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Strategic Plan

2025

the SMFA Senior Thesis Newspaper
Strategic Planning
_Chip Franklin
Where are we now, where are we going, and how are we going to get there?
Or rather, what does the SMFA of the future look like? How should student learning experiences be cultivated at the museum school? How should aspiring artists be
supported in their creative exploration and artistic growth? What successes do SMFA
graduates go on to achieve, and how does the school support them in preparing for
those endeavors? How do programs, courses, faculty, facilities, and all the rest combine to meet student needs, now and in the future?
And then, maybe a harder question: what comprehensive vision captures the answers to these questions, and how can it be articulated to prospective and current
students as well as faculty, staff and other institutional stakeholders?
These questions are at the heart of the strategic planning process, helping the
institution define its mission, vision and strategic goals, and then building a clear plan
of action to achieve those goals. But the process goes deeper as well, building out a
complete understanding of the current state of the institution, from student outcomes
to financial reports, compiling quantitative and qualitative measures of school performance to compare against internal and external benchmarks. A detailed evaluation
of the current state of the school, combined with the vision for where the school is
going, supports the development of a strategic plan to close the gaps between where
we are now and where we want to be.
Simply put, the definition of the “what” leads to the planning for the “how.”
Successful navigation of the strategic planning process requires input from all
perspectives in and around the school, building buy-in on both the ultimate goals and
the process to get there. Understanding the relative strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges inherent in an institution necessitates the shared perspectives of
individual contributors across the school, as well as an objective lens through which
to view those perspectives. Ultimately, the process itself should provide a depth of
understanding and a clarity of purpose to help the broader community coalesce around
a shared vision, and commit to a shared plan of action.
So, one more time: where are we now? And where are we going? And how are we
going to get there?

The Losing Commencement Speech
Good evening everyone. First, I’d like to thank every professor, staff member, parent, relative, and friend that has supported us through our time here at the Museum
School. We wouldn’t be here without you.
I have to tell you; I never thought I would be the one up here today. But, I guess
you could say, this is a testament to all that I’ve learned during my past four years at
the Museum School. Rather unsurprisingly, for those of you who know me, tonight, I
will be talking about Art and Activism.
I’d like to start out with a quote from someone I can never quote from too much
or too often, James Baldwin. In 1961, he said: “All art is a kind of confession, more
or less oblique. All artists, if they are to survive, are forced, at last, to tell the whole
story, to vomit the anguish up.” If any of you have read his wonderful texts, or listened
to him speak, you’ll know that these are words Baldwin always stood by. I feel, when
making art or teaching students, we should strive to embody Baldwin’s words as well.
I believe Baldwin’s words are pertinent not only to our class, but also to a resurgence
of socially engaged art on a larger scale today.
Four years ago, many of us in this class entered this school at the launch of Occupy
Wall Street – the largest protest movement we’ve seen in the US in decades. Since then,
we have witnessed student protests in Quebec and Chile, protests against corruption
and censorship in Turkey, nationwide protests supporting undocumented migrants,
the campaign to keep Cooper Union Free, and most recently Black Lives Matter, a
movement Museum School students have fiercely organized around. With all these
political movements, and so many more, art and artists have occupied a central role.
Whether it’s through photography or graphic arts, printmaking or performance,
painting or social practice, I feel this class in particular has had the courage and
motivation to take on the critical social and political issues of our time. However, one
thing we must remember is that we are not just artists. None of us here are. Some of
us are students, and some are teachers, and some are retail workers, and some are
parents, and some are security guards – the list goes on. Regardless of our titles, it is
important for all of us to continue, “to tell the whole story, to vomit our anguish up.”
While every class is special in its own way, there is something significant to be said
about those of us standing up here today. Over the past few years, our school has
gone through a number of substantial changes, and as diverse as our student body
is, so are our opinions on the matter. Every change has been met with the full range of
responses from enthusiastic support to spirited resistance. Every change also presented
us with new challenges, teaching us to be an exceptionally self-determined, resilient,
and adaptable class. SMFA has tested us, and we’ve grown so much because of it.
However, it is important to recognize that this relationship is a two-way street;
SMFA has challenged us as much as we have challenged it. We leave our school –
that we love and care about so deeply – with a legacy of significant contributions.
Perhaps then it can be said that SMFA has learned and grown just as much from us
as we have from it.
Before I finish, I’d like to end with another quote from James Baldwin about the
role of artists – “Artists are here to disturb the peace. They must. Otherwise, chaos.”

