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Art classes and exhibitions face limited space, resources


Despite the relocation of Stanford’s art and art history department to the McMurtry Building in 2015, access to popular art courses and exhibition spaces remains limited for students. In response, the department plans to increase course offerings, but must continue to prioritize exhibition spaces for students within the department.

Limited space within art courses

In-demand art courses, such as ARTSTUDI 160: Intro to Digital/Physical Design and ARTSTUDI 170: Introduction to Photography, attract more students than space allows, meaning that some students struggle to enroll in required classes. In response, the department uses a waitlist system, in which professors review student applications for over-enrolled courses. Overflow students are placed on the waitlist and gain priority for enrollment the next time the course is offered.

Many courses are capped at 15 students, but the most popular attract more than 30 students.

Instructors prioritize students within the art practice program for the few spaces available in courses. Art practice majors and minors get top priority, followed by graduate art practice students and lastly all other undergraduates and graduates.

Art students are not the only ones seeking classes to fulfill major requirements, however. Students within the human-computer interaction (HCI) and graphics tracks of the computer science major or in product design may fulfill elective requirements with art classes.

But according to Elis Imboden, department manager for art and art history, instructors are not expected to grant priority to students enrolling in art courses to fulfill elective requirements.

For co-terminal computer science student Lucas Throckmorton ʼ16, art practice courses were the only option that fit his schedule and degree requirements. As a non-art practice graduate student, he had low priority and could not enroll. Throckmorton brought his concern to the department’s administration.

“The art department said they could not let me in the course,” Throckmorton said. “[Administrators] said [it was] on the CS department for not having coordinated to make exceptions.”

As a consequence, Throckmorton has had to restructure his degree program.

The push for more course offerings

Relocation to the McMurtry Building and increased funding have prompted the department to offer more art courses. The building has painting storage, allowing the department to offer as many courses as there are time slots and instructors available in a day – the department has also already tripled the number of painting classes on offer. Imboden anticipates that course offerings will increase by 37 percent within the next two years.

The department has also begun hiring more instructors for popular course offerings, increasing the number of sections for ARTSTUDI 170: Introduction to Photography. Imboden noted the introduction of the Creative Expression WAYS general education requirement as a contributor to more offerings.

Historically, classes have also been stymied by space problems: The Cummings Art Building, previously home to the department, had no available storage. According to Imboden, students left paintings on easels in classrooms, rendering those rooms unusable for other classes.

The department has correspondingly expanded to offer plein air painting and drawing, cellphone photography and filmmaking classes, all of which require either no space within the building or no storage of technology.

“Space has always been a problem and will remain a problem,” said Imboden.

Department exhibition spaces: high demand, low supply

Exhibition spaces, available in the McMurtry building and Stanford Art Gallery, uses a system that prioritizes art graduate students, art practice majors and minors and lastly all other students. Since undergraduates have lower priority, students within the department may not receive their ideal locations. Students outside the department cannot usually acquire space except for an open studio period at the end of some art courses.

Even amongst students within the program, acquiring a preferred space is not always certain.

“The honors program guarantees you first pick for exhibition spaces among the undergrads,” said Maia Paroginog ՚16. “I had to wait a while [to receive a space] because there are so many exhibitions going up that the turnover in the department is really short. By a stroke of luck, it worked out that I got the space.”

As exhibitions manager Gabriel Harrison points out, spaces are in a perpetual cycle of installation, de-installation and preparation. Seemingly unclaimed spaces are actually undergoing preparation for the next student. Limited spaces, therefore, continue to be the main deterrent to student exhibitions.

Imboden stressed that the department has to prioritize its own students. Resources are insufficient to support all student artists, with the exception of a few opportunities: At the end of each quarter, for instance, the department opens art practice classrooms in an open studio period showcasing art from any student enrolled in art courses.

Any currently enrolled undergraduate may also submit artworks for the Annual Undergraduate Juried Art Exhibition, which is held in the Stanford Art Gallery. The department has emphasized the value of having work displayed in such a lucrative location, especially for students outside of art practice.

“We do recognize that exhibition spaces are attractive and a scarce resource,” Harrison said. “We don’t want students to feel shut out.”


Contact Miguel Samano at [email protected]

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the order of priority for art classes. Art practice majors and minors are prioritized after waitlisted students, not art practice graduate students. Exhibition spaces prioritize art practice graduate students after waitlisted students, not art practice majors and minors. The Daily regrets these errors.

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Miguel Samano is an opinions editor majoring in Comparative Literature and Chicanx-Latinx Studies. He loves sleeping, drinking night coffee, seeking out new books to read, and eating tacos with friends.