Director Poggi's Messages to the Community
August 14, 2020
Updated September 1, 2020
It is difficult to believe that three years have passed since I joined the Institute of Fine Arts as Director. It has been a rewarding time, but also a challenging one in many ways. I believe we have made progress on several issues of key concern to our community. These include our response to the crises caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, and what actions we should take to establish a more diverse, inclusive, and equitable community. Many of you have offered your views, criticisms, and ideas for ways to create an explicitly anti-racist environment within our institution, and more broadly in our society. I would like to acknowledge and thank those of you who have advocated for change, and who continue to ask for a specific action plan. The Institute’s faculty and administration are listening, and engaging in a process of reflection. Achieving lasting transformation of our institution will require a long-term commitment to racial justice and gender equality, and we will continue to work on this. There are also more immediate actions we can take.
In order to focus on the Institute’s current goals of achieving greater diversity among faculty, staff, students, and board members, and of creating a truly inclusive and welcoming community for all, we have assembled a task force that includes several faculty members, two staff members, and two student leaders of the Graduate Student Association. This group will begin to meet in the early fall to gather further information, establish a set of issues to address, and actions we can take. We also hope to improve communication with our various constituencies.
In the meantime, the Institute remains committed to increasing the endowment funds, launched three years ago, to support MA students from underrepresented groups at the IFA. We have had some success, and have established the Institute of Fine Arts Fellowships, and the Harriet Griffin Fellowship. Although these fellowships are a good start, raising funds for more MA student support remains a top priority.
As some of you will know, New York University has instituted a hiring freeze for the coming academic year to mitigate budget constraints and to offset additional costs associated with the coronavirus pandemic. When hiring resumes, we will continue our efforts to recruit a more diverse faculty and staff. Some limited progress has already been made in the last few years, but we realize that more can be done. We are also actively striving to meet our own more ambitious goals; these include not only having a more inclusive faculty and staff, but also rethinking our teaching and programming, and our overall academic agenda. We have elected, for example, to participate in NYU’s new Public Humanities Initiative that offers a Certificate for PhD students who take at least two core courses in this area. We plan to offer one or more courses in Public Humanities each year, beginning with a curatorial seminar on curating cross-cultural exhibitions that will be co-taught by Professor Hsueh-man Shen and Dr. Clare Fitzgerald of ISAW in the spring. And last year we changed our language requirements to include any modern research language relevant to the student’s field of study.
We also seek to have a student body that reflects the global reach of artistic expression, and that is as diverse (in all ways) as the world we live in. At the Conservation Center, we are emphasizing our long-standing policy that no conservation treatment experience is required for admission to our school; this eliminates the need for protracted and often unpaid pre-program internships. In addition, we are participating in teaching and mentoring programs with the aim of attracting students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities to conservation as a profession, and to the Conservation Center as an option for graduate study. We will enhance our outreach efforts by providing content—created by our faculty and students—to share with undergraduate schools. Working groups of Conservation Center students and alumni will help us identify additional ways to increase diversity and inclusion and develop these into effective changes to our programs.
Our faculty has given serious consideration to the development of timely and thought-provoking courses that will address some of the issues at the forefront of current conversations, including racial and gender equality and justice, the history of racism and slavery in the US and elsewhere, and how to open our fields of study to approaches that acknowledge and highlight cross-cultural currents and exchanges, both in scholarship and in curatorial work. The fall semester will be taught in hybrid (simultaneously in-person and virtual) and entirely virtual modes. Download the fall curriculum online (Art History, Conservation) We are still working on our spring 2021 and summer 2021 course offerings.
Our programming and exhibitions for the year will be offered in online modalities. Students organize about 75% of our programs, and they are already at work to create a rich and varied set of talks, panels, conferences, workshops, and events. We are all excited to see what the virtual Great Hall Exhibition and its programming will comprise; to learn what issues the Institute’s online journal, Lapis, will focus on; and to attend the programs organized by South and About!, the Renaissance Consortium, IFA Contemporary Asia, Artists at the Institute, Works In Progress, the China Workshop, the Ancient Art and Archaeology Seminar, the Bronze Age Forum, the Medieval Forum, the Latin American Forum, the Duke House Exhibitions series, the collaboration with ISLAA (Institute for Studies on Latin American Art), the Conservation Center’s CC Matters lecture series, and many others. We especially look forward to several new book launches that will celebrate our faculty’s publications, and to the programming currently being planned for the Xaviera Simmons exhibition, and the Fanny Sanín exhibition, both of which remain on view at the Duke House. Programming for these important initiatives was postponed last spring, and will now take place virtually. Dates for these and other events are still being planned, so please stay tuned and check back. We have also begun productive conversations with our colleagues in NYU's Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation and look forward to supplementing our work with the resources made available by their office that can be found here.
I would like to conclude by thanking the many members of our extended community—including our Board of Trustees, alumni, Connoisseurs Circle, faculty, staff, friends, and several students—who so generously contributed to emergency summer funding for our students. Donations to the Director’s Discretionary Fund allowed the Institute to provide crucial funding for students who had lost their summer jobs, or who were unable to participate in paid internships, excavations, and research travel owing to restrictions, cancellations, and postponements caused by the pandemic. Over 60 MA and PhD students received funding, and many expressed their profound gratitude to our many donors who responded to our call for assistance. More recently, we were able to give modest funding to ten students currently studying for their PhD examinations, who have experienced reduced access to libraries and collections, so that they could purchase key books. A heartfelt thanks to all of you who came through for our students at this challenging time.
Please stay in touch with us during the fall by attending our many virtual programs. We also welcome your thoughts as we strive to meet this historical moment as a time of reckoning but also of opportunity for positive change.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and energized return to the fall.
Warm regards to all,
Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director; Professor of Fine Arts