Scholarships, new hires, curriculum part of standing up UA School of Art

by Robin Mero (rmero@nwabj.com) 631 views 

(Photo courtesy the University of Arkansas)

New coursework, granting scholarships, building a new arts and design district are part of efforts to implement the vision of a $120 million grant from the Walton Family Charitable Foundation. That 2017 gift elevated the program from a department to a school of art.

The school has awarded 99 scholarships for the upcoming academic year totaling $149,350 – $140,000 of that coming from the Walton gift. Last year, undergraduate scholarships totaled $12,550.

In addition, all 32 students in the master of fine arts program have been awarded full assistantships and full tuition waivers – as well as stipends. Last year the program had 25 students; this year applications increased by 92%.

Six new faculty members (three are visiting) were announced: Bree McMahon and Alison Place, in graphic design; Adam Hogan, in time-based media; Joseph Ackley (visiting), in medieval art history; Anthony Sonnenberg (visiting), in ceramics; and Zora Murff (visiting), in photography.

The UA committed to hiring 26 new, fulltime faculty members in the first five years as part of the grant agreement, as well as expanding the use of visiting faculty.

Four faculty members have been awarded tenure: David Chioffi, Marty Maxwell Lane, Marc Mitchell and Ana Pulido Rull. These are the first tenured positions within the school. Seven others are now on tenure track.

A new bachelor’s degree in art education, entitled Community Arts Development, is being developed to launch in 2019. This aligns with the Walton gift, which emphasized the school’s art education outreach efforts.

An arts entrepreneurship program has already been initiated between the school of art and Walton College of Business. The school will collaborate this year with the UA Press and with history and gender studies. The school joined the Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, made up of 44 universities striving to integrate arts across the curriculum.
Another important initiative is the creation of a PhD program in art history.

“In partnership with Crystal Bridges, the School of Art intends to become a nationally competitive and preeminent program in American art and the art of the Americas within a decade of its founding,” the grant agreement states. The UA has committed to doubling the program budget within five years to $6.8 million.

Last year, the first year under the grant, new hires were made for communications, recruitment and outreach and fiscal operations. The school had just under 400 students and 40 faculty members. Final enrollment figures for the fall are not yet available.

“Until now, our staff has been scrappy, fighting for resources they don’t have,” Donna Smith, director of recruitment and outreach, said of the pre-Walton gift era.

The Windgate Art and Design District is being designed for south Fayetteville, east of campus off Martin Luther King Boulevard. The Hill Avenue Sculpture Complex opened there in 2016 and properties have since been purchased to build facilities for classrooms, labs, studios and gallery spaces. That project is funded by a $40 million grant from the Windgate Charitable Foundation. Architectural plans are expected early in 2019 and construction could begin next summer.

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