Friday, December 8, 2023

UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts shares update on new arts school

UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts shares update on new arts school

MAY 27, 2022 — The UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) today shared an update on its Tactical Visioning exercise relative to the ongoing merger of the Southwest School of Art (SSA) with UTSA.

With the merger set to come to completion over the summer, COLFA is introducing a “UTSA Arts” initiative – an overarching institutional re-commitment to arts education and enterprise for San Antonio and the South Texas region.

This initiative will culminate with the creation of UTSA ARTS, an institute for the community-engaged arts, a new school of music, and a new school of arts that will combine resources from both UTSA and SSA.

“As South Texas’ newest R1 HSI, it is incumbent on UTSA to remain a significant enabler of creative expression in the region throughout the lifespan,” said COLFA Dean Glenn Martínez. “The UTSA Arts initiative will bolster the existing connections between UTSA and the artistic community of San Antonio while also building and sustaining new connections.”

“The new school of art will bring together the best of both programs to offer arts education that will become the new standard in our region and potentially nationally.”

Starting in the fall of 2021, COLFA initiated a Tactical Visioning exercise to help the college identify its greatest strengths and opportunities, lay the groundwork for future strategic planning, and coalesce a shared identity amongst its nine academic departments. As part of this visioning process, the UTSA-SSA merger plays a fundamental role in the evolution of COLFA as the college seeks to amplify its already robust arts program.

This includes the development and approval of a new BFA curriculum that incorporates key elements from both the previous UTSA and SSA BFA programs, including a focus on interdisciplinarity and career-engaged artistic formation.

“The new school of art will bring together the best of both programs to offer arts education that will become the new standard in our region and potentially nationally,” said Greg Elliott, chair of the UTSA Department of Art and Art History.

Incoming Interim Department Chair Libby Rowe echoed his statement and added, “Our updated BFA curriculum combines the contemporary studio art practices that UTSA has become known for in the art community with a continued focus on marketable skills as well as career and community engagement that SSA provides to graduating students.”

UTSA will soon launch a national search for a Founding Director for the newly merged school, as well as an Associate Dean for Community Engagement and the Arts who will lead the UTSA Arts initiative.

More immediately, the university and college will begin a process to select a name for the new school of arts. “Through a community-engaged process, we aim to establish a name that will honor the vision of the Southwest School of Art while also projecting toward the future of arts education in San Antonio and beyond,” said Martínez. “The name we choose today will be synonymous with excellence in arts education for generations to come.”

An SSA-UTSA Community Advisory Committee composed of external community members will provide input for the formulation of a new name, assess the significance of the "Southwest" name and brand, and identify the best way to honor that meaning moving forward.

The result of the external community advisory committee’s work will then be shared with the internal members of the advisory committee consisting of faculty and staff from SSA and from UTSA’s Department of Art and Art History. The internal members of the advisory committee will weigh options related to the academic content of the name (e.g., creative/visual/fine art, art history, new media, creative/content production, etc.) and suggest potential naming options. 

Finally, the multiple options suggested by the two facets of the advisory committee will be integrated and presented to a broader constituency of internal and external stakeholders for further feedback. After receiving this advisory information, and following consultation with others as needed, President Eighmy will finalize the name of the new school in accordance with UT System policy.

The new name is expected to be revealed by the start of the 2022-2023 school year in August.

“We are excited to begin this process, with both San Antonio and UTSA partners, to select a name that honors the vision of the Southwest School of Art and projects the future impact of the school in unleashing the creative impulse of our community for generations to come,” said Martinez.

Kimberly Andrews Espy, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, shared her vision of the UTSA-SSA merger and how it reflects the progressive growth of UTSA.

“When we began this journey last year of combining our programs, we knew this collaboration had tremendous potential benefit to SSA and UTSA students, staff, faculty and the San Antonio community,” said Espy. “As we have continued the work over this academic year, our resolution and excitement has only grown as more stakeholders embrace our shared vision to become recognized as one of the best schools focused on arts writ large with a deep local impact and broad global reach.”


Work on combining the UTSA and SSA BFA programs and launching a new school has involved numerous committees and countless faculty and staff members from across both UTSA and SSA in what Martinez calls a “truly collaborative effort that is safeguarding the legacy of SSA” while seeking new opportunities for fine arts expansion.

“I want to recognize the diligent work of faculty and staff in the Department of Art and Art History, SSA, and from across UTSA that has been happening behind the scenes which has yielded meaningful results,” said Martinez. “Some areas of notable success include the seamless transfer of nearly 30 SSA students to UTSA, the appointment of six SSA faculty at UTSA and the ongoing hiring of SSA staff members. We acknowledge there are many items ahead that require our effort to bring the merger to completion, but progress thus far has been incredible.”

Nick Ward

UTSA Today is produced by University Strategic Communications,
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of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

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