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Ilam School of Fine Arts – BLOODLETTING

Forum > Rants

by bozoski
216 Comments
Article of the Month October 2007
Morlock Ilam School of Fine Arts – BLOODLETTING Before, During, and After SFA’s 125th Year Celebrations at The Christchurch Art Gallery.

Welcome to the brave new world of eternal, artificially created, corporately administered, starvation and slow-death for the visual arts ( and by default, the humanities ) at Canterbury.

Administrators in the College of Arts, in consort with the Vice Chancellor’s Office have announced that they will immediately eliminate 2 advertised staff teaching positions in sculpture and painting. These were positions with qualified short-listed candidates ready to roll.

In addition the administration announces it wants to slash the school’s budget by half and require the school take ten more students into each new first year cohort. That would be 40 more students in four year’s time. OUCH.

And, there’s more…….with the wood/metal shop technician leaving the country (while the leaving’s good) the tech position will be scrutinized by “Human” Resources - if the school is lucky this position will ONLY be downgraded to a half-time position.

The school now admits 65 ( or so ) students per year. When not to long ago the same number of staff took on 45 students per year.

For the full gory picture please Google Morlock and Eloi

Comments:
1 to 20 of 216
John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Is there a future for Ilam at all? Can it survive? Or has it all gone down the gurgler?
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
This is the sort of nightmare press release the University wants to avoid, especially around the time of year new students will be applying. Unfortunately I bet most prospective students don't read this site.

Do you have a reference / link for these claims?

How do we know your not someone from Elam / AUT / ect's marketing department?
bozoski
2 articles & 27 comments since 10 Oct 2007
Ilam may survive, and not go "down the gurgler" - alongside Elam - but not unless pressure is brought to bear by all stakeholders.

"Nightmare Press release-" Nice turn of phrase Artbasher. Not a press release but a well sourced leak from an Ilam insider.

More later - as the situation matures.

John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
These developments are not totally new, are they? This attrition has been going on for some time now, I believe.
bozoski
2 articles & 27 comments since 10 Oct 2007
It is common for administrators (Morlocks) to feed on the corpses of resigned (i.e. dead) positions, rather than engage in a more robust struggle with live flesh (by making redundant the positions of the still-living).

This practice is widespread in academia (here at Otago we have seen our share of grave-robbing) as it allows subaltern administrators a relatively pain free (the Eloi rarely fight back when their dead are snatched) method of providing for themselves and their betters.

Some attrition had already taken place at Ilam. 50% of a full-time full-time sculpture position was offered up to the administration flesh-pot a relatively short time ago - this during the last artificial financial "crisis"- read humanities pogrom.

That ghoulish Solomanesque (cut an infant in half and give each parental disputant half) arrangement with the SFA came about during a time when the College of Arts was seen to be marauding for live bodies among its various schools. Give-em some meat and they'll go away, may have been SFA's thinking.

In the last austerity body-round-up, administration appetites were ultimately satisfied by academic suicides (forced or induced retirements) and only 1 and 1/2 to 2 positions were actually cut. It may be worthwhile to note (as an indication of how "forward" thinking teaching staff-cuts are arrived at) that the only two positions made redundant were Chinese language and Islamic studies. Now why would we need THOSE particular subjects in the 'new' world order?

In retrospect, it appears that the side-o-sculptor was nervously sacrificed to a bogeyman.

The current situation at Ilam is such that it has ( I had to hear it from a truly authoritative source to believe this one ) unified studio staff - no mean feat in and of itself.
I do not see that usually fractious bunch rolling over on this one.

Considering administrative bad-timing - less than four weeks from the Campus and Christchurch Art Gallery celebrations of Ilam's 125th birthday - I would give SFA staff at least a fighting chance.

There is plenty of potential egg-on-the-face-potential for Uni. notables and for other Christchurch worthies connected to other prominent institutions in Christchurch to avert what would clearly be a disabling blow to the SFA corpus.

The anger is such that I would not rule out industrial action - although I have yet to hear any concrete plans in that direction....although I hear the idea is being tossed about - possibly with with AUS.


