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Professor Emeritus Barbara Cooper,

School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University

(February 10th 2010)

Dear Peter,

I am writing in response to the news that the University is planning to phase out the Honours
and joint Honours programs in Art History. As a graduate of both the Art History (‘75) and
Honours Art (painting) (’77) programs, I am profoundly distressed to know that this action is
being contemplated if not already finalized.

You may not be aware that these two programs provided my entry into graduate school and
the foundation for my academic career at McMaster University. As a young mother, at a time
when women were not encouraged to work, I completed both degrees on a part time basis and
later integrated this knowledge with my diploma in physical and occupational therapy from the
University of Toronto. I addressed questions on colour theory in both of my graduate theses
(McMaster University ’81, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee ’95). I also used art as a clinical
modality (Cool School, ’80-88) and taught these skills to the occupational therapy students at
Mohawk College. Both McMaster University and the School of Rehabilitation Science at
McMaster have recognized these contributions by naming me to the Alumni Gallery of
Distinction (’96) and as the recipient of the Helen Saarinen Lectureship (2008).

Although I returned to my original roots when I accepted the position of Associate Dean of
Health Sciences (Rehabilitation) and Director of the School of Rehabilitation Science, I
continued to be active as an elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists (1977 – date)
and maintained a private studio. I also gave freely of my time to numerous local art committees
and boards, in particular the McMaster Museum of Art where I served as a Board member and
Chair of the Acquisitions Committee for almost 20 years. I want to stress that none of these
achievements would have been possible without my strong academic grounding in fine arts at
McMaster. The arts are starting to flourish in Hamilton, fed by the presence of outstanding and
diverse educational options and resources …and by the high cost of living in Toronto. But these
are always precarious relationships and a major shift in one direction can easily upset the
balance. The cancelation of programs that allow entry into graduate school is an example of
just such a shift.

While I am more aware than most of the various financial difficulties that must underlie the
University’s decision, I also know that it is not a sudden one, since for years now, I have
watched the erosion of the faculty base in the Art Department as positions lapsed or were
redistributed, and I have helped to beat off the vultures that consistently circle the McMaster
Museum of Art. I find it hard to believe that with three major institutions of art (McMaster
Museum of Art, the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Dundas Valley School of Art) in the
immediate area and others nearby, that closure needs to be the only solution. Other
educational institutions are facing similar problems and McMaster itself will have to consider
this possibility for other programs on campus. Surely then, this should be seen as an opportune
moment to explore other educational models such as joint or electronic programs and other
methods of teaching. McMaster is known for its innovative educational approaches … can it not
provide leadership again?

Barbara Acheson Cooper,
Professor Emeritus, School of Rehabilitation Science
Dr. Hayden Maginnis,
Art History, McMaster University
The Silhouette
(February 2010)

Dear Peter:

It is with regret that I turn to the matter of the closure of the Art History program at McMaster,
the Canadian university at which the discipline has been longest taught. I thought this issue had
been settled after the troubles of four years ago and the repeated denials that closure was ever
contemplated. (But we both know the then-dean and then-provost proved somewhat short on
veracity. The present Dean was then Associate Dean.) I ought to have known better. The
program has been systematically starved, or deprived, of resources until, it is now argued, we
are not viable. But that has been a matter of choice on the part of the administration,
specifically the Dean of Humanities, not necessity. The Dean claims she has no resources to
sustain Art History, but appointments are being made elsewhere, even within the School of the
Arts, and as part of the current plan she proposes vast new expenditures.

All this is very puzzling. Over many years the program has received good external reviews. Two
art historians are better published than most of the faculty in the School of the Arts and are
internationally known. We regularly send a significant proportion of our students to graduate
school; many have won international awards. I know for a fact that several graduate programs
give our students first consideration.

The suggestion that the closure of Art History is linked to a dramatic strengthening of Studio Art
is simply not credible. Four or five studio artists of limited and local reputation, already lacking
space, equipment, and other resources cannot compete with the facilities and faculty at, for
example, the University of Guelph. If rumours are true, that both OCAD and NSCAD have been
looking for space for a potential Hamilton campus, then the superior competition will be on the
doorstep. How five artists can run a B.F.A. and M.F.A program, when it requires four to deliver
the present Honours B.A. is far from clear. And, as anyone in the field could tell you, either
degree, without a reputable Art History component, is barely respectable. (Why does Ontario
need another M.F.A. program?)

