FEBRUARY 2, 2022 — The University of Texas at San Antonio and the Southwest School of Art (SSA) are progressing with plans to combine programs into an expanded new school in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts at UTSA—while maintaining community programming—to advance the arts and arts education in San Antonio and the region.
Enrollment in the new school is anticipated for fall 2022.
The new school will maintain SSA’s historic and cherished downtown San Antonio campus, further establishing the university’s presence in the heart of the city. SSA’s named spaces will remain, including galleries, studios and buildings such as the Coates Chapel.
Likewise, SSA’s Club Giraud—one of San Antonio’s most historic private dining clubs—will continue to operate as it does presently with its intended mission to philanthropically support arts education at the SSA campus and preserve the cultural landmark buildings it occupies.
“As a catalyst of growth, UTSA is uniquely positioned to expand opportunities for both students and community members interested in advancing arts education,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy. “We’re grateful for the collaboration between both institutions to continue creating new opportunities to explore and grow meaningful programs that will help anchor the Arts District and establish San Antonio as the cultural heart of Texas.”
The new partnership with SSA was initially announced in August 2021. In November, the SSA Board of Trustees and the University of Texas System Board of Regents approved a definitive agreement to proceed with fully integrating SSA’s arts programs, assets and resources into a new UTSA school. The definitive agreement was formally executed in December. Since then, shared governance planning has solidified a path forward for the new school and corresponding programs to create synergies between UTSA and the San Antonio community.
“My enthusiasm for this merger stems from the extraordinary opportunities it represents for students and the community, as well as because we are embarking on a quest to develop one of the best arts schools in the nation,” stated Paula Owen, president of SSA, who will retire in June after 26 years leading SSA.
New opportunities embedded in the partnership include bringing together expertise in creative and expressive arts, digital methods, media, communications and creative writing; preserving existing community partnerships; expanding UTSA’s engagement in downtown San Antonio; and elevating visibility to increase external support for the arts.
“As we collectively plan the path ahead, we’re eager to engage with existing programs as well as expand upon new capabilities and offerings for both our Roadrunner and San Antonio communities,” said UTSA Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Kimberly Andrews Espy. “Both UTSA and SSA have a shared commitment to expanding arts education in our city, and we look forward to building on that commitment.”
For UTSA, this partnership advances the university’s progress towards its three strategic destinations by strengthening its presence as an urban-serving university focused on student success.
For the community, this partnership with UTSA means even more. SSA’s programming for adults and youth will continue—with plans to expand—to serve and positively impact even more community members. Community programming will include artists’ programs that creates a pipeline for college-going students, distinctive exhibitions, broad-based adult continuing education programs, community engagement activities based in creative spaces, and meaningful events such as the upcoming Fiesta Art Fair. Through coming together, the UTSA and SSA partnership will create additional programming opportunities as well as further utilize main campus facilities to create new ways to serve the community.
“SSA is deeply connected to San Antonio’s art community. I remain excited about what the future holds for this partnership. It is great to see the progress towards integration,” said Randy Cain, chair of the SSA Board.
UTSA intends to use this momentum to create new, and deepen existing, relationships with the surrounding creative communities. The university anticipates building and expanding upon SSA’s partnerships with the San Antonio Library to collaborate on special collections, and strengthen relationships with local school districts—like neighboring San Antonio ISD—to enable more early college/high school partnerships for area students interested in the arts.
As the transformation process continues, the two institutions will continue to work closely together to smoothly transition operations to UTSA and the UT System, particularly around new student recruitment and current student transfer, staff hiring and faculty appointment.
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