The new art major has been in limbo for 21 years, but is closer than ever to finally getting passed.
The arts at UWT are lacking at best and completely neglected at worst. Which isn’t really a big surprise to hear for most of you; the state of the Whitney (WHT) building on campus is a pretty clear visual indicator of it. The current Arts, Media and Culture major is quite small compared to the rest of the programs here at UWT, and even more so when compared to the arts program at UW Seattle.
However, there have been some recent developments; there are talks of a new art major in the works for students at UWT. Spearheaded by the lovely art faculty, a community-centric arts major is now closer than ever before to being created.
It would be unfair to call this major something ‘new,’ as art faculty have been working since 2002 to try to create another major for art students. Back then, professor Tyler Budge and the now retired professor Beverly Naidus were the two who had originally been hired to create a new art major. I got a chance to speak to professor Tyler Budge and Dr. Maria-Tania Bandes B. Weingarden about the major’s history and where things stand now.
“We developed an Arts in Community major that was very socially engaged. Theme-based classes, community arts activist sort of program. We submitted that to administration to get the major up and going, and it kept running into hurdles; the biggest being facilities and the money it would take to start the program. But we also really struggled to get people to understand what the major was about, because it didn’t have the traditional art major title,” said Budge.
The major has changed a lot since then, in efforts to finally get it approved. Professor Naidus retired mid-2020, and so the remaining faculty tried their best to adapt the major into something that would work.
“One of the biggest differences that we changed… really was just a marketing ploy, to get people to understand what our major was about. We could still have a very socially-engaged program with an emphasis on community art, but we could teach it through some of the skill-based courses,” said Budge.
The major definitely leans towards the visual arts, but Dr. Bandes B. Weingarden, the sole force behind theater at UWT, has been directly involved in ensuring that performing arts have a place in this major and on this campus.
“There was always the question of what would happen to theater [in the new art major]. It makes sense that if the art major was going to be more studio practice, that theater would join those efforts. Because we also make; We make a different kind of art, but certainly art nonetheless,” said Bandes B. Weingarden.
The major is being formed in a way that has two major tracks, one for performing arts and one for visual arts. There will be both skill-based and theme-based courses for each track, allowing both a conceptual and physical understanding of the art form of interest, as well as an understanding of community and society in arts. There will also be some cross between the performing and visual sides of things, in some form or another.
“The core of our program is still the theme-based practice. I think that’s what really sets us apart from other arts majors across the country… You learn to be a creative problem solver around a theme using the skills that you’ll develop through the skill-based classes,” said Budge.
This difference from the art major norm is notable in an employment sense too; Both professors stressed the importance of the skills and abilities you learn from a program like this.
“These are marketable skills. I always hate it when, in different places, they talk about ‘soft skills.’ It frustrates me because they’re not soft skills, they’re essential skills. Things like communication, collaboration, creativity; these are skills that are used in every single field,” said Bandes B. Weingarden.
The largest thing that stands in the way of this art major, other than budget and facilities, is student voice. Administration only pays so much attention to the faculty themselves; they need to know and see that students are interested in the arts before they are willing to make any additions or changes.
“The university really does pay attention to what students have to say, and that’s lovely and refreshing because they should! When students say that they want something and they really are vocal about it, you will see change happen,” said Bandes B. Weingarden.It’ll be a few years until we see any change. But, if you’d like to put your voice out there and help make this major a reality, please consider putting your name on this petition. chng.it/dMNwZtLPHN