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The recent closure of the UCSD Crafts Center has been detrimental to students, instructors, and the San Diego community. At the Crafts Center, individuals explore, experiment, research, discover, and engineer to create and innovate. This is how art is made, and it deserves a place among the highest in education.
The Crafts Center has been a landmark on the UCSD campus since 1972. Beginning as a commuter lounge, the Crafts Center blossomed into a multidisciplinary facility, which included ceramics, jewelry, metal work, screen printing, glassblowing, flameworking, photography, graphics, music and poetry, stained glass, sculpture, weaving, neon, and even beer brewing. Ceramicist Ron Carlson, Director of the Crafts Center from 1976 to 2011, was instrumental in guiding its expansion. The Crafts Center has offered full courses, single day workshops, and available studio time, while maintaining a full-time Grove Gallery and week-long crafts exhibitions several times each year.
The Crafts Center is one of the most conscientious institutions on campus. They provide three separate prices, for students, staff, and the community, to accommodate various needs. The Factory, an enterprise which offers screen printing services from the Crafts Center, was consciously designed to help offset some of the costs of the Crafts Center and has grown to provide many services to the campus community.
The Crafts Center is unlike any other facility in San Diego. Over the past 40 years it has been a welcoming space for students to work on their own projects, obtain expert instruction, learn life-long skills, turn their craft into an occupation, and so much more. Arts education, of course, has recognized benefits, and is supported by many prominent organizations, such as Americans for the Arts, Association for the Advancement of Arts Education, and the Arts Education Partnership. A world-class university such as UCSD deserves a wide-ranging art program that rivals the research and science that happens on campus.
UCSD is an extremely competitive academic environment, with a strong focus on science and engineering. In a society in which suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24 (CDC 2012), opportunities for stress relief are of prime importance. The Crafts Center is one of the few places on the campus that provides a creative outlet and source of stress relief for students, faculty, and employees. Individuals who participate in the Crafts Center’s not for credit activities do so solely because they love what they do, not because they are necessary for course requirements.
Many of the Crafts Center’s students and instructors have received accolades for their work. Student Dot Kimura was featured in a San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles Magazine article for her ceramics and jewelry. Jewelry instructor Tara Magboo regularly shows her jewelry and art at Comic-Con, among many other venues throughout San Diego and elsewhere, and is scheduled to have an exhibit at the museum at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park in 2014. Jay Whaley began his own jewelry school, Whaley Studios. Yuseff Cherney started Ballast Point, a brewing company in San Diego. Clay Logan, a glass instructor at the Crafts Center, worked for Lino Tagilpietra, one of the most famous artists in glassblowing today (Stephens 2009). The late Ed Thompson, a ceramics instructor, was renowned for his exceptional work throughout the craft community, even being featured in major private collections. A retrospective of Thompson’s work was held at the Grove Gallery in 2011 upon his passing (Gonzalez 2011). Ceramics students Ahmet Ustunel and Helen Kagan created the “Art U Can Touch” month-long exhibition at the Grove Gallery, aimed at providing the visually challenged community an opportunity to experience art in a way not typically allowed in museums (Winger 2011). There are many other instructors and students who have made real achievements in their areas of craft and while it would be too many to mention, the impact that the Crafts Center has had on their lives and careers is immeasurable.
The recent notification to the UCSD community of the closing of the Crafts Center has been devastating. Not only is the actual closure absolutely heartbreaking, but the handling of the closure announcement was so sudden that everyone was caught unprepared. Instructors were not given any notice whatsoever, nor were they even directly informed that their positions had been terminated. Many instructors only learned of the closure when their UCSD students notified them of the campus-wide email, to which most Crafts Center instructors are not privy. Furthermore, the Crafts Center website was summarily taken down, despite the fact that catalogues for the Fall quarter had already been mailed and many students were even registered for Fall classes.
When lampworking instructor Joyce Rooks was named the Crafts Center Interim Director upon the retirement of her esteemed mentor Ron Carlson, she worked diligently to increase student enrollment. There were plans for a variety of fundraising efforts this Fall quarter, but this cannot be executed if the Center is closed.
The Crafts Center has worked incredibly hard to serve the UCSD community and all of San Diego. We, the undersigned, as students, instructors, potential students, and the San Diego community, strongly urge the UCSD administration, and specifically Chancellor Pradeep Khosla, Vice Chancellor – Student Life Penny Rue, and Assistant Vice Chancellor – Student Life Gary Ratcliff, to do the same for it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2012. “Suicide Prevention.” Injury Center: Violence Prevention Aug. 15.
Gonzalez, Bianca. 2011. “Local ‘world-class’ potter was sought for his expertise.” The San Diego Union-Tribune Jan. 24.
Stephens, AnnaMaria. 2009. “Go with the blow: Talking dirty with UCSD’s masters of glass.” San Diego City Beat May 12.
Winger, Kevin. 2011. “Art You Can Touch at UCSD Grove Gallery.” The San Diego Union-Tribune Oct. 25.