When former President Peter J. Liacouras made the decision to move the Tyler School of Art from its current location in Elkins Park to Main Campus, he saw it as an opportunity to create a more tightly knit community at Temple and enrich both Tyler students and the general university
Tyler students said they couldn’t disagree more.
“We live in an artists’ community right now and it’s very exclusive,” said Mercede Schierer, a junior fibers major.
“Moving down [to Main Campus] is going to get rid of a lot of that.”
Schierer is among the seeming majority of Tyler students who are anything but open to the idea of leaving their pastoral community of artists in order to be integrated with 28,000 other students of every major at Main Campus.
They said the university’s promises of greater opportunities for Tyler students mean little to them compared to their bucolic campus just outside of the city.
“There’s so much inspiration here,” junior glass major Nathan Paluzzi said. “Buildings and concrete don’t inspire me. There’s so many people down there; I feel like a number, not a person.”
Students said they will miss the 12 acres of tranquility demarcated by moss-covered stone walls, the vast lawn peppered with aging trees that separates the residence
hall from classrooms and the nunnery next to campus that students aren’t supposed to go into but meander through anyway.
They also worry that Main Campus is inhabited by philistines who just don’t get art and will tamper with projects that Tyler students put outside – like the strands of rope connected with clothespins that spiral down a tree on the quad, or the bicycle with a toy pony tied to the frame with elves in the spokes that hangs from a metal beam.
“We can put up installations anywhere and they won’t be bothered,” Schierer said. “I don’t think a lot of Main Campus people will be able to respect the artwork or know what half of it is.”
The decision to relocate Tyler to Main Campus was made a decade ago as part of the university’s Strategic Initiatives plan to turn Temple into a “residential community of scholars.”
The move was meant to centralize the university in order to invigorate Main Campus, transforming it into what Liacouras called “Temple Town.”
By relocating Tyler, the university is also saving untold amounts of money by cutting the costs it takes to run a second full-service campus.
The new campus will have a designated “green campus” as directed by the Strategic Initiatives. Merrie Winston, director of special projects, which oversees the construction of the new campus, said she does not have any knowledge of the particular landscaping, but said, “It’s bigger than a football field.”
For some professors, though, the verdant
Elkins Park environment is outweighed by the certain facilitative advantages that the move promises to bring to art students. The move to Main Campus signals a great step forward for Tyler.
“I have taught at Tyler for over 30 years and I think it’s a great school, and I’m banking on the idea that it will be even better after the move,” Daniel Dallmann, a professor of print making, said in an e-mail. “The move to Main will be a milestone in the history of Tyler School of Art.
“If you ignore the landscaping issues, Temple Main has a great deal to offer – start with theater, music, engineering, film and social sciences. This is the stuff of art and the Tyler students will benefit from the near proximity of these programs and events.”
But Dallmann also cautioned that the potentially beneficial move could be seriously hampered by the university moving Tyler to Main Campus without continuing to support the art school.
“The only thing that could ruin the move, that could offset the wonderful possibilities, would be if the administration and the Board of Trustees fail to support us and turn us into a low-budget effort to look good without supplying the physical plant and support staff suitable to the world class art school they would like to have,” he said.
Thomas Zummer, senior lecturer of critical
studies, expressed eagerness towards the move.
“We have every anticipation that the new facilities will be a substantial improvement technically, architecturally and in the opportunities for connection and exchange with other departments and resources at Temple,” Zummer said.
“Certainly I will miss the pastoral setting
of Elkins Park, but I am excited about the new possibilities.”
But he conveyed the same admonition to the university that Tyler must be given full consideration in resources in order for the move to be successful and worth the students’ current dismay.
“It is extremely important that an art school have its own distinct autonomy – in its curriculum, its resources, technical and academic, and its protocols,” Zummer said. “Provisions should be made for Tyler’s growth and future development in its new site as well. I trust that these sorts of things are already in the planning stages. For the rest, we will see.”
Andrew Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.