Art department draws national distinction

drawing exercise SUNY Oswego’s art department recently received accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design, an achievement that puts the college on two select lists.

The latest recognition means that all three of Oswego’s creative arts departments—art, music and theatre—are nationally accredited. Oswego joins New Paltz as the only SUNY schools where all three programs hold this distinction, according to data on the Council of Arts Accrediting Associations’ Web site. The college is also one of only a half-dozen SUNY institutions with NASAD accreditation.

“I think it gives us external recognition,” SUNY Oswego Dean of Arts and Sciences Sara Varhus said of the NASAD accreditation. “It’s a distinction that prospective students and faculty and members of the community can see as indicative of the quality of our program.”

The art department’s thorough accreditation process started almost five years ago with the initiation of department self-study, said Dr. Helen Zakin, professor and chair of art at SUNY Oswego.

“It was a real learning experience,” Zakin said. “We were forced to not only learn about ourselves but also how this department functions within the college. That was very positive and helpful.”

The self-study was also “a morale-booster, especially when we were able to show the team the student work and what we accomplished,” while the observers “were very favorable in their review, by and large,” Zakin said.

A two-person NASAD visiting team, which came to campus in March 2005, offered praise in several areas, Zakin noted. The visitation report cited “a dedicated, productive and student-centered faculty,” “enthusiastic and supportive students,” “good facilities that are well maintained,” “a respected print collection and exhibition program” and “an understanding, supportive administration” dedicated to making whatever enhancements were required.

The NASAD team was also impressed with the student creations, Zakin said. “Specific to art, they wanted to see as much work as possible,” she said. When the accreditation team visited, student work was stacked floor to ceiling on the second floor of Tyler Hall, and the result “was really quite amazing,” Zakin noted.

In terms of recommendations, the visiting team wanted to see more interdisciplinary activity in the arts. This suggestion dovetailed with plans in the works like the Squonk Opera project, where students in several disciplines will help create a new theatrical production, and a living-learning arts community.

On top of the accreditation, the research and self-study bring about “a process of improvement,” Varhus said.

Oswego’s music department earned national accreditation in 1987, with the theatre department gaining this distinction in 2005.

“Having all three programs accredited shows we place an emphasis on creative arts, which I think is very timely,” Varhus said. “I hope that with the interdisciplinary work, prospective students will see that if you’re interested in working in a variety of activities, then this is a place where you can bring it all together.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Drawing knowledge—Kimberly Street discusses an exercise on perspective with Nathan Sullivan, who teaches Summer Session drawing classes at SUNY Oswego. The college’s art department recently earned national accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

(Posted: Jul 07, 2006)