Sunday, May 18, 2014

CVPA Celebration

At the beginning of the month, I was invited to attend the first ever College of Visual and Performing Arts Celebration, hosted by UMD's Alumni Association. I always like an excuse to visit campus and relive the wonderful memories of my four years there. The day included a lecture on the history of the Swain School of Design, a gallery exhibit curated by current Art History students accompanied the lecture, tours of campus and a reception at the New Bedford campus to celebrate the MFA Thesis Show.

This is the room where it all began for me. I am pretty sure the first ever college class I attended was Structure Drawing. I remember the professor was short in stature, but intimidating as heck, and had us listen to Dido while drawing. Somehow this weird combination inspired such a love, that I continued with drawing courses well beyond the requirements, even taking six hour long classes on Fridays!

What I mostly enjoyed about the day and the trip down memory lane though, was the history lecture. In fact, I think that all incoming CVPA students should hear it and appreciate the foundations that were built for us.

The Swain Free School of New Bedford, Massachusetts, was established in 1881 through the provisions of the will of New Bedford philanthropist William W. Swain. The following year it began offering courses in languages, literature, history, education, art, and chemistry free of charge to area residents who could not otherwise afford an education beyond public school. They were required to put down a deposit of $10 per semester, as a measure of good faith. As the textile industry became increasingly important to the area, the school concentrated on instruction in textile design.
In 1902 the trustees redefined its mission as a School of Design, with the purpose of providing a "more complete and thorough course of instruction in the fundamental principles of design than had ever been given in this city and to provide also instruction in the practical application of these principles in all branches of decorative art."

In 1988 the Swain School of Design merged with Southeastern Massachusetts University's College of Visual and Performing Arts and is now part of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouthfrom the archives

This excerpt hardly scratches the surface of what the Swain School was. Swain wanted to provide an education to girls at a time when that was unheard of. He wanted to give back to the community and help to provide a future of the children. Some of these students went on to study at Yale and other prestigious Universities, including at least two men who returned to Swain to teach. 

Swain established a wonderful sense of community for the students, even giving back and being a part of the greater community of New Bedford. When the school merged with SMU in the 80s, I can only image the uneasiness and even anger that some of the students and faculty must have felt. There was probably a state of panic that this community may vanish being consumed by a state university. However, the faculty at SMU and Swain worked together and, in my humble opinion, established an amazing program. 

I attended UMD fourteen years after the merge.
I had no idea what the Swain School was or stood for when I was on campus, just that it existed and somehow had some part in what we became. 
But from day one, I felt that sense of community. 
I was able to grow and develop as an artist, and educator, amongst a group of people who were totally supportive and dedicated to their students. There is something about being surrounded by other like minded people that is energizing and comforting. The art world can be very competitive and cut throat and I never once felt that at UMD. We supported each other in our endeavors
I learned at the Celebration through the lecture that that climate as established years and years before I attended college. And I greatly appreciate it because I know what it has helped me become the person I am today.  

1 comment:

  1. Hello. My name is Rachel. I graduated from the art ed program @ UMD in 2009! Maybe we know each other. Small world! I enjoyed your blog and never would have expected to stumble on this while pinteresting. I hope you keep documenting. Take care. _Rachel