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Ceramics Cut from Arts Department
daryl cooley 10 staff writer
May 20, 2009

Ceramics will not be part of the Deerfield Arts Department curriculum next year. The current economy and scheduling issues are the two main factors to blame in the cutting of the ceramics classes.

Ceramics has been an important part of the Deerfield Art Department for many years. “Ceramics,” Fine Arts teacher Robert Woo explained, “is the only hands-on, 3-D plastic art at Deerfield. It teaches visual spacial relationships.”

Fine arts teacher Tim Trelease noted that Deerfield will be the only school in the circle of competing private schools without a 3-D art class.

Lucy Phillips ’10 took one term of ceramics with Mr. Woo. Phillips feels that the loss of the “only sculptural art form” is one that will take away important diversity from the art program. “For someone who isn’t as good at painting and drawing,” explained Phillips, “it’s nice to have an art at Deerfield that I can excel at.”

In eliminating ceramics, Deerfield “will have the smallest art department, staff-wise and by number of classes offered, of any of our competing schools,” Mr. Trelease explained.

Without the two ceramics sections, there will be only 11 visual arts sections offered next year. Of these, only four are classes for beginner or intermediate artists.

Still, Deerfield requires that each student graduate with two credits in the arts. With limited introductory classes and over-enrollment next year, it could be harder for new students to fill their visual art requirements.

“Some classes are going to be bigger than normal,” explained Associate Academic Dean and Registrar Lydia Hemphill. “But there will be more music classes offered next year, and I know that Ms. Whitcomb and Mr. Reese are always looking for more dancers and actors.”

Sarah Oh ’10 explained her belief that “there already isn’t a lot of focus on the art department, so I think we should offer as many opportunities as possible.”

Chief Financial Officer Joseph Manory explained that the decision to cut the ceramics department “came up on the academic side for programmatic reasons, rather than on the business side—though there is some small savings.”

According to Mr. Manory and Head of School Margarita Curtis, the reasons behind cutting ceramics stemmed from issues both programmatic and “financial; the school needed to identify some savings,” as Ms. Curtis explained.

With the current economy, budgets need to be tightened. “All departments have had budgets reduced a little,” said Mr. Manory. “The cuts are designed to impact adults not the kids, so from a student’s point of view you should not have a different overall experience.”

However, Mr. Trelease argued, “The art department already has a disproportionate faculty for the amount of student interest. Taking two of our 13 sections away is very different from taking two sections from English or science.”

And this isn’t the first time the art department has had to make cuts. A few years ago, dark room photography was in a similar situation to that of the ceramics department. Then, as well, a tight budget targeted the course with the lowest student demand, and highest cost.

“I was going to take ceramics next year and now I can’t,” said Haley Patoski ’10. Patoski has concerns not only for next year but for the future as well. “If it’s ceramics now, what’s next?”

Although numbers like the eight students enrollment in the winter term might make it seem as though the interest in ceramics declined, students, faculty and staff are all sad to see ceramics go. There are still many students, especially upperclassmen, who were never able to take the class due to scheduling or already full enrollment at the time.

As Ms. Curtis said, “The quality of our ceramics program has been excellent and it is unfortunate that we have to make some difficult choices in these challenging times.”