State of the arts deemed unsatisfactory

Kevin McKeefery

You have a better chance of winning the lottery than taking a visual arts course at Villanova University before your senior year. In a University of well over 6,000 students, there are only seven introductory visual arts courses offered each semester, totaling 128 spaces.

In the midst of a period when the University is undertaking sweeping changes in its business and engineering schools, the humble pre-war home of the Visual Arts department, Vasey Hall, has gone largely unchanged, as has the Studio Art department therein.

Villanova has had a Visual Arts department for decades; Brother Jack Stagliano, a professor of many of the courses offered, is in his late 50s and was a student in visual arts courses while he was a student here.

Stagliano is now a full time professor of drawing, watercolor and oil painting classes at Villanova. If you have ever seen a hand drawn or painted catalog cover or pamphlet depicting a Villanova scene and though to yourself, “Wow, that is really good,” well then you are familiar with the work of Brother Jack.

He runs his classes with as much discipline as any professor I have experienced at Villanova in my seven semesters here. As he says, his class is not an opportunity to “get in touch with our inner child;” it is instead an outlet for his students to become more perceptive and aware of the world around them by means of engaging in a visual medium rather than mathematical or linguistic.

In short, his classes are serious undertakings, not the proverbial basket weaving classes that every tuition-paying parent dreads seeing on their child’s transcript.

Despite the seriousness of the courses offered in the Visual Arts department, the reasoning behind the University’s passivity towards the size of the department is not altogether perplexing: Villanova has long been recognized as an engineering, business and liberal arts school and the conservancy according to which the school is run is not conducive to the evolution of a Visual Arts department. All of us as students came to this institution aware of Villanova’s academic offerings. Student opinion regarding arts courses evidences a greater interest in arts courses than would be expected, however.

A student in Stagliano’s Basic Drawing Techniques class, Molly Christie, is a paradigm of the average Villanova student. She is a senior and is taking the art class out of general interest, and enjoys it thoroughly despite professing a skill level of only slightly above class average. If given the chance, she would have taken the class earlier in her Villanova career, but was unable to do so given the limited course offerings and the great demand among students to fulfill their fine arts requirement.

Amongst the students who do not take the drawing classes, the greatest deterrent is often not a lack of interest in studio art in general, but rather a self-imposed resignation to the fact that their skills are not worthy of taking such a class.

Another deterrent, as in the case of senior Patrick Dunn, is the schedule of the course offerings. Given the limited number of classes, Dunn was at the mercy of a power beyond his control: time. As is the case with many seniors, he is forced to take the classes he needs to graduate, and was therefore shut out of the studio class in which he was interested.

Despite the fact that many students who do not have the privilege of taking Studio Arts courses do not spend their time heart broken and lamenting over their lost opportunity, “it couldn’t hurt” to see a few more opportunities for students, especially underclassmen, to use their electives for advancement of their skills in Studio Arts. In a University of well over 6,000 students, there are only seven introductory visual arts courses offered each semester, totaling 128 spaces. For students interested in the field, this may not be enough.