Dear MassArt Community,
Once again, thanks to all of you for supporting one another and our community last week as we faced a campus lockdown and process the aftermath. I am deeply grateful that our campus remains safe, secure, and resilient. I am also extremely grateful to reflect on some of our many strengths, including a variety of wonderful ways in which we have come together recently to celebrate the accomplishments of our creative community.
As I write to you, I am also thinking of the many changes ahead – for example, we will have a new Commissioner of Higher Education, Dr. Noe Ortega, and the importance of elections and the power of voting – and soon we will elect a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and several constitutional officers. As a reminder, Election Day is next Tuesday, November 8th – with early voting available across the Commonwealth through Friday, November 4th. You can find more information about locations and schedules at: www.VoteInMA.com. Here in Massachusetts, not only will we elect a new governor, but there are a few questions on the ballot that you may want to familiarize yourself with – that information can also be found at www.VoteInMA.com.
In that vein, I am signing the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge President's Commitment, where I commit to supporting voting by our campus community to aim for full student voter participation. Thank you to Luchiano Montero, Program Coordinator for Student Engagement, and Joe Grande, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life, for helping lead on this front.
As we welcome new leaders and colleagues, one of my highest priorities is to continue to highlight the important role of MassArt and the impact that we – our collective community of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and creative colleagues - have on the civic, cultural, social, educational, creative, and economic wellbeing of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
We have a lot to share. One piece of encouraging news is that as we continue to do all that we can to provide financial support to our hardworking and talented students, we have seen that the average student debt for our graduates is now $18,322 – which represents a 32% decrease over the last several years and remains on average $4,377 lower than every other Massachusetts state university. Reducing student debt was an important goal in our Strategic Plan, a goal that has a direct benefit to our students.
Another piece of good news is that our Fall 2022 incoming class of 512 represents a 3.2% increase over our 2019 pre-pandemic incoming class size. More than 31% of this Fall’s first year students are first generation college students, and 34% are students who self-identify as BIPOC. I am deeply proud of our progress and thankful to our hardworking, passionate colleagues in Financial Aid, Advancement, and Admissions and to all who support this work and share in these achievements. I am eager to continue sharing this news and the powerful story of MassArt with new leaders at all levels of government, and our advocates and many supporters around the Commonwealth, as we pursue our strategic future-focused initiatives.
The MassArt mission has always been defined by creativity and innovation, access and inclusion, and community impact. Every day at MassArt I am deeply inspired by the many ways our students bring the College mission to life. Over the last couple of months, I’ve enjoyed gathering with our talented, welcoming, and driven students and hearing about the incredible work they are undertaking both in the studio and in the wider world. Whether I am meeting with students over pizza to address current challenges and collaborate on solutions, or hearing about the enthusiastic student engagement at our popular annual Haystack retreat, MassArt students remind me daily of why we’re all here, and the important role MassArt has to play in our larger community.
Another constant source of inspiration for me lies in the many exhibitions that display the full range of creativity and innovation happening across our College and with our talented alumni. The latest MassArt x SoWa exhibition, Little Splinters, featured the work of our graduate alumni in fine arts, design, and art education. Alumni work can also be found at the sixth Biennial Juried Alumni Exhibition (Re)Connect in the Frances Euphemia Thompson Gallery (Tower 11th floor), and on the new Tower Elevator Project art installations. I had the pleasure of attending opening receptions for both the Biennial and the Elevator Project last week, and it was such a treat to see so many alumni gathered again on Campus. My heartfelt thanks to all those who helped organize these important gatherings.
In addition to being talented artists, designers, and makers, our alumni are also remarkable leaders. I am pleased to once again welcome Kelly Sherman (‘02 BFA Sculpture) as our new Alumni Trustee. We are thrilled to have Kelly bring her firsthand knowledge of the College, wealth of experience, and deep passion to the Board of Trustees. Her professional expertise as an innovation and strategy consultant will provide a highly valuable perspective on our work. Please join me in welcoming Kelly to the Board and thanking our Alumni Leadership Council for their hard work filling this important role.
Of course, the story of MassArt has never been limited to our internal community, and the unique nature of our institution often shines brightest when we partner with the world beyond our campus. My thanks to all of you who are participating in this year’s Culture Equity Learning Community (CELC 2.0) - a set of innovative anti-racist coursework currently underway in its second iteration presented by our JET colleagues. A remarkable 45 faculty and staff members across 21 departments are participating in CELC 2.0, including two whole departments (MAAM and Film/Video). Earlier this month we had a wonderful turnout for the first quarterly “Medical Inclusion and Diversity Art Program Series,” a new program designed to increase diversity in medical illustration, created in partnership with Harvard University. I was also honored to attend several exciting events around Boston this month, including the grand opening of the new Boston Arts Academy building as well as the Women to Watch exhibition at Gallery Kayafas, curated by MAAM Executive Director Lisa Tung and featuring work by our colleagues Ceci Méndez-Ortiz, Chandra Méndez-Ortiz, and alumna Candice Smith Corby (‘01 MFA Painting). It’s always a joy to celebrate the achievements of our colleagues, and to join with them to champion the arts in our city!
Just this past weekend I had so much fun at MAAM for the special collaboration with Berklee College of Music’s Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice for a world premiere of compositions inspired by the life of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, the subject of Joana Vasconcelos’ Valkyrie Mumbet. Looking ahead, on November 4th-6th, be sure to attend the “Create the Future,” the 2022 TransCultural Exchange International Conference on Opportunities in the Arts hosted by the Colleges of the Fenway. Registration is free at this link for all MassArt students, faculty, and staff, and will provide critical opportunities for connection and collaboration with partners around Greater Boston and across the globe.
From these wider community engagements, to the ongoing work of our students, faculty, alumni, and staff here on campus, we at MassArt understand the critical role of art and design in a thriving democracy, and we deeply value our civic responsibility as a leading public education institution. I encourage all of us to think about how our work can impact our communities, how our creativity and innovation can push our society forward, and how we can all get involved. And I encourage you all to vote and make sure your voice is heard.
My thanks to all of you for the inspiring work you do for and with our students across campus and beyond, and for making MassArt a shining example of creative leadership and civic responsibility in the Commonwealth.
Enjoy this beautiful fall weather!