HISTORY OF TASA - As of 2016
By Linda Fawcett
The Texas Association of Schools of Art was originally formed to resolve transfer curriculum issues between two and four year institutions of higher education in Texas. In the 1960s, transfer of courses between colleges and universities in Texas was an arbitrary affair. The problem was not only in art, but also across all disciplines. In 1967, the 59th Texas Legislature created The Coordinating Board, Texas College and University system (changed to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in 1987) that was directed to see that semester hour courses offered in public junior/community colleges were transferable to public colleges and universities. Since the state subsidized every class students took in public institutions, it tired of funding some coursework twice.
There were state associations for music and theatre but not for art. In the spring of 1968, the Dean of Fine Arts at the University of Texas, Dr. E.W. Doty, at the request of the Coordinating Board, invited music, theatre, and art department chairs from schools throughout Texas to meet in Austin. At the art meeting, the idea of TASA was born. Dr. Peter Guenther, an art historian from the University of Houston, became the first president. By May, after many intense discussions, a constitution and bylaws were written with emphasis on equal representation by both two and four year institutions.
One of the first TASA committees was the Academic Standards Committee, which spent 1968 – 1970 hammering out a freshman art core. A sophomore art core was next on the agenda and in the spring of 1972, the committee finally approved one, subsequently adopted by TASA. Later that year, the TASA president at the time, Dr. Clarence Kincaid of Texas Tech University, took the entire core before the Coordinating Board in Austin, who approved it.
In 1979, Dr. Forrest Ward of the Coordinating Board selected a fifteen-member committee to review the original Core Curriculum in Art. Bob O’Neill of Lamar University and Denny Fraze of Amarillo College served as President and Vice-President of the committee, and other TASA members were included, equally from both 2- and 4-year schools. After nine meetings and two public hearings, the Coordinating Board renamed and re-adopted the Transfer Curriculum in the Visual Arts in January 1982. In 1990, the TASA Academic Affairs Committee reviewed the transfer curriculum again, with minor revisions, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB, as it is now called), again approved it.
In the 1990s, the THECB initiated the Common Course Numbering System (CCNS) to facilitate course transfer. It assigned a standardized course number to every approved course in its Community College General Academic Course Guide Manual (ACGM), a list of courses for which state funding is provided. TASA helped spread the word and recommended the CCNS to art programs throughout the state, public and private. By 1998-99, the THECB went further and mandated that the CCNS be used in all public institution course catalogs, at least by cross-reference.
In the late 1990s, TASA was again reviewing the Transfer Curriculum, led by Academic Affairs committee chair, Jim Wogstad of San Antonio College. In the spring of 1998, he sent a questionnaire to all art departments in Texas to determine how the core curriculum was currently being used. After careful review of the survey response matrix, school catalogs, and transfer materials from the THECB web site, the Transfer Curriculum was found to be relevant and consistently transferable at the freshman level. Another more specific questionnaire was sent to find out why some schools gave varying values to the transfer of third and fourth semester core courses. In April 2002, the membership passed recommendations from the Academic committee to streamline the transfer curriculum offerings in the area of graphic design, digital arts and printmaking to avoid repetitive course descriptions.
Since 2005 the Transfer Curriculum has again been closely looked at by TASA’s Academic Committee with two comprehensive Texas-wide catalog surveys of freshman/sophomore courses by Committee Chair, Cathie Tyler, and conference panels held at recent TASA conferences (2006 & 2007), since the transfer of sophomore courses still seems to be problematic between some schools. This is primarily because of the advanced hour graduation requirement typical of baccalaureate programs that cause some sophomore level art courses to be taught at the junior level. That particular problem has not yet been fully resolved. However, in the spring 2007, the membership did vote to recommend to the THECB that Common Course numbers be directly included in all freshman/ sophomore course descriptions regardless of a school’s internal number (instead of just cross-referencing from elsewhere in the catalog). This is currently practiced by two-year schools but not required of four-year schools.
Other TASA projects are closely related to or spawned by the Transfer Curriculum for the Visual Arts. One seemed almost inevitable, and that was a tedious, five-year project culminating in 1999 with a rather hefty document entitled: the TASA Suggested Student Outcomes for Core Courses. In the current climate of budget cuts and academic streamlining it had become glaringly apparent that the arts needed to verbalize the “left-brain” language of categorical goal-setting and assessment. The project began with asking various art faculty throughout the state, according to their expertise, to write a rough draft about approved core courses, consisting of course focus, goals, and performance objectives (student outcomes). Outcomes could be listed and identified as psychomotor (or skill-oriented), cognitive (such as critical thinking or specialized vocabulary), and affective (behavioral habits). The rough drafts were compiled and then distributed amongst TASA institutional member chairpersons, with the idea of circulating them as comprehensively as possible through their departments. Changes, additions and deletions were made, with a final draft sent back to all TASA institutional members. This document was presented to the membership as a guide for art departments developing course syllabi, seeking reaccredidation, and, of course, to clarify the transfer of core courses.
