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Fine Arts paragraph

November 1, 2012

The Future:

Artists in the professional world are part of galleries, non-profit spaces or academia, and today they aren’t limited to making art objects. Artists wonder aloud what their fundamental contribution is to society. They have always critiqued society and institutional structures. Artists don’t just ask “why” but “why not”.

The PennDesign Fine Arts Department creates an atmosphere where student artists and designers can explore the same areas of culture that professional artists do. Students are learning to play a valuable role as society’s cynics, dissidents, and intellectuals. Penn’s fine arts students conduct valuable critiques of American culture, seriously inquire into the various modes of representation in the visual world, and even critique Penn’s institutional structure and how PennDesign represents itself. Through controversial student exhibitions, performances, and campus actions the department has become notorious on campus and among the most sophisticated art-schools. Whereas the other Penn disciplines such as chemical engineering and medicine inspire awe and respect, the Fine Arts Department inspires dissonance, discussion, and a begrudging respect, because as a source of critical awareness it cannot be ignored. Student projects are not always successful, but they are often radical, and Director Ken Lum often defends students against University censorship.

The Fine Arts Department has become an international pioneer and is nurturing the next generation of free-thinking, critically engaged artists and designers.

Visual Literacy:

What does art education do for the individual and for society? Why do we teach art in today’s social and economic climate ? How does art bring to education at all levels? For me visual art is a language that everyone should learn to read.  In today’s world images are ubiquitous; they affect our needs, our daily behavior, our hopes, our opinions, and our ultimate ideals. That is why the individual who cannot understand or read images in a critical way is incompletely educated. Complete literacy must include visual literacy- the ability to understand, respond to, and talk about visual art. Many students take a fine arts class because they have “an elective to burn” or they need “an easy A”, without any interest for history or theory of contemporary visual arts. This campaign aims to encourage self-interrogation and re-evaluation of popular misconceptions towards fine arts classes and the value of visual art in general.

(blanca abramek)

Bonnie Arbittier:

Take the perfect college brochure: pleasant students, pleasant classes, happiness that is unexplainable but always happens to lie behind the photographer. What would happen if you disturbed that perfection? Questioned the utopia? Allowed a ripple to pass through the smooth surface of the water?

The Redefine Arts project is all about rebranding, questioning, and allowing art to be something besides an “easy a.” Is it not our duty to allow others at Penn to see art as we do? Do allow them, not as practicing artists, to question the reason why art is created? To come up with theory and learn why a piece appears the way it is?


Art is not confined to artists. Likewise, artists and designers should not be confined to art. Inspiration and knowledge are limitless resources, and by keeping our eyes and minds constantly open, we can see that art is everywhere and everywhere is art.

My collages confront the viewer with something strange, allowing them to see that imagery from a vast array of disciplines can be synthesized to create something beautiful and intriguing. They are a microcosm of the new Fine Arts department—a department that takes in the world.


Penn Fine Arts is undergoing evolution via revolution, and the positioning of this department within the larger university is poised to shift as well. These projects step beyond the confines of typical branding materials and offer conceptual solutions to changing current stigmas. From here on out, Fine Arts courses will not be taken as throwaways or easy A’s, and our aim is to make the rest of the school understand that our discipline is based on critical thought and projection of ideas. These projects announce from a range of viewpoints that we are ready to be taken seriously.

These projects are meant to be approachable. I aim to make the Fine Arts department accessible without dumbing it down. The first poses the question “What do you do with a Fine Arts Major,” and it appears to be simply another admissions material. When interacted with, however, it turns the question back to the viewer. Perhaps the Fine Arts major is not so predictable after all.

The second speaks the quantitative, observational language of the scientifically or mathematically inclined student in order to break down qualities of the Fine Arts student in info graphic form. These have been somewhat abstracted in order to emphasize the art of the graphic, and the written analysis involves the viewer in the process of understanding the piece as a whole.


What is art? What is design? It’s time we repositioned the fine arts department to reinvigorate the image of the artist of the 21st century. Every individual is born with a creative mind which takes them through childhood, tapers off for some, grows for others. Because art and design are inherent in every aspect of our world from graphic design to painting, interactive design to writing, science to philosophy, the limits defining the realm of impact of design are virtually limitless. It is because of this that the image of the 21st century artist will be defined not by the brush, nor the pencil, nor the mouse, but all of these and whatever tool the creative mind can use to leave a mark in his world. Our projects seek to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of art and the impact it can make as it travels from the studio to the world at large.

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