Facing aging equipment and leaky roofs, some professors in the Fine Arts department are struggling to help their students succeed with limited resources.
Randall Wilson, a professor in the sculpture area, said equipment is severely outdated and money to fix the problems is just not arriving. Many machines in the department were used, unwanted surplus equipment donated by other institutions, he said.
Wilson, who has been at UNM for two years, said much of the equipment on the floor is around 60 years old.
“In many areas of the Fine Arts (department), you’ll see physical conditions that are lacking,” Wilson said. “The message is ‘we don’t care. We don’t care enough to put a new coat of paint on; we don’t care enough to maintain an AC system.’ It begins to talk about our relationship to students and how we feel about students and the curriculum itself.”
Besides machinery, there is a need for updated lighting and vacuum systems. Wilson said the lack of these resources is a glaring reminder of what needs to be done and has been largely ignored by the University.
The budget for the department mainly comes from student fees, which provides some art supplies and staffing, but Wilson said it is not enough.
Where staffing is concerned, a part-time employee is necessary to monitor safety in the evening, he said. So far that position is filled by rotating work-study employees, offering very little consistency where it is most required.
The lack of proper funding not only affects the professors, but students as well.
Daniel McCarthy, a student employee in the department, said there are just not enough funds to keep things running smoothly.
“I don’t have enough hours to do everything that needs to be done around here. As a work-study, my hours were cut nearly in half last semester,” he said. “There’s only enough time now to monitor students and clean. There’s no time for shop upkeep.”
Wilson said some assistance comes from private institutions like the Frederich Hammersley Foundation, which helps a little.
Last week the foundation donated $50,000 to the sculpture lab, giving Wilson and his students some breathing room, but there is work to be done elsewhere in the department, he said.
Mary Tsiongas, associate professor and chair of Fine Arts, said equipment is just one part of the problem.
“We are in desperate need of better buildings for our classes,” Tsiongas said. “We’re constantly behind the curve, even though we have a really great department and nationally ranked programs.”
The Fine Arts department has been in need of a new building for a while now, she said. The current building leaks in multiple areas, and although the foundation was repaired a few years ago, there are still numerous problems, she said.
Wilson and Tsiongas both work closely with Fine Arts Dean Kim Pinder, who has been very supportive of the department, they said.
There used to be an equipment budget in the department, but that was cut out, Tsiongas said, leaving the faculty to update equipment on a gradual basis rather than all at once as it should be done.
As department chair, Tsiongas said she is an advocate for her students, making sure the upper administration and University know all the great things being done within the Fine Arts program.
The professors are confident in their students and the University, and believe that a little push in the right direction can make all the difference, Wilson said.
“I’m bent on not necessarily being negative and saying what’s wrong when there’s so much to be said about what’s right,” he said. “But we don’t need to fix what’s right; we need to fix what’s wrong.”