Art School Destination
_ Shannon Mackenzie
My highly idealized graduation date rapidly approaches and I find myself surrounded by conflicting, confusing, and occasionally incoherent commands of advice
about what I should do. After you graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine
Arts you should: spend your time in an internship and then go straight to grad school;
travel abroad and find work outside your comfort zone; don’t move back in with your
parents; save money and move back in with your parents; show your work in every
gallery that will accept it, etc. Sifting through all of the daunting recommendations
leaves my picture of the future jumbled.
From a distance, the outlook on my expected success seems, above all, pessimistic.
According to a study from Georgetown University: “Among recent college graduates,
those with the highest rates of unemployment had undergraduate degrees in architecture (13.9 percent), the arts (11.1 percent) and the humanities (9.4 percent)…”1 The
threats of unemployment and a failing economy build the idea that we soon-to-be
college grads are just inheriting a broken system.
The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project compiles information annually to better
understand the effect of an arts education on its graduates. According to their 2012
Annual Report, evidence gathered from 36,000 arts alumni from 66 arts institutions in
America and Canada has determined that, “Only four percent of those whose highest
arts degree is a bachelor’s and 5% of those whose highest arts degree is a master’s
report being out of work and actively looking for a job.”2 This is a much lower estimate
than the previous mentioned rate of 11.1 percent. Artists often face unique situations.
“Many professional artists, such as dancers, actors, and even design specialists, are
employed intermittently or do contract work.”3 These graduates are certainly part of
the workforce, but their circumstance is poorly represented.
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released a publication in 2008, Artists in the Workforce, about artists working in America from 1990-2005. The study
reported that 1.99 million Americans are working as professional artists for their main
occupation. Of these nearly 2 million workers, 39 percent are designers, 17 percent
are performing artists, 11 percent are fine artists, art directors and animators, 10
percent are architects, 9 percent are writers and authors, 7 percent are producers
and directors, and 7 percent are photographers. It cannot be determined that these
professional artists are all art school graduates, though. They may have begun their
career in the arts after other degrees.
Only a portion of Arts College graduates work as professional artists after graduating. A portion of them never intended to work as professional artists either. The
2013 SNAAP report concluded that 77% of male and 69% of female graduates who
indicated that they intended to work as artists have worked in that capacity since
graduating. Only 64% of male and 54% of female aspiring artist graduates currently
work as artists in their fields.4 So the unemployment number becomes less and less
trustworthy. Graduates may be employed, but only about half are employed in their
field of choice or study.
The report goes on to explain complications regarding the likelihood of getting
work as an artist today. For instance, “female alumni are less likely than male alumni

to ever work as artists and to do so currently. […] Across all racial/ethnic groups,
Black graduates and Hispanic graduates are the least likely to ever work as artists.”5
An arts degree can’t compensate for the injustice and prejudice of the world. Just
like some fields have more professional jobs available than others, some businesses
are more likely to discriminate than others. Understanding these complexities is part
of the struggle.
I ran into a significant quote about arts graduates in the workforce from Steven J.
Tepper, associate director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy at
Vanderbilt University. He stated, “An arts career is not an on-off switch, with graduates either becoming professional artists or leaving the field. Rather, many arts alumni
work both in and outside the arts simultaneously, using their arts training in a variety
of settings and careers.”6 Arts graduates may not work solely as professional artists,
or as professional artists at all, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t applying their love
for creativity to other aspects of their lives, or even in their alternative occupations.
So maybe having a crystal clear plan for what I want to do with my time after I
graduate isn’t the right answer. Maybe there isn’t a right answer other than working
hard and doing so with the people who inspire you. There are so many possible paths
that I could follow that would all bring me somewhere, but nothing can guarantee that
the somewhere I get to will be full of success and happiness, unless I make it so. As
much as I would like to say that these studies and reports help us understand the
current state of affairs, there’s no way to tell the future from what has happened in
the past. The most inspirational advice I have ever received about graduating from
art school came Neil Gaiman:
The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street
naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the
inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting
to get it right. The things I’ve done that worked the best were the things I was
least certain about, the stories where I was sure they would either work, or
more likely be the kinds of embarrassing failures people would gather together
and talk about until the end of time. […] While I was doing them, I had no idea.
I still don’t. And where would be the fun in making something you knew was
going to work?7

