Message from Dean Vazsonyi – October 2020

October 7, 2020

It’s October already, and so far, so good, it seems. As I walk around campus, my sense is that students have for the most part respected the safety guidelines. They are even wearing masks when walking alone. I also sense that many are choosing to stay home and study online rather than go in person to class, even though they are living right here in Clemson. It is not the outcome we were expecting as we pondered how best to manage the Fall semester, but it is interesting to consider what this means, both for now and for the long term.

Jordan Fowler's sculptures are spotlighted in Lee Gallery.

Jordan Fowler’s “New Ruins” is the current exhibition at Lee Gallery. Image Credit: Courtesy of Jordan Fowler

The last two weeks have been very intense as I began my “get acquainted” tour of the College. The concept is to spend a week with each department in turn, starting alphabetically with the School of Architecture. During the visit weeks, I meet with leadership, faculty groups, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and drop in on two to three classes. To the extent possible, I also tour the physical spaces and facilities as well.

My week with Architecture was an eye-opening and quite overwhelming experience. It is breathtaking to take in the wealth and diversity of the activities, and to understand the number and range of interdisciplinary and cooperative projects, both with units across campus as well as the community and the entire region. One week was surely not enough.

I visited three classes: a design course taught by Joseph Choma, a landscape architecture class taught by Lara Browning, and a graduate studio team-taught by Ulrike Heine, David Franco, George Schafer and Dan Harding. I really can’t go into the thrill of each of these classes, save to say that they were all 100% online. My sense was that each of them was completely successful in the online format and that, for instance in Dr. Choma’s design class, it allowed students to have a close-up view of the designs and the ability to critique with pinpoint accuracy in ways that would have been more cumbersome in person.

My week with the Department of Art was equally intense. I toured the facilities at the Lee complex and in Freeman Hall, and got to understand exactly the challenges faculty and students of Art face, given the restrictions of access. I also finally had my first visit to the Lee Gallery. Denise Woodward-Detrich showed me around the current exhibition, recent MFA graduate Jordan Fowler’s “New Ruins.” Since access is limited to Clemson University students and staff at this point, I am attaching a link to Jordan’s short video about his work.

Art is meant to be experienced. When there is no audience, it is like starving art of oxygen. There is also no way around the three-dimensional physicality of art in its various formats. So art is in crisis right now, and we cannot get through this moment soon enough.

I again was able to visit three classes, a contemporary art history class taught by Andrea Feeser, a digital art class taught by David Donar, and a studio taught by Valerie Zimany. Again, what I saw was exceptionally effective ways of teaching in the online format. These were rich and meaningful learning experiences, no question about it.

There is really nothing more to say, except: “Go Tigers!”

Nicholas Vazsonyi, Dean
College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities