on ceramics as the department plans to offer  “New Genre” art courses in its place.

The decision to cancel the ceramics course, currently the only one offered at Mills,  was announced on March 8 via an email from Mary-Ann Milford, the Art and Art History Department chair.

According to the San Francisco Art Institute, “New Genre” is described as “art in the late 1960’s and 70’s involving conceptual art, land-art, performance, installation art, and video.”

Milford said in an email that the faculty of the art department have decided to hire a new visiting artist in the area of “New Genre.” She said the department  still hopes to include ceramics in their “new vision,” but it is unlikely that they can hire someone to teach ceramics as its own course.

Sarah Knight, a Mills student currently studying Studio Art is disappointed with the Department’s decision.

“I think it’s important to see ceramics as a foundation for a studio art major,” said Knight. “It should really be somewhere along the curriculum.”

Knight has begun a protest against the decision,  by creating an event page on Facebook entitled “Keep Ceramics at Mills.” So far the group has 34 active members.

She also met with Milford to present some concerns students were having about the ceramics cut. In particular, current Seniors “are being discouraged from or denied use of ceramic work in their final exhibition.” Knight also posted on her Facebook page, a list of additional concerns regarding the art department including a need for a forum where students and faculty can talk about departmental changes, and curriculum and class options.

In response to Knight’s Facebook page protesting the department’s shift in focus, Milford said she was open to students’ ideas and opinions, but that whether the department would act on their suggestions is unclear.

Dru Anderson, senior and president of the studio art collective, has concerns over the abruptness of the decision and the move towards New Genre.

Anderson stated that “New Genre”, is “more geared towards video and digital arts,” so in her opinion, it is less hands on work.

Other students see the shift towards New Genre as connecting the Intermedia Art courses and Studio Art courses at Mills.

“I am very excited about the New Genres course, though I don’t know much about its specifics yet.,” said sophomore and Studio Art major Katy Kondo. “From my understanding, it will address contemporary art theory and mixed-media art.”

For Kondo, eliminating  a course like ceramics is not going to make or break the college’s relatively small art department.

“While ceramics is an important and rich medium for art making, I don’t believe it suits the goals of our art department,” Kondo said. “I am no expert on ceramics or its conceptual basis, but it seems that most of what is thought about in ceramics is included in sculpture.”


Tara Nelson contributed to this report.

Have something say? Let everyone know by leaving a comment below.

UPDATE: Ceramics offered again next fall


Art Department replaces ceramics with new genre arts courses was published on March 11, 2011 in News

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  • Gary Lohs

    The hopefully greatly exaggerated news of the death of Ceramics at Mills College has left me somewhat shocked and saddened. Evidently the current denizens of the institution are unaware of the 50 year long international reputation Mills has for its outstanding, innovative, cutting edge ceramic art program. The fact that there is a momentary lacuna in the program is a reason to reinvigorate it rather than end the benefits it provides. The apparent puerile prejudices within the art department reveal an anti-diversity and anti-historical attitude. Ceramic art has been present throughout art history and will continue long after “new genre” and conceptualism is a thing of the past. Many objects already indelibly recorded in the world’s art history have come out of Mills College kilns. Is the financial situation so bad that the cost of a part time instructor and fuel to fire several kilns a semester cannot be borne?
    I am reminded of the famous 1990 incident, and see a pattern of disdain and disregard for Mills traditions. I’m not calling for a strike, but a little more introspection and debate is in order.

    Gary Lohs, M.F.A. 1978 (or was it 1977? I forget)