Hamilton has two major art galleries, one, at the university, endowed to assist the teaching of
Art History. Indeed, I would wager that the majority of visits to the McMaster Museum are
those of students doing Art History assignments. In my experience, the place is otherwise
nearly empty. The University’s commitment to Dr. Levy seems all but forgotten, and I would
also wager that the closure of Art History will make potential donors to the Museum think
again. Are we to have these two splendid institutions in the city and no instruction in the

For well over a half-century in smaller institutions (over a century at universities like Harvard
and Princeton) Art History has been acknowledged as central to cultural history and thus to the
humanistic enterprise. It has been acknowledged that it is a discipline, quite distinct from the
presently fashionable “visual culture.” It has been accepted that works of visual art are doors to
the past, perhaps more readily opened than others. In a situation like that of the moment, for a
university to choose art practice over art history is to lock students in the present, to deprive
them of perspective, and diminish their understanding – and their education. For what can be
said need not be painted, or sculpted, or built. And yet those silent things speak to us.
Knowledge of them is part of having a culture – and knowing humanity.

Forgive me for being blunt, but it is perfectly clear that Dean Crosta’s plans lack the most basic
rationality, and must be a screen for the eventual elimination of all study of the visual arts at
McMaster. (Will the McMaster Museum then follow?) The Faculty cannot both have and not
have resources. It cannot strengthen Studio Art by hiring an artist to teach Art History.
(Whoever made this situation understands little of either discipline.) The Studio program
cannot be expanded to encompass an M.F.A. when it has not been allocated space in the new
Liberal Arts Building and is already cramped. From the relevant documents, it would seem the
fifth appointment in Studio Art depends on my salary, and I have not announced my
retirement. If there are funds for the comparatively vast expenditures connected with Studio
expansion, there is money for Art History. Perhaps confusion comes from haste. Art History
(though not myself) was notified of its demise in early December (the very first indication the
project was resurrected), at a meeting called for another purpose, and the proposal rushed
through Dean’s Advisory before the end of January. Contrary to a recent article in McMaster’s
Daily News there has been no long and careful consideration of this matter, that anyone but
the Dean knows of. It seems yet another knee-jerk development in the Faculty, this one
particularly hurried and ill-conceived. (With the resources squandered over the last decades on
quick-fix, “innovative” programs and initiatives that have eventually had to be closed we could
have done much. May I remind you that the dysfunctional School of the Arts was one of those
knee-jerk reactions, as were Canadian Studies, the Japan Institute, Women’s Studies, etc. It has
become perfectly clear whose ambitions such hasty moves serve.)

The Dean, so I hear, goes on about student numbers. In May of 2009, the external review team
remarked: “The programme should be lauded for the fact that overall enrolments in Art History
have significantly increased over the past three years. This, in itself, is evidence of its high
quality.” Are we now making policy on year by year statistics? I do not understand the
repeated, uninformed attacks on my discipline.

All this said, there is no sense asking you, or Dr. Deane, to maintain the status quo. Dr.
McQueen and I cannot continue as we are. (Had we been asked, we might have had positive
suggestions to make.) The problem is larger, a problem with the Faculty of Humanities. There
are no long-term goals, certainly no long-term vision, and, I fear, few standards (as a notorious,
recent tenure case demonstrates). Instead of building toward a considered future, various
deans have simply moved the pieces around seeking solutions to what they saw/see as
problems of the moment. And we all know the result. For novelty’s sake we have sacrificed
graduate degrees in German and Music, Honours degrees in German, Italian, and Spanish,
programs such as Comparative Literature (and now Women’s Studies), and weakened various
other departments. The School of the Arts’ faculty numbers have shrunk by half since its
creation. Art History’s plight is not isolated. It is part of the degradation of the humanities – in
which a series of deans have conspired.

I am asking you to intervene to halt this hurried and ill-considered process. Very large issues are
in play. Dr. Deane should surely have the opportunity to familiarize himself with the University,
the Faculty, and this issue (from both points of view) rather than having to deal with major
decisions, made on the verge of his arrival, that will significantly impact his presidency.

Let me conclude by saying that the sheer effrontery in the circumstance that, as the senior art
historian, I should hear of the closure of my discipline only through students, rumour, and web
sources is unconscionable. I look forward to your timely response.


Hayden B.J. Maginnis

Professor of the History of Art
Dr. Alison McQueen,
Art History Department, McMaster University
(March 1st 2010)
Blog Archive

I read the following prepared remarks at the Faculty of Humanities meeting on Monday March
1st, 2010:

"In the ten years I have taught in the Art History program at McMaster I have been very happy
to witness the achievements of our students, who have gone on to build successful professional
lives in fields including law, education, architecture, design, conservation and work in
commercial galleries as well as public galleries and museums around the world.