1. Whoriskey, Peter. “New Study Shows Architecture, Arts Degrees Yield Highest Unemployment.”
Washington Post. 04 Jan. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2013.
2. National Advisory Board. “A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and
Careers.” Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. N.d. Web. 3 Dec 2013. <http://snaap.indiana.edu>
3. Ibid.
4. National Advisory Board.”An Uneven Canvas: Annual Report 2013.” Strategic National Arts Alumni
Project. N.d. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. <http://snaap.indiana.edu>
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Gaiman, Neil. “Neil Gaiman: Keynote Address 2012.” The University of the Arts. May 2012. Web. 3
Dec 2013. <www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012>

two for mirth

In Names of Members of Groups

_ Emily Stewart

_ Anthony Deng

carpel tunnel carpets
in star-shaped funnel star-pits
i mean you roll them up
and what did you expect

they thought them angry

it’s cramping

distance made cute echoes of vitriol

you, you try too hard to inflect
prose onto a rose
and the prose it just rose and the rose
well we are not entirely sure if it even knows
if it’s even aware
i mean personally at the end i’d just calm down and count crows
just look at them i think they would like it

but reluctant to admit their own
instead turned to screaming out the horizon.
as the tongues they spake
made them to look dumb.
at first i thought “what a strange melody”
but then i heard the words
and cried shallow pools cuz
nothing good has ever come from egos like that
what to call this feeling?
heart of gold commands
teeth to sink into devil’s wages,

Saving the Archive

breaking dirty curses with a mouth

_ Christopher Lineberry

we’ll let sleep the hounds of hell

full of bones from dead loved-ones
hell-hounds, ride!
and every someone taking time to make sure
all the lil doggies go to heaven
sits under the same sky
i still feel sorry and humiliated
for forgotten things remembered
and doing dark deeds.
the mistakes keep happening
but it’s okay;

One of Christopher “Topher” Lineberry’s final research papers of his undergraduate career investigates Arthur Tress’ photograph, “Superman Fantasy,” as it relates to
narratives of queer liberation and its limits in 1970s New York City. One major finding
was the work’s misattribution to photographer Philip Trager in the digital scholarly
database, ARTSTOR. Dressed as Superman, Lineberry calls Tress using the phone
number listed on the photographer’s website. Lineberry leaves a voicemail alerting
Tress to the error. His phone call hopefully results in “saving” an archive relevant to
his own body, while generating a queer cross-generational response to the male myth
of Superman. Lineberry performed the voicemail one day before the deadline for this
publication and eagerly awaits a response.

laughing is its own treasure,
and when you feel worried: that’s love

untitled
_ Megan Donnelly
I was laying upside down in bed looking at my legs today and I found bruises I don’t
remember that lead me to scars that held stories. I began to trace through the years
of my life by the stories that left marks on me. A scar on my foot from when I couldn’t
wait for my dad to walk through the door that I sat waiting in the path of the door.
Scars on my knees from attempting to rollerblade on dirt paths in Turkey and playing
soccer on broken concrete courts. I found one on my foot from the winning move of a
capture the flag game. On my shin from jumping out of the way from a spinning car. A
wound on my leg from the mountains in Nepal that never fully healed. I felt the one on
my cheekbone from skiing into a tree. Between the scars were the recent stories; the
bruises and cuts, their presence still fully felt. Most from soccer, as if trying to keep it
around a little longer. Others from bar-tending. Each showing a level of commitment
to an action. Not so much a constellation of pain; it’s more than pain. But rather each
mark justifying the action that created it. None of them out of pure stupidity but rather
a committed decision from that moment. Each mark brought me back to a mindset,
the person I was at the time; where the injury was part of a choice I saw as worth it.
All my life I have found comfort in maps, I used to say that it was where all my worlds
came together in one place, but I missed the most obvious map. I missed the one
that is written on my skin, on the surface of my being, open for everyone to see, for
everyone to connect as they see fit. It’s weird how scars and stories form into the
concept of time and history; how structures of age/time perpetuate the history born
within them. I love that I have a living memory of my history written on my body... And
now, I’ll never be able to see these marks as anything less than that.

