Date of Award
Culminating Project Type
History: Public History: M.A.
College of Liberal Arts
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Existing histories of St. Cloud State University pay little attention to art and its place at the school. Given that the university is currently home to an accredited art program, and a rather large collection of art, recognition of the contribution art has made to the school is overdue.
Delving into records, one finds that art played a role in the curriculum and mission of the institution from its very beginning as a normal school. Though not always strong or valued, it grew with the school nonetheless. Examining this role as it relates to developments with art regionally and nationally reveals that the school’s experience often paralleled these broader trends.
Early on, at St. Cloud and elsewhere, art was often associated with the elite. If it made it into the schools, it was largely seen as a supplementary tool to teaching and most useful only in conjunction with other subjects. The school eventually acknowledged the value of art appreciation and worked to instill this in its students through a collection of reproductions and a lively discourse on art. Art advocates elsewhere worked heartily to dispel the elitist association and develop an appreciation of art apart from its practical value among the public and within the government.
As the school grew to serve more than future teachers, art slowly asserted a more independent place on campus. Similarly, arts organizations geared toward the general public began to appear in Minnesota and the federal government established support with the New Deal. This pace exploded during the 1960s, as the school experienced overwhelming change and growth. The art program expanded spectacularly, bringing in faculty who earnestly worked toward building a collection of original artworks. The art department’s focus also began to turn from art teachers to artists. Inadequate facilities and equipment plagued the program as consequences of such growth. Nationally, after struggling for decades to pass arts legislation, the National Endowment for the Arts was created in this period, allowing arts support to grow as never before. This also brought consequences, as economic and cultural challenges forced advocates to prove the worth of art and the agency. As growth slowed at St. Cloud, art on campus faced similar challenges and the program adjusted to meet the diversifying needs of its students.
Today, though art is accepted at the University, the struggle to maintain an adequate level of support remains.
Lewis, Krista L., "Art Acknowledged and Disregarded: Art and Its National Context at St. Cloud State University" (2012). Culminating Projects in History. 1.