I have heard that a significant mob of disgruntled students ( particularly sculptors) at Ilam are also on the move (galvanized by rumours sown by temporary teaching staff who are in the know) and have threatened guerilla action during the Art School 125 festivities, if rumours harden into unpalatable fact.

In such circumstances the typically passive academic class will, on rare occasion, be roused to defensive action if their corporate existence is threatened by a reduction of ranks.

I will stay tuned for more updates from the front.

Goodnight and Dogbless

william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
luxury...when i was lad we had no contact with staff as they were away or mad (the good ones were dead) marks were pulled out of hat, we were thrashed by the technicians behind the bike shed and we had no supper..
artscoolgal
2 comments since 11 Oct 2007
Hi Artbash, I did add a comment here last night, but being a first time contributer had a bit of trouble... hope you recieve this well and good. I am an ex-Ilam student and have friends who are current students and recent graduates. Bozoski's comments really are a cause for concern...and trigger for a first time artbasher like me to add to the conversation. Unlike many Ilam graduates I have decided to stay put in ChCh, and rumours about the state of Ilam have been leaking for nearly 3 years. With the staff position in sculpture already cut other staff cuts seem implausable.... does anyone know why the sculpture department has already lost half a position, was it in fact the sacrificial lamb as suggested above? A significant and highly respected senior lecturer has resigned perhaps this is related also to rumours of mismanagement at Ilam? What do other recent graduates or students think? Are we able to do anything at this time of need?
bozoski
2 articles & 27 comments since 10 Oct 2007
Ach, Willy B. you mach mit der humor as the cattle cars rumble toward smoke-stacks.
Der gallows humor ist only gut fur der audience at the hanging.
artscoolgal
2 comments since 11 Oct 2007
Hi art-basher-ers... well i am a little disappointed at what seems to be a lack of interest in the suggested/proposed demise of Ilam. I guess most ex-students will agree art school times are not always the best of times, but for the art school to be facing previously mentioned crippling losses.. well the school is still important to me as an ex-student, so it would be good to know exactly what is happening! Is the art school worth saving... I (and friends including current students) think it is!
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
I'd say the official line is that the cost cutting is saving the school.

Ilam is probably one of the last bastions of full-time art school staff who get nice salaries. Internationally, even at top schools most staff were part-timed back in the '90s.

The schools figured they could do it because the staff have sweet f*** all else they can do for anywhere near as much pay. What does having an MFA qualify you for apart from being either an artist, where your income is highly variable depending on your ability to make work, run a business and market yourself, or teaching art? Nothing. So they could pretty much get away with minimum wage if they wanted...

Like many things, NZ is finally catching up a few decades late, and the south island a few years after the north.

Maybe it will be a good thing. The teachers might realise how tenuous their jobs really are and start trying a little harder. (Not that some of them don't already, but some of them certainly cruise along and accept the job for the pretty damn good one that it is.)

And more students will definitely be a good thing, as long as a high quality can be maintained. Departments with less than ten students per year are a bit of a joke. Maybe five would turn up to class on a good day. I'd say 40 - 50 per year per department would be good - still small enough to know everyone, and you could break it into two classes.
william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
elim takes in 100 1st yrs..fails 1% . i think there are 2 or 3 members of staff, with burgeoning masters and phd programmes, there must be 6 -700 students. Its like a gym membership, if everybody turned up the place would collapse.....as i said luxury.
bozoski
2 articles & 27 comments since 10 Oct 2007

That flawed model can work in major urban centers, with large labour pools of underemployed artists, but in backwaters such as Otago and Canterbury it is difficult to recruit and retain qualified staff on a part time basis....thus sending those who - for one reason or another - remain in outlying areas scurrying toward the urban centres. The pool dries up further, the local art scene shrinks, and so on.

Artbasher - as for "staff have (ing) sweet f*** all else they can do for anywhere near as much pay. That is an assumption that is not borne out by statistics which show that graduates of art schools and humanities programs do financially better ( as a statistical group ) than do those who graduated with the much vaunted MBA.

I made more money and worked less hours than I have in academic settings....I chose teaching because it is a gratifying and intellectually stimulating way to spend my salaried time.

"Like many things, NZ is finally catching up a few decades late, and the south island a few years after the north" say Artbasher ....in this case he is right EXCEPT that the academic governance and staffing models that NZ is "catching up late" on have had erosive effects on the quality of education wherever they have been tried and are being retired (as FAILED models ) in universities and art schools where the guinea pigs in the expirimental model were beginning to die. Why would NZ want to adopt failed models that have been tried elsewhere rather than learn from the mistakes of these insyitutions?

"And more students will definitely be a good thing, as long as a high quality can be maintained." -
opines Artbasher. OK, let's have a telephone booth stuffing competition ( i.e. fit more students into already tight quarters, have faculty teach at a fast sprint, under-resource equipment, office staff, physical plant, reduce technical shop hours by making tech positions half time, etc. OH BOY therte's a sure-fire recipe for "high Quality" arts education.

Artbasher, may I suggest that you think through your diagnosis, prescription a prognosis for schools of art in NZ before you propound. I know that a large part of your function at Artbash is to provoke and be controversial....but much of what you say has the perfume of reactionary neo-con rhetoric...which at its best is rarely grounded in rational, factual analysis. That flavour of such rhetoric is typically born from ideological knee-jerking and often fits facts to suit a forgone reactionary hypothesis.

Bitterness, mean-spiritedness, sour-grapes and schadenfreude is a poisonous brew to imbibe on a regular basis for someone so callow and someone with so much potential and intellectual fire.



william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
nice alliteration in the second to last para bozoski...
MR
218 comments since 20 Jul 2007
you guys need to look at yourselves, seriously!
MR
218 comments since 20 Jul 2007
no wonder the whole world all wonders what art is!
The Fish
13 comments since 13 Oct 2007
I would have to agree with bozoski, why would we choose to catch up to a F-upped system that has failed other institutions ( I am speaking as a student of canterbury fine arts that pays huge fees, and does not want to be treated like a battery hen).

In response to Artbashers statement- that we are the last bastion-

all the more reason, were not going down without a fight.
Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
bozoski, please read what I write before you criticise, don't read too much into what I say and never take me too seriously. :-)

Can you please point me to those stats for Fine Arts grad earnings? Whatever the average FA grad earns (and it may be more than the average MBA) I bet fine-art lecturer is above average for an FA grad, especially when you take the (low) hours into account. Now this is definitely not the case for lecturers in most other disciplines, particularly Law, the sciences or Commerce.

I said NZ was catching up on the international model. I didn't say that was a good thing. I'm sure there are many negative results of making staff part time. However, I still argue that it would be good in at least one way, because I definitely encountered complacent lecturers at Ilam (a very depressing, uninspiring and unhelpful thing), which I didn't at RISD where most of the teachers were part time (although that's probably at least partially due to the American work ethic).

I agree, more students would only be good if there is enough space and teachers to go around. Great analogy to the gym membership wb. Although I'd argue at a better than 1 - 10 ratio, Ilam is currently over staffed. I think 1 - 15 is still fine. They should get the post grad students to work as assistant teachers. That's what they do at RISD and I learned at least as much from them as I did my actual lecturer. You don't have to pay them as much, it builds relationships and they're (generally) closer in age to the undergrads which makes for a nice change to what has been an average staff age, of I don't know, maybe 50? (I admit, there have been several younger lecturers taken on since I left.)

So bozoski, are you the sculpture job that's going?
bozoski
2 articles & 27 comments since 10 Oct 2007
Artbasher
"never take me too seriously. :-)" OK, I won't. And I DID read and respond to your actual points.

You raise an interesting example with RISD. Reputable artists, such as Dike Blair, teach there....but believe it or not many part-timers, including Dike, commute from NYC, if not Boston - thus supporting my contention that the part time model works (for institutions, anyway) when there is a major-urban-center pool of artists to draw from. Not the case with Otago or Canterbury.

I'm not willing to give details of the study ( FA degres vs. MBA's ) at this point as it could very well blow my cover. When this thing blows over I will give you the information you are asking for. For the time being you must trust ( or distrust) that I'm not fabricating.