Why Art
(in approximately 100 words)
_ SaraMarie Bottaro
Using visual art to interrogate social justice issues in our culture is intuitive. Art
uses visual and/or physical mediums to represent experience in a visual way. Because
of the necessary confrontation between viewer and image, it is also a great prompt
for conversation. People encountering art have been socially trained to share their
opinions of it, and often do so automatically, since visual actualization has something
inherently immediate about it. A purely textual academic paper has very different
distribution channels and audiences than a drawing shown in a gallery context does.
The socioeconomic barriers to accessing both cannot be ignored, but through visual
representation issues’ availability are greatly expanded.
Simon Remiszewski, “Advertisement Transcription 01: 05/2015”

I tried to do everything Beyonce did when she came here. People around here will
remind you that she did this thing or took a photo of her bbq falafel.
I seized every opportunity because I’ve learnt that there is no use in resisting things
that may sound stupid, or to not take the chances that sound dumb or uncool. I had
my reservations on compiling these iphone photographs and scattered texts because
it seemed mundane and a wasted effort for both me and you, the reader.
There is no use to think like that because right now, pause, and now again, you are
new and full of hope at every second. You’re older and much newer than the last time
you washed your hands.
At some seconds you’re the ultimate you.
I wanted to feel, all the variations. I wanted to step into the new star grocery museum.
Alone.
He let me in on off hours because I was peeking into the space like an eager jerk,
The man with a scruffy coarse face and a terribly sagging bright red beanie that would
cost $45.00 in the city.
He had 7 dogs at new star grocery museum, the hot dog kind
barking and scratching at the wounds on my knees from Austin, through my tights
He had over 50 lights made out of trash
He had paintings his mother made before she died
He had communist collages
He said he liked strong women
He was a communist
at the new star grocery museum

_ Marie Lopez

_ Will Russack

“You never get that close to
someone in a park yelling their
heart out without consequences”
_ Simon Remiszewski
“You never get that close to someone in a park yelling their heart out without consequences.”
With every emerging consumer technology comes a baggage of myths and truths,
positives and negatives. The issues are far and wide in their scope, and this is just one
attempt at a sort of illumination.
“Why have we not had a more powerful storytelling vessel than cinema for 100
years? It’s not because nobody’s thought of a different storytelling structure. We need
the next medium, and that medium is inevitably going to be birthed because of technological advances.”
This is a quote from Chris Milk on the potential of virtual reality technologies, as
written in the Guardian this past January. The article is titled “Virtual reality documentaries ‘take the middle man out of journalism’.” As is evident, Milk is caught up in a
myth. A filmmaker, Milk has been behind music videos created for the likes of Arcade
Fire and Kanye West, but has more recently acted as a primary force behind VRSE.
works - “a collective of artists, technicians, thinkers, and innovators striving to create
the world’s best experiential media.”
“So much of journalism is conveying a place and time that existed, to someone at
a later date: giving a person the context and trying to make them feel as informed as
if they were actually there,” he says. “Fundamentally, this is taking out the middleman
in that process, and making you feel as if you were actually there.”
What Milk is describing here is a view that has long been associated with emerging technology. That new technologies offer us completely new experiences, divorced
from the dull drudgery of now-past mediation. The screen is now so close to our eyes
that it’s not even there? The cameraperson filming in such visual entirety, to the point
that they’re not even directing the camera? To even attempt to make an association
between virtual reality and a more objective experience is extremely problematic in
its tendency toward ignoring the infinite implication . The mediation always already
flows in every direction. From Neil Postman’s “Five Things We Need to Know About
Technological Change”:
“The first idea is that all technological change is a trade-off. I like to call it a Faustian
bargain. Technology giveth and technology taketh away. This means that for every
advantage a new technology offers, there is always a corresponding disadvantage.
The disadvantage may exceed in importance the advantage, or the advantage may
well be worth the cost.”
Later in the article, Milk goes on to describe a VR documentary he completed
recently, featuring the Millions March in NYC. An obviously loaded event if you had to
choose one, Milk appears so immersed in the potential for his ideas that he forgets
the reason everyone is there.
“As an example, Milk cites a section in the Millions March film where the camera
gets up close with a man protesting in Washington Square Park. “You as the viewer

