Staff Editorial: Liberal Arts Colleges Should Offer Courses in Diverse Artistic Mediums

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March 11, 2011

Ceramic bowls made by a Mills student in Spring 2010 are lined up on a table in the Ceramics lab. (Melodie Miu)

Curriculum and programs offered by higher education institutions changes drastically as time passes and as the borders of “academia” continue to shift. The original course offerings at Mills would be anachronisms today and vice versa — however, there is such a thing as an untimely death for a department.

The closure of the ceramics department would be a very premature end for the discipline at Mills.

Currently there is only one ceramics course offered at Mills — just because the program is small doesn’t mean the best option is to cut it altogether. Certainly the decision is partially an effect of Ron Nagle’s retirement. Nagle, a world-renowned artist, served as a ceramics teacher for 32 years.

Nagle’s prestige, enthusiasm, and talent helped keep the courses alive, but no professor can stay and teach forever — although 32 years is a bold attempt. Offering a diverse possibility of mediums for art students, both grad and undergrad, is imperative to a well-rounded education in the arts.

It’s an old story that Louis Lisser (namesake of Lisser Hall) wanted to turn the school into a music conservatory, but Mills administration at the time lobbied to  keep it a liberal arts college.  These days it almost seems Mills is  turning into a business school—it sure doesn’t seem the business school is having any department cuts, instead they get a new building and new professors.

If cuts must be made, why can’t they be made elsewhere?  Although the frequent landscaping done around campus does contribute to the prestigious aura here at Mills, no shrubbery can hold a candle to the possibilities provided by keeping ceramics as a possible academic pursuit.

It remains unclear whether the ceramics courses will soon come to a close or continue to be offered in some way with the current change of curriculum in Mills art programs.

The Campanil Staff strongly encourages those in charge of making this decision to keep offering ceramics courses, and charges them to remember our college’s commitment to liberal “arts.”


Staff Editorial: Liberal Arts Colleges Should Offer Courses in Diverse Artistic Mediums was published on March 11, 2011 in Editorial, Letters to the Editor, Opinions

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  • Studio Art Major

    Dear Campanil Staff,

    While I truly appreciate your concern for the arts, I noticed that both this editorial and the companion article piece gave no thought to what benefits cutting this course will have for the rest of the art department. True, the ceramics classes have high enrollment, but much of the work is not well-suited for the rigorous conceptual basis the art department is founded upon. Though I believe there is no hierarchy in art, what is conceptually covered in ceramics is almost always covered in sculpture.
    Though ceramics is a great and valid tool for an artist, it doesn’t make much conceptual sense to keep the course. The facilities will still be open to students working with the medium, so ceramics will still be an option for art-making. Also, the funding for this very expensive course will still stay within the department’s budget, and can be used to bolster other programs.