"complacent lecturers at Ilam -" ah, Artbasher, articulating the perpetual student's lament ( and the lament of the hard-working colleague of dead-wood lecturers, as well. Don't forget complacent students, administrators, the art audience, critics, curators, and museum directors. Should all of those job categories be made part time - does making a lecturers ( low payed ) part time solve the problem of complacency. I submit NOT.

"Ilam is currently over staffed." Artbasher, that's rich. Sculpture cannot take post-grads because there is no senior lecturer....thus losing the school money ( plus there are NO post-grads to teach sculpture classes, as you suggested above. Painting has one senior lecturer and one fix-term painting instructor and so is limited in that over-subscribed area. The only fully staffed area of the school is film and design. I'd like to see your student teacher ratio data. The shrinkage of the post grad program at Ilam means that the school earns less money in those areas and limbs of the school wither from disuse.

"closer in age to the undergrads which makes for a nice change to what has been an average staff age, of I don't know, maybe 50?" Closer in age Artbasher? Ah, the blind leading the blind....I think there's a ditch in your future, sonny. Closer relationships with lecturers? Are we forming friendships and romances or are we teaching, mentoring, and providing hard-won professional contacts?

average staff age, of I don't know, maybe 50? Artbasher, that's actually healthy....the young should want to put the old folk on an ice-floe - but they have to out-do the old place-holders before they've earned the right. Have you, have your peer-group? There's old, and then there's old. Lemme see....young is good, old is bad. I think I've got it. Brilliant reductionist hypothesis neither that, nor its opposite is necessarily true. Shake off your willie before you turn around to talk.

"So bozoski, are you the sculpture job that's going?" Tut-tut Mr. A.....news has it that the sculpture job ( at least 1/2, anyway ) is back. Who I am is less important than what I am.
I suggest you operate in a more pragmatic manner - save what's worth saving or slash-and-burn AFTER a thorough and factual analysis of the situation on the ground rather than exorcising old school boy grudges aginst you alma mater. Ta Ta.



Lee-looking-profound-1
Artbasher
137 articles & 705 comments since 12 Feb 2005
This all makes me glad I have nothing more to do with the institution. Clearly you know the facts, I take it because you're working there.

Reality: Ilam will have to grow or die. (Or become truly second rate (if it isn't already) like the pervasive private art/design schools in chch.)

It's a catch 22. They don't have a lecturer in sculpture, so they can't take on any post grads, so the sculpture buget gets cut even more, untill eventually they can't even take undergrads and the department dies. And it will keep spiraling downward. Less people will enter first year, bugets will be cut further... you get the idea.

The part time model works when in or near major centres - OK for sure. Indeed I had the great pleasure of attending one of Dike's classes for a semester. Maybe we shouldn't have art schools in places like Chch or dunedin. The keen artists would move to the big city (Auckland) and that school would get better.

Or, in the age of cheap air travel, could we get part timers in from Australia? (Compare the 4 hour drive from NY to Providence.)

Perhaps it's not age so much, but that some of the older staff seemed a bit out of touch. In the last few years due to the internet etc, NZ has reduced it's former 20-30 year lag on western art to perhaps 5-10. Now, these fifty+ year olds were educated back in the 70's and 80's when the lag was much bigger. So they seem(ed) ancient to us young-uns. The young design lecturers are awesome and have and are still making great contributions to the local scene. *Inspiring* even. Old people can be inspiring, and some of the old lecturers were / are. But you need a mix. Age wisdom, youth energy.

So we don't know who you are, but what are you? A government employee who's a little bit scared he's going to loose his job. But also someone genuinely concerned for the future of the art school, and the art scene in Chch, for surely if the school goes, so will the scene...

People should probably look at your potential redundancy, the death of the school and the death of the Chch scene as a positive thing. Elam will benefit and we can all move to Auckland and have a jolly old time up there...

Anyway, I want to hear your positive suggestions on where the school should going.

Oh, and complacent students! Haha, yeah they are the worst thing!
william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
sculpture departments always cost the most to set up and run, its no wonder they get the chop.
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