Art History has faced several challenges over the past few years. Among them is the fact that of
the 66 students who have currently declared art history as their major, honours or joint
honours program, one third are part- time students. Of the second year students who declared
art history their major in 2009-10, nearly 50% are part-time. As each of us knows, these part-
time students are not included in the full-time equivalent numbers that form an important
statistic for each program at McMaster University.

I am very proud of the successes of the men and women who have studied in our program.
The Art History program has over 90% female students and it is, indeed, a field where women
have been embraced for decades and where women have been able to achieve considerable
leadership opportunities. Statistics published in the Toronto Star on December 1st, 2009
indicate women continue to have limited access to leadership opportunities in Canada: 6% in
business, 13% in universities, and 22% in government. (A20) In the Hamilton community, for
example, the director of both the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the McMaster Museum of Art are
female. The National Gallery of Canada has also had two female directors, each of whom
served for ten years, and the second of whom then went on to head the Canada Council for the
Arts. Arts institutions are one of the few areas in which women have had notable leadership
opportunities in Canada and professional training in art history has been integral to realizing
this potential.

I thank the faculty in Classics, Theater and Film Studies, Multimedia and Philosophy who have
offered cross-listed classes that have been so important for the program. I particularly thank
my colleagues in Art for the close and supportive relationship we have enjoyed. I would like to
say what a great honour and pleasure it has been to teach art history in this high quality
program." (posted 4 March 2010)
Professor Emeritus Hugh Galloway
The Hamilton Spectator
(Mar 19, 2010)

As a former chair of McMaster University's Department of Art and Art History, I am dismayed
by the news the faculty of humanities is proposing to discontinue the option of obtaining the
degree of Honours Art History at McMaster.

The art history degree program at McMaster is the oldest in Canada and, despite the
vicissitudes of fashion and economic priorities, has maintained a distinguished reputation for
the quality of its graduates, many of whom have advanced to prestigious-postgraduate
degrees, and distinguished careers in the academic and arts administration fields.

Because of the excellence of its instructors in the past, and the stimulating quality of courses
which he attended, Dr. Herman Levy wished to give to the then-department a bequest which
would enrich the art history and art students' experience by allowing them the privilege of
having artworks of outstandingly high quality from which to learn.

His bequest of $16 million, an extraordinarily generous gesture of confidence toward the
historical and practical study of art at McMaster, incidentally raised the stature of the
McMaster Museum of Art, making it recognizably one of the finest university art collections in
Canada. That reputation, also, has encouraged other benefactors to donate private collections
to the museum.

The university has benefitted hugely from this generosity, which would not have occurred had
it not been for the excellence, and commitment, of the art history faculty in the past.
The artistic reputation of McMaster University has grown in proportion to the financial support
given to the art history and art programs which generated that reputation.
Levy's bequest was given on the assumption that his generosity would advance the study of art
into the future. As respect to his memory and wishes, and the wishes of others in the future, it
is imperative that the Honours Art History Degree Program at McMaster continue, and be given
enhanced support.

The university does not seem to appreciate the extraordinary benefit, relative to its modest
cost, which art and art history have brought to McMaster, and the wider Hamilton community.
Professor Hugh G. Galloway now lives in Fife, Scotland.
Professor Emeritus Paul Rapoport,
School of the Arts, McMaster University
The Hamilton Spectator
(February 26th 2010)

Re: 'Heading toward a blank ignorance; Loss of art history at McMaster would be a loss for
humanity' (Opinion, Feb. 24)

Elaine Marion's criticism of the possible closure of the Art History program at McMaster
University is deadly accurate.

The university has a long tradition in this. The previous dean of Humanities alienated many and
closed a 25-year-old graduate program. More than 20 years ago, the dean at the time
eliminated the university orchestra and ordered unnecessary deep cuts to some programs.

For weakening or closing programs, the administration typically offers specious reasons and
distorted statistics. There's much fancy bean counting but rarely leadership or vision.

That has happened often in the Faculty of Humanities. Despite McMaster's public
pronouncements, by its action over the past 25 years, it has implied it prefers to weaken that
faculty as much as possible.

-- Paul Rapoport, Professor (Emeritus), School of the Arts, McMaster University

Dr. David de Witt
Curator of European Art, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queens University
(April 7th 2010)

Dear colleagues,
It is with great concern that I heard and read about the plans to phase out the Art History
major at McMaster University. Especially unconvincing are the assertions that the Fine Arts
program is to expand and flourish in such an academic context, without the
substantial representation of Art History. The absence of serious representation of Art History is
instead more characteristic of Art Schools at the community college level.

