The College of Fine Arts

"College of Fine Arts Emerges"

The University of Texas, College of Fine Arts. “College of Fine Arts Emerges,” 1942. Box 2.325/W47, E. William Doty Papers 1923-1974. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Mission and Vision

Fine arts at the University of Texas emerged later than most fields with the College of Fine Arts founding in 1937. As seen in the “College of Fine Arts Emerges” page from a report on the University of Texas College of Fine Arts, the program records its first four years to have had surprising growth. They outline the objectives of the college: “(1) to offer instruction in the fine arts accompanied by or based upon a broad and thorough general education; (2) to develop talent to the highest degree of artistic capability; (3) to train teachers of the arts; and (4) to offer an opportunity for University students to develop discriminating standards of taste through courses in the arts, through art exhibitions, concerts, and plays and through association with artists of high rank in several fields.” These objectives reveal very little to no mention of the development of cultural diversity, or culture alone, for that matter, and read very traditionally and single-disciplinary. Indicated by objectives, the focus of the College of Fine Arts instruction is centered around more of a technical and taste standard, reflecting similar sentiments of the time regarding supremacy with colleges and programs striving to be the best in Texas, the country, the world, etc. When juxtaposed with the current (2022) “Mission and Vision” of the College of Fine Arts, much evolution is evident. Writing that the program now “prepares students for the creation, practice, study, criticism, and teaching of the arts, in a context that emphasizes cultural diversity, community engagement, and technical innovation,” the focus has largely shifted to a much broader view of art education.

Grievances Committee Report on the Art Building

The University of Texas, College of Fine Arts. Grievance Committee Report on the Art Building. Box 2.325/W47, E. William Doty Papers 1923-1974. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

However, despite surprising growth and defined objectives, various records reveal much disdain from within the college as faculty and students often expressed grievances regarding the program, specifically the facilities and resources. In this Grievance Committee Report on the Art Building, it becomes evident that despite the allure of a new program, under the surface, conditions were much less than ideal, and certainly not adequate for an arts education which often requires more from its facilities. Complaints such as the inability to regulate climate and inadequate lighting may seem superfluous, however, the setting of an art classroom can often have a great impact on a student’s learning. Additionally, grievance number 4 which states “no specialized labs exist for such courses as ceramics, sculpture, art history, painting, or art education” is especially shocking as they cover some core principles of the fine arts curriculum.

Newspaper Clipping, "Fine Arts College Endures Many Things"

The University of Texas, College of Fine Arts. Newspaper Clipping, “Fine Arts College Endures Many Things.” Box 2.325/W47, E. William Doty Papers 1923-1974. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Grievances of the art building became so known as to become the part of campus most “frequently rife with imaginative rumor” as students and faculty only continued to require proper facilities. In sarcastic humor, the author of a Daily Texan article wrote of the rumor of a brand new art building, exclaiming “there would be windows that could both be opened and shut. All the sinks would be assured of drainage. Hot water would be found in all restrooms. Cross ventilation would be a certainty. And every room would have both lighting and heating facilities.” These are all features typically afforded to any building, yet are only more heavily demanded by an art building. The author writes that the “finest art department in the Southwest would now be able to savor the luxuries hitherto afforded the groundskeepers.” This piece by Harris Green of the Daily Texan, a publication largely dedicated to the experiences of the University of Texas student body, is indicative of the dire condition of the art department and reflects a greater societal attitude towards the fine arts of the time.