Art Barn Studio Space

Kenzo Armstrong

Studio space in the arts barn is coveted. The competition for studio space is rife; the arts barn has only 24 studios to give, while more than 50 students apply for these studios every semester. Half of the art-concentrators at Hampshire College need more space to conduct their work and aren’t getting it. The number of students interested in taking studio art classes has consistently increased, with class sizes moving up from 12 to 16 students in recent semesters. Shouldn’t the space where they practice and learn follow suit?

While studio art professor Daniel Kojo Schrade appreciates that the arts barn is a place where students are free to experiment and “not worry about ruining a pristine building,” it is obvious that the students and faculty would greatly appreciate more space to make their art and develop a larger community of artists. The substantial lack of funds allocated to the arts barn reveals just how much the school values the important work of artists.

In theory, space would be great, but in the meantime, how are spatial decisions made on a semester-to-semester basis?

As the arts barn use-policy on Hampshire’s website states, “A studio space in the arts barn is a privilege, not a right.” Those blessed with the privilege of having a space to work on their art acknowledge the sacred balance between favoritism and persistence that is required to receive studio space in the arts barn on campus.

Rumors of favoritism abound; it turns out that seniority plays the most important role in deciding who receives studios. Though there’s the occasional horror story of a studio-less Div III (oops?), Division I and II students are left hoping that when their time comes, they’ll have been persistent enough to get a studio.

In addition to seniority, students MUST have arts barn faculty as chairs of their committee. This requirement is taken as a display of dedication to the concentration but ends up being another bureaucratic loophole to jump through. Students can get arts faculty to vouch for them throughout the process, but the final decision falls on one man- studio arts technician and faculty associate.

Greg Kline. Greg Kline has the final say as to how arts barn studios are distributed. So if you’re looking for someone to bake cookies for, he’s your guy.

While interest in studio art classes increases, so does the amount of people on the waitlist that are eventually kicked out of classes. Because the practice of art requires critique, individualized attention, and (you guessed it), space, class sizes can only expand so far. That being said, it’s becoming harder and harder for students to get into the classes they want, which makes it harder to get to know the professors they NEED to know in order to get studio space. While some students retreat to five-college facilities, their connections with professors there are virtually useless in procuring space for them at Hampshire.

Art concentrators have no other place on campus that is as frequently accessible and eligible for potentially messy, long-term visual and material work. The sense of community within the arts barn is also invaluable, as learning artists rely on feedback loops between their peers and professors to continue making great work.

The faculty monitors the use of the studios to make sure that students actually use the privilege they are granted. The Use it or Lose It policy dictates that the studios can be taken away from students who don’t make use of this extremely limited space. While this policy helps eliminate wasted space, there still seems to be a cringe-worthy dissonance underlying the fact that prospective art makers who pay ~$60,000/year to study art at Hampshire College are not guaranteed a space to carry out their work.

Actually, this fact contributes to Hampshire’s high retention/dropout rate. The lack of space and funding reserved for studio arts causes diligent, hardworking artists to be overlooked and devalued. As a result, certain students choose not to stick around to get screwed by the system.

 

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