Report from the AICAD Conference

by Parme Giuntini, Director of Art History

In late October, I attended the annual AICAD (Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design) at the Pratt’s Manhattan campus. I didn’t do this alone; there was a veritable gang of Otis representatives including Debra Ballard, Sue Maberry, Katie Phillips, Randy Lavender, Marcie Begleiter and our intrepid leader, John Gordon. This year’s theme was Core, which meant a particular emphasis on Foundation.

We were all presenters with sessions that ranged from Information Literacy and Art History to Integrated Learning to Student responsibility. Judging from the comments, we were successful. I could go on and on about what we said during those sessions, but I think the more important information is what we learned from them and from each other during that time.

Suffice it to say that all the art colleges present are grappling with the same issues: How to balance acquiring skills with conception and application; what is the role of theory in studio classes and how can it be best addressed? How do we integrate Liberal Studies and studio material to best accommodate our students? What are the challenges of teaching the “millennials” as our students are called; what are their signifying characteristics (apart from an emotional attachment to their cell phones and the annoying habit of surfing the web during class—and no, this does not count as multi-tasking). What does the future of art and design education look like?

Remarkably, or perhaps not since we have all been working on this for some time, we came away from this conference again commenting on how much progress we have made addressing so many of these issues. The collegiality and willingness to collaborate within and across departments, something that we often take for granted at Otis, is an enormous issue in many colleges and often an obstacle to needed change. Being an LAS kind of person, I am always amazed when talking to other faculty to find that there is a very deep valley between the studio departments and Liberal Studies, often one in which no one is willing to consider trekking. Not only that, but even within LAS departments, faculty from different disciplines often are not well informed about each other’s courses.

One of the most rewarding aspects of conferencing is time spent with colleagues and often some really valuable plans and initiatives come from these conversations. I suppose that they would surface sooner or later but there is something about being away and being together that always fosters creative solutions.

Next year Otis and Art Center are jointly hosting the AICAD conference. I would encourage everyone, regardless of department, to consider attending and being a presenter. Not only is there a lot to learn; we have a lot to share.