Vol. 3 | On the Design Of an Art School | Gabbi Fossano

On the Design Of an Art School
/ Gabbi Fossano

(This work was originally part of a joint presentation with Lizbeth Alatorre and Jaime Pattison. The current organization and presentation is Gabbi Fossano’s)

What is an art program for and why one would attend?

Students would like to design/make things whether physical, digital, or intangible and they would like these actions/objects to impact social settings/dialog, however immediate or distant.

Students would like to acquire the ability to autonomously make things, meaning, without requiring direct orders.

Students should attend art school in order to build a community and grow as individuals.

Art programs should allow growth for the students through the use of mentorships, flexible studio times, and critics.


What is to be gained from attending?


Mindful and thoughtful learning in school/outside of school

To produce knowledge

“acquire knowledge about the history of culture and learn its production as a practice for social transformation through the problematizing of representation.” Michael Asher

Acquire professional practice skills relevant to major

Make connections with peers and mentors

Practice self–sufficiency within a community

If the purpose of education is to achieve self-actualization and produce knowledge yourself, it is reasonable to infer then that the purpose of education through art should not be particularly different, it is simply a difference in the mode of communication. This goal undoubtedly requires a certain amount of criticality which Charles Gains defines as “a strategy for the production of knowledge.” Charles Gains


What is to be made or conceived, and what is asked of mentors/students?

Within each semester, students should have a two week period without classes (as is common in many colleges and universities with art departments) where they can work on project(s) of their choice resulting in a one-on-one with their mentor - although mentors are to be around the studios as much as possible if students are in need of assistance.

Grading will be done on a number scale based on their time, sincerity, and effort.

After students receive their number grade, a written explanation of that grade will be provided in order to understand why they received that grade. The only structured assignments will occur in a class separate from the studio during the first semester and in first year.

‘Student Community’

How do they come to be there, and how many?

The application process is based entirely on quality of work, fit for program, and writing. Grades are not considered.

Each year all admitted students will all be in their studio class together.

To ensure there is diversity of interest and opportunity for connections, the studio class will have a maximum of 20 students. Seminar classes will have a maximum of 12 students.


Who are they, how do they come to be there, and how many?

The department head has the final say on who is hired. Every year the upper two classes get to vote on whether a faculty member stays or is to be replaced. If a faculty member is voted out 4 years in a row, they are gone. Mentors are chosen for their experience in the art world, teaching, and their passion for the creative community. The idea is that they are there to stay, and become a ‘permanent’ part of the faculty, meaning, no adjuncts. First year of employment is probation, then they may be removed if their ratings are terribly low.

Mentors should be anyone in the school, from students to Faculty


Freshman year

Full year Studio Intro to making (basic assignments and groundwork to start) quickly moves into making as they wish, with check–ins and crits; students will participate in crits but will primarily learn from critiquing other contemporary art initially, not student art until mid-first semester or whenever there are enough finished pieces

Foundations Classes decided based on students major and interest. 3 slots

S1: Art or Design History (all continents) S2: elective

Full year: Contemporary Art (History/Theory)


Sophomore year

Full year Studio classes

Professional practices

Liberal Arts electives for both semesters


Junior year

Full year Studio

2 General electives


Senior year

Full year Senior Studio

Professional Futures class available to students to discuss and prepare for post–grad. Semester 1.

2 general electives.

Are there foundational requirements? How does someone move through this space and time of learning?

What is the architecture/organization of people that best fits an art school?

Each year students share a studio space with walls that wheel. Students are in charge of claiming spaces and sharing them. Seminars are held in other rooms dedicated to them.

There will be a minimum of two spaces for students to showcase their work in - all student run.

The school will also have partnerships with external organizations, and each year there will be at least one off-site pop-up window or full show, organized and curated by students.

All students have 24 hour access to their studios.



What is the minimum commitment?

During class, students will either present work to one another or have a studio work day with the mentor available to help when needed.

Mentors will participate minimally in crits, not offering judgment, but rather facilitating dialogue and attention, posing questions to encourage responses from students. The crit is finished when the student presenting decides they have nothing more to say.


What is physically needed to achieve goals?

Grants and budgets should be provided to students for resources required to complete their select projects, given not all students can afford the best materials and resources to make their projects to the best potential.