More importantly, the claims about the current state of the Art History program clearly
misrepresent and denigrate its position and achievements, as well as its service. Most egregious
is the claim about the limited representation that does not go beyond the 18th century: the
well-established research and publication record of Prof. McQueen in the nineteenth century is
entirely overlooked. It bears emphasizing that the graduates of the program at McMaster have
gone on to great success at other universities, and in the job market in Canada and
internationally. I have had the privilege of working with several graduates who have left a very
positive impression of their professional preparation. They were easily up to the level of other
schools, or higher, for which credit must go to the faculty in the program. The same applies to a
substantial number graduates of Queen's M.A. and Ph.D. programs who came from McMaster
and who have attained important academic and curatorial positions.

The program's success and status appear to be actively suppressed in the literature produced
by administrators in favour of the termination of the Art History major. These elements should
however be prime considerations that speak against this action.

Sincerely yours,
David de Witt

Dr. David de Witt | Bader Curator of European Art

Agnes Etherington Art Centre | Queen's University | Kingston ON | K7L 3N6
T: 613.533.6000 x 75100 | F: 613.533.6765 | W:
Dr. Andrea Fitzpatrick
Asst. Professor, Department of Visual Arts, University of Ottawa
(February 15 2010)
The Silhouette Opinion- Response

The Art History degrees at McMaster should not be phased out. Art historians and the degrees
they achieve are essential to the field of visual arts, both historical and contemporary. Art
historians don’t spot existing trends, but actually identify and articulate them, explain them and
document them in various publications to a wide variety of audiences in many contexts: the
general public, the scholarly community, the artistic community, and the international art
community involving museums, galleries, and other institutions of global culture. All of these
communities intersect and are reliant upon each other’s expertise and talents. The
administration at McMaster should be ashamed of themselves for showing such ignorance.

Mr. Barry Lord

President of Lord Cultural Resources
The Silhouette- Response
(March 2 2010)

McMaster has an outstanding Art Museum with a collection that is unrivalled in Canadian
universities. It is particularly strong in works of art that can be best appreciated in the discipline
of Art History. Studio Art programs without art history are appropriate to college level
education, not a university. Art History is vital to ensuring visual literacy in an age when visual
communication has become so much more important in comparison with verbal
communication. In my view, it is extremely shortsighted and counterproductive to disband the
Art History program at McMaster.

– Barry Lord (1961), President, Lord Cultural Resources, Distinguished Graduate in the most
recent Graduation.
Dr. Cynthia Imogen Hammond
Asst. Prof of Architectural History, Concordia University
Daughter of the first Director of McMaster’s School of the Arts,

Dear McMaster Art History Team,

It is with great concern that I have been receiving the news and messages regarding the plans
to phase out the Major in Art History at McMaster. After seeing David de Witt and Professor
Galloway's letters, I feel I must respond with my own. I graduated from McMaster University in
1992 with an Honours BFA. My double major, Art History and Studio Art, was a foundation that
remains with me to this day in my position as Assistant Professor in Art History at Concordia
University, Montreal.

I remember well such professors as Hayden Maginness, whose fourth-year seminar in iconology
and formalism was the place where I began to find my academic voice. The art history courses I
took were more than historical background to the methods and techniques I encountered
through my studio courses. They were not supplements. They were platforms through which I
could encounter other cultural worlds, whose historical and aesthetic specificity frequently
resonated in the works I produced in painting and sculpture. But, because of the rigors of the
double major, my engagement with the history of art was not simply selective or opportunistic.
The double major asked a great deal of me, but it showed me that learning about the history of
art, as an artist, is not optional. My art history courses taught me to ask questions, think
critically about received opinion, and develop research and writing skills whose importance to
my career and now, my teaching, remain central.

I followed up my BFA at McMaster with a MA in Art History at Concordia, and an

interdisciplinary PhD, also at Concordia. My doctoral dissertation, which combined archival
research, architectural history, and a visual art practice, won the Governor General's Gold
Medal in 2002. The starting point of the professional path I have been privileged to follow was
my degree in art history and studio art at McMaster. No graduate school will seriously consider
a student without a major in the discipline they offer. And speaking personally, I very
much doubt that the interdisciplinarity of my own doctoral project would have been imaginable
to me without the formative training I received at McMaster, and the opportunity I had there
to encounter art, and art's history, as powerful interlocutors.

I wish your organization every possible success at the April 14th meeting.

Sincerely yours,
Cynthia Hammond

Assistant Professor of Architectural History

Department of Art History, Concordia University