A by product of the Transfer Curriculum has been the TASA Professional Standards brochure and TASA’s position packet on the MFA as the terminal degree in studio art. Both originally came about during the many meetings between diverse art faculties while working on the transfer curriculum. Both intended to set standards and be a catalyst for dialogue between faculty and administration when policies were planned and/or administered. Both had enough successes to justify a later revision and reprinting of the brochure, made available to TASA members in 2000. The TASA Professional Standards brochure addressed such faculty issues as course loads, contact hours, tenure, promotion, terminal degrees for art areas, and academic freedom and censorship. It was meant to augment similar guidelines published by CAA and NASAD.
Another recommendation that TASA will make to the THECB as passed by membership, spring 2007, is to grant BFA degrees as routine exceptions to the new state regulation limited baccalaureate degrees to 120 total credit hours, to take effect in 2008. Justification given included NASAD BFA standards and to reflect similarity to most BFA programs throughout the United States (as discovered by a Board survey the fall of 2006).
A recent THECB issue that TASA has engaged in revolved around THECB changes to its transfer core for two-year colleges (2013-14) in response to what they said were SACS accreditation requirements. This resulted in the deletion of studio art courses, and forcing individual colleges to submit new proposals according to exceedingly strict guidelines for each studio course they would like to have reinstated. TASA was able to use its network to communicate advice on how to submit proposals based on successful ones by TASA member schools. However, approval still seemed idiosyncratic, so TASA President Carol Fairlie and Board member, Richard Lubben, met with THECB representatives (Assistant Commissioner Dr. Rex Peebles and Staff) in Austin in February, 2015. TASA argued that cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creative thinking, innovation, communication…etc. are present in studio courses and used throughout the creative processes. This was really not disputed; however, Dr. Peebles was adamant that it was the responsibility of the submitting institution to prove these assertions to the THECB in their application and syllabi. In the end THECB said they would consider individual studio courses based on the details in the applications and supporting syllabi from each institution. TASA continues to communicate with the THECB and also to network member schools seeking advice on making application with their art courses.
The most effective instruments for TASA networking, recruiting and overall promotion of the arts and teaching of art have been its annual spring conference, in place since 1969. The conferences have taken place in different Texas cities, hosted by a school or schools in each city. Conference agendas have become incredibly more diverse than those lengthy business meetings of TASA’s beginnings, including:
1) nationally known artists, historians, curators, educators, or critics as keynote speakers,
2) an endowed lecture from someone in the TASA membership, selected by juried submission,
3) (often) regionally pertinent presentations and workshops in studio and art history provided by various TASA members and invited guests,
4) presentations important to art pedagogical theories, practices, and changes,
5) receptions at local museums, galleries and important private collections,
6) as needed, “town meeting” forums to discuss faculty issues,
7) day-long field trips to interesting art-related places, optional and usually the day before the conference officially begins,
8) the annual all-member business meeting, and
9) the annual awards banquet.
10) initiation of student membership in the organization (1992).
In addition, in 1986, TASA began printing and mailing a newsletter (named the TASA ENVISION in 1995) to members two to three times a year until 2005 when it went online. The newsletter was at first the responsibility of the Executive Director, then President-Elect until 1996 when one of the at-large Board of Director positions was so designated. That position was promoted to TASA Officer by membership vote in 2005.
TASA continues to evolve today with its website, www.tasart.org, born in 2000 by Board Member Sandra Baker of Brazosport College as the first webmaster, then went to Nancy Wood of San Antonio College in 2002, succeeded in 2005 by Victoria Taylor-Gore of Amarillo College. In 2007, the Board position of Website Editor was officially voted to be the level of a TASA Officer. In 2005, Taylor-Gore gave the website a new design and organization, adding new pages to enhance the dissemination of member announcements and news and other information such as Texas university/college gallery information and job postings. In 2011, TASA established a Facebook page (Texas Association of Schools of Art), to be maintained by a Board subcommittee. In 2016, Taylor-Gore retired from her position as TASA Webmaster, replaced by colleague Rene West of Amarillo College. West subsequently gave the TASA website another new look and organization.
This is an ongoing dynamic history review. It is self-evident that TASA has not wavered from its original purpose, yet at the same time continues to evolve to reflect the inevitable changes that higher art education has gone through during the last 40 years.
Please send articles and digital photos (jpeg. or gif. files) about TASA or any additional information you may have on the history of the TASA organization to:
Carol Fairlie, TASA President, at firstname.lastname@example.org