‘Wonderful, Bigger, and Better’ – Southwest School of Art joins UTSA

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The venerable Southwest School of Art and the University of Texas at San Antonio will combine their arts programs to create a new school within UTSA due to open in the fall of 2022.

Officials from the two institutions announced Monday that they had signed a letter of intent to carry out the merger. Their governing bodies will review the proposal in November.

The new school will be part of UTSA’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Over the next year, officials will develop a curriculum drawing on faculty and resources from both schools, adding new courses in communication, digital and visual arts.

The merger will preserve the Southwest School of Art’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program, expand its free studio classes and other community programs, and preserve its historic buildings, galleries and studios, officials from the two schools said in their announcement.

The merger will also add momentum to the expansion of the UTSA downtown campus, an effort that has spawned entire square blocks of new buildings.

The combined school will be located on the historic Southwest School of Art campus near the River Walk. UTSA pledged to keep the school’s “name and branding” in the combined program.

“The opportunity to start a new school enables us to provide a great foundation for our students and the community to make a greater impact,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy in an interview. “This institution will be bigger than the sum of its parts and will be of great use to our students. We are so excited about the future. “

The integration will allow UTSA to expand its visual arts program with the aim of attracting a wider range of students, said university director Kimberly Andrews Espy.

Officials hope the school’s downtown location will attract students and inspire graduates to open businesses and add to the city’s arts scene.

“It has been over a year since we started talking about possible partnerships in the future, and the more we talked, the more we realized that our two institutions together could do something wonderful, bigger and better than that what we have now, ”said Paula Owen, president of the Southwest School of Art.

Owen said her school and UTSA have “robust” arts programs, but the merger “will allow us to incorporate more interdisciplinary programming and technological development into the arts.

“The potential for this is difficult to describe because there are so many hopes, dreams and unlimited possibilities for our future,” she added.

Founded in 1965, the Southwest School of Art offers studio programs that cater to more than 4,000 adults, children, and adolescents each year. It also hosts art exhibitions, offers educational programs, and operates a small history museum.

The school has offered a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree since 2014, making it the only independent art school in Texas. So far, 36 students have graduated with BFA degrees. The school currently has 31 graduate students and eight members of the arts faculty.

The school has studios and equipment for printmaking, painting and ceramics as well as jewelry making, weaving, paper making, book art and darkroom photography. Its facilities also allow artists to apply advanced techniques such as welding, 3D printing, and digital design.

“What (the art school) was able to accomplish in its existence is amazing. Their reputation, the quality of their people and their studios are world class, ”said Eighmy. “We want to make sure that we honor the past and shape the future.”

The new school will keep the name of the Southwest School of Art, but students will graduate with degrees from UTSA.

The two institutions have built a close relationship over the years. Many of the School of Art’s students have masters degrees in fine arts from UTSA, and several teachers at the school are UTSA graduates. Members of the UTSA faculty presented their work at the School of Art.

Current students in the School of Art will officially have to transfer to UTSA, but the university will waive transfer fees, Espy said. The schools are working to ensure a smooth transition for nearly 300 faculty members from the two institutions.

The School of Art is located in the former Ursuline Convent & Academy, which was founded in 1851 as San Antonio’s first girls’ school. The Augusta and Navarro site, across from the Central Library, is a Texas Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

With the announcement of the proposed merger, UTSA promised to continue the art school’s free public courses, events, lectures, exhibitions and other programs.

The university also promised to preserve the school’s building, grounds and studios, as well as the designated rooms and galleries, including Club Giraud, a members-only restaurant that houses the former kitchen, wagon sheds and laundry of the Ursuline Academy.

The two institutions announced that they would form an advisory board “to promote and support the new school”. Members of the Southwest School of Art Board of Trustees will be invited to participate, the joint announcement said.

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