A Four Year Study of the
Strategic Plan in Progress
_ Chase Carter
Strategic Plan
noun • \stra-‘te-jik ‘plan\
1. A process in which a company’s executives decide what they want to achieve and
the best actions and use of resources for doing this. (Cambridge Business English
Dictionary)
2. A broadly-defined plan aimed at creating a desired future.
(www.businessdictionary.com)
3. A plan for the overall conduct of a war. (Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms)
In 2012, shortly after the arrival of President Chris Bratton, the School of the Museum of Fine Arts established its own Strategic Plan for the years 2013-2022. The
purpose of this plan can be explained in a number of ways. However, the primary goal
is “to stabilize and grow enrollment through accreditation.”1
The Museum School is not the only institution of higher education to undergo a
Strategic Planning process in recent years. Strategic Planning has been a common
process of organizational development since the rise of neoliberal ideologies in the
1970s. Now, seven years after the 2008 financial crisis – a global economic catastrophe
commonly attributed to the widespread acceptance, promotion, and implementation of
neoliberal policies – we should examine the purposes and methods behind Strategic
Plans, and specifically our own Strategic Plan.
“A rising tide lifts all boats.” This is a fundamental idea behind free market economic
theories, and also, in a sense, the idea behind the Strategic Planning model. The focus
is on financial growth, and according to the theory, with this financial growth, every
other aspect of the organization will prosper too. Let us return back to the primary goal
of SMFA’s Strategic Plan, “to stabilize and grow enrollment through accreditation.”
Considering the Museum School is a tuition-driven private school without a significant
endowment, these two objectives make a perfect pair. In order to financially grow
(increase profit), SMFA must increase enrollment by any means necessary.
The Museum School does not have a proud history of high enrollment, nor of high
retention rates. Of course, this situation is not conducive to increasing profits, nor
to stabilizing finances. In turn, SMFA’s leadership thought it was time to attain independent accreditation for the school.2 In order to become accredited, SMFA needed
to change radically. As a result of this shift, the administration introduced numerous
changes to school policy and structure. Some of the most significant changes over
the past four years include: the increase in administrative positions (ie. we currently
have 9 Vice and Associate Vice Presidents), the introduction of an attendance policy,
the end of review boards as a determinant for school credit, the elimination of a free
third year for MFA students, the revocation of open school-wide email communication,
the merging of areas into larger departments, and the separation from Tufts University.
Theoretically, these changes were made to conform to accreditation guidelines, as

