Art department division leads to social segregation

The phrase “art major” now includes a vast gamut of practices, abilities and perspectives, but the two applications most often conjured by this phrase are studio art (aka fine arts) and graphic design. Oswego State offers Bachelor of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Science undergraduate degrees, as well as a Master of Arts degree program in these fields. The majority of art courses are offered in Tyler Hall, known throughout campus as the “art building”, while the bulk of the graphic design oriented courses are taught in Lanigan Hall (known primarily for its large lecture classrooms on the second floor). When I first transferred to Oswego State spring 2010 this perplexed me. My old school (Finger Lakes Community College) had all the art courses, regardless of concentration, taught in the same building. You could walk through the ceramics studio to the printmaking room, drawing studio and right into the computer lab used by design students.

It seems wrong that the workspaces for art majors are divided as they are at Oswego State. Some may pass it off as a mere difference in proximity, but the separation, insignificant as it may appear on the surface, seems to have had an unconscious impact on the viewpoints of some of the staff and student body. In my first semester at Oswego State I enrolled in a studio art course and was surprised to overhear another student trashing graphic design majors, only stopping when I revealed that I was, in fact, one of those dreadful graphic design majors. I have had classmates in studio courses surprised to discover I was a design major, and heard others make assumptions out loud that graphic designers actively avoid “getting their hands dirty” unlike “real” art majors. It is clear this is not a recent catch-22, as there are a humorous series of posters hanging in the Lanigan mounting room that depict such graphic design stereotypes such as being a “zombie.” As entertaining as these are, we cannot ignore that these are based upon widespread negative stereotypes.

This animosity among individuals working and studying within the creative field baffles me. I have always tried to uphold an “all for one, and one for all” mentality when it comes to fellow artists. Supporting each other is important, in spite of major. We should not immediately write off another creative individual based only upon their concentration. If not, are we any better than those who scornfully ask us what we expect to accomplish with our art degree? We need not mindlessly brawl among ourselves. I’m unsure if any studio artists have encountered such a response from design classes, but I have no doubt that I am not alone in these thoughts and ideas.

I believe a large part of this enmity stems predominantly from the segregation of the graphic design department. I don’t aim to insinuate that the design department’s current home, so near to the broadcasting department, is tactless or irrational, only that it is unconsciously injurious. What sense does it make to divide the art department so? If it is only a matter of space within buildings, we must consider, is it really worth the negative impact? I hope that in the future the design department shall be further integrated with the rest of the art department in Tyler Hall, and with any luck the discord will die down as well.