Many of us have witnessed world changing events during our lifetimes. Each to some degree remains etched in our consciousness. This pandemic, monumental in proportion, is similar to other events in some ways and in at least one way, substantially different. Now, even though months have passed since we first received word of the spread of the coronavirus, there is no end in sight. Many unknowns remain which at best, are holding our decision-making processes at bay, at worst, hostage. We had hoped for resolution in the short-term, instead, for many, this crisis is stretching beyond imaginable bounds, and therefore at times stretching us beyond our individual and collective limits. To many across the range of values and beliefs, information about the virus and its dangers and risk levels does not seem trustworthy or complete, thus adding another element of harshness and confusion to an already difficult situation. During such times, it is good to remember what matters, what is abiding, and what has a good chance to carry us through to the place where, with both feet on the ground, we look back and reflect upon what we have learned, what we have accomplished, and what we hold in our individual and collective portfolios of resources. A few examples are provided below.
- An articulated and acknowledged vision shared by the field and by those who work within it that will continue to serve to guide and bind our efforts in ways that encourage freedom and liberty in artistic and scholarly efforts.
- A willingness to acknowledge and accept the real constraints faced by one’s institution and to work as a partner with other administrators and within the institution as all involved learn to navigate newly implemented institutional parameters that may assist the art/design unit to protect and preserve the position it holds as an indispensable part of the institutional community. Remember, if the institution falters all else may as well.
- Having at the ready sets of talking points which clearly and succinctly articulate the value of art and design and their study to students, the institution, and the surrounding community in order to be ready for conversations that explore what is essential.
- Having in hand current factual information so that art and design administrators and faculties remain able to keep up with the pace and number of decisions that must be made.
- Implementing and supporting a culture of nimbleness and flexibility that can enable creation and implementation of new approaches that enhance the education of students and advance the work of the art/design unit.
- Addressing challenges while remembering an essential distinction: short-term successes are important; actions that ensure the long-term health and stability of art and design in higher education and as artforms are critical.
- Remembering that the productive efforts of each individual and institution combine to create a powerful aggregate force which serves to support and advance the great cause of art and design writ large.
- Maintaining a posture marked by integrity, collegiality, and indefatigable good spirit, regardless of the number and nature of difficulties faced, will serve as a beacon to some and a lifeline to others who search for a renewed sense of hope.