are standing way inside his personal space, but you feel safe within the virtual reality
world – you understand that this is not reality, it’s a recording of an event that happened. He’s not going to grab hold of you,” he says.
To present the concept theorized by Nathan Jurgenson and others, it’s a classic
case of Strong Digital Dualism where “the digital and physical are different realities,
have different properties, and don’t interact.” A dangerous place to be, given that these
are real people we are dealing with on both ends of the headset. The virtual reality Milk
presents is a document, and he is quick to imply both empathy and disassociation
in the same sentence. Therefore, why does getting up close in someone’s recorded
face bring me any closer to human experience? While this act may actually present
a real personal security risk for the individual actually present at the protest, it offers
the viewer safety - not in “a virtual reality world”, but in their own physical and very
present environment. This is not to imply that everyone can and is able to attend a
protest. Milk’s description is anything but enabling.
“I measure the worth of the work I’m making on two metrics: the first is how deeply
can I affect other human beings, and the second is how many human beings can I
deeply affect?” says Milk.
Furthermore, Millions March was intended to make a stand against the extreme and
systemic violence placed upon actual physical bodies of people of color in America,
so maybe we could push the conversation away from it being some sort of stage for
a technological spectacle? As is common practice when technologies are involved,
we tend to talk about the literal material alone, forgetting the actual world it exists
within. So simultaneously you feel as if you were there, while also understanding that
it’s a recording of an event. Either way you’re not there, and either way you’re actually
alright. From iPhone to Gorgon Stare, we can be sure that mediated viewing does
not bring us closer to some sort of reality we cannot otherwise access; it presents
a completely different experience. This experience is not worthless on its own, but
technologies enable utilization, not strong concepts.
Virtual Reality technologies do contain a lot of promise, and at this point the research on empathetic effect in “virtual environments” is showing some positive results.
For instance, there is strong evidence that VR interactions are proving especially
helpful for those dealing with PTSD. I think we need to be wary of what we might be
forgetting when we talk about these technologies - the realities they bring into being,
the realities we enable with technology, and the histories surrounding such ideals of
progress and their alternatives. A person with a hammer sees everything as a nail, but
the house is already built.
“That’s really something else. Like all, all, like... I’ll tell you what freedom is to me:
NO FEAR. I mean, really, no fear. If I could have that half of my life. No fear. Lots of
children have no fear. That’s the closest way, that’s the only way I can describe it.
That’s not all of it, but it is something to really, really feel... wow... Like a new way of
seeing. Like a new way of seeing something.”
- Nina Simone (from bit.ly/ninafreedom)
How could we use these technologies not to just emulate existing experience
and narrative, but to actually create different experiences and narratives? How could
virtual reality technologies enable a communication of existing oppressions, issues,
contexts - and affect change? How can the emergence of a new technology stop enabling tendencies to ignore, and start addressing what has been ignored? Could these
technologies enable a new way of seeing something, and what will we be seeing?

well as to increase enrollment and rate of retention.
It is true that the accreditation process has been successful so far, however, over
the past four years, the anticipated results of improved enrollment and retention have
not been met. These sweeping changes have, in fact, resulted in opposite effects.
While the MFA program has not declined as much, the BFA program has struggled.
Its enrollment has decreased drastically – in 2011, around 120 new students were
enrolled, whereas this last fall (2014), only 71 new students were enrolled. That is a
roughly 40% drop in enrollment in only four years. Accordingly, our retention has not
increased as predicted and our acceptance rate has risen to 84%, making SMFA a
much less selective school, and therefore considerably changing the composition
of our student body.3 Beside educational losses, this also results in greater financial
instability and loss of revenue.
These results, then, lead me to believe that financially driven motives may not be
the best way to achieve the impressive metrics of success originally sought after by
the Museum School four years ago. While the Strategic Plan includes proposals to
transform the school’s educational policies, it only does so from a corporate perspective, thinking of finances first and foremost. To be clear, this is not to dismiss the idea
of Strategic Planning, but is instead to imagine an alternative way of thinking about
how to create a vision for the future of SMFA. If we had created a different Strategic
Plan – one focused on education, enriching students’ experiences, and valuing faculty
– we would be in a very different situation right now.
This, clearly, is not just an issue with our school. While our changes have yet to
return positive outcomes, other school’s Strategic Plans are achieving their projected
financial goals. However, the problem does not reside in the fact that Strategic Plans
have the opportunity to fail, but rather the problem with Strategic Plans in the world
of education are their narrow focus on financial growth. Strategic Plans, as they exist
now, employ market-based solutions in response to issues that are often social, educational, or humanitarian matters. Schools, nowadays, are run on business models,
rapidly increasing enrollment by creating new programs in order to boost revenue,
rather than focusing on positive educational reform. This student-as-currency mentality, combined with a lack of communication and transparency is proving detrimental
to building mutual trust between students, faculty, and administrations across the
country. SMFA is in a crisis, but it is not a mere matter of dollars and cents. It is one
that concerns our education, plain and simple. It is up to all of us to imagine a better
SMFA, to create our own Strategic Plan for the future.

1. http://www.smfa.edu/files/SMFA-SELF-STUDY-Final.pdf
2. Up until this point, we have been accredited through Tufts University.
3. Statistics sourced from http://www.collegeboard.com