Temple, save Philly’s art scene by creating easy transfer for all UArts students

A student argues about the importance of Philadelphia’s art scene, and how Temple can do its part to preserve it amid UArts’ closure.


Updated: 7/10/24 at 11:40 a.m.

Alex Artom-Ginzburg is thinking about transferring to Temple following the closure of the University of the Arts due to its similar arts program, but slight differences may cause his educational path to change.

“It is frustrating that I now have to replan everything that I was gonna do,” said Artom-Ginzburg, a rising sophomore instrumental performance major. “I liked being a performance major with the music education minor because then I could dip my feet in both worlds and get a good mix of what I wanted to do.”

UArts announced on May 31 it was permanently closing its doors, leaving the community of roughly 1,300 students and approximately 700 faculty and staff members shocked

Artom-Ginzburg originally planned to enroll in UArts’ Masters of Arts in Teaching program, where students earn a four-year bachelor’s degree with a major in composition or performance and a minor in music education. After, students apply to stay for a fifth year to obtain a master’s degree and teaching certificates. 

Temple’s two-year music education master’s program is different because it requires a bachelor’s degree in music education. Boyer College of Music and Dance does not provide an instrumental focus on electric bass, Artom-Ginzurg’s concentration. Temple should have a designated person in admissions to communicate with UArts students, especially those with specialized art concentrations available at UArts but not at Temple.

“Maybe having someone in the administration and like being the general UArts accommodation person to like, get some suggestions from people,” Artom-Ginsburg said.  

UArts uniquely provided students with specified and individualized art education, offering a tight-knit community while broadening the city’s cultural and artistic landscape. Temple should accommodate students with different majors so they get a similar education as they would at UArts.

Board of Trustees Chair Mitch Morgan released a statement encouraging UArts students to transfer to the university. Temple also announced plans to explore a merger with UArts, and to collaborate to foster a “seamless and transparent” enrollment path. If Temple is going to ensure an easy transfer for UArts students, they need to consider the students with majors that don’t match preexisting ones at Temple.

UArts professor Bradley Philbert believes the loss of the university may reflect a greater idea of capitalization on general societal rights.

“There’s a real risk that we have socially, at losing the people who know how to tell stories in compelling ways to share ideas, to use their creativity to spread those ideas,” said Philbert, executive vice president of United Academics of Philadelphia and Critical Theory professor. “Those are the kinds of things that keep our society vital.”

In January, the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts also announced its plans to discontinue all MFA and BFA programs. By Spring 2025, there will be no art colleges on the Avenue of the Arts. 

Philadelphia is a city bountiful with art and artists. But the closure of UArts and PAFA puts higher art education at risk by displacing students and faculty, and the potential decline of new artists could wound the Philadelphia art scene by stifling cultural growth.

Philadelphia’s art scene employs approximately 33,000 individuals, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Arts in Philadelphia attracted 9.4 million visitors from June 2022 to May 2023, generating $423.9 million in tax revenue, according to Americans for the Arts and Economic Prosperity. The closures directly impact the city’s economy by reducing stable employment opportunities which may lessen the city’s revenue.

UArts’ collaborations with other members of Philadelphia’s art scene presented possibilities for artistic expression. Events like the decade-old Arts Polyphone Festival, a collaboration effort between student artists and fully-trained creatives to produce new musicals, contributed to unique education efforts. Temple should broaden its arts outreach by hosting events previously organized by UArts to give unique performance opportunities to artists and students. 

Sam Heaps mourns the loss of UArts because they believed UArts was a crucial part of Philadelphia. 

“I lived in the city off and on since 2009 and UArts has always been, I think, a really critical space and to see artists come out of the school and stay in Philadelphia, and enrich Philadelphia,” said Heaps, an adjunct professor of Critical Theory at UArts. “A lot of artists are in Philadelphia because of the University of the Arts, and for that backdrop, I think we’re gonna see a lot of loss of community and diversity of talent.”

In April, UArts hosted a spring concert featuring the No-Name Pops, an innovative new-age symphony, which includes professors and a professor emeritus from the University of the Arts. UArts held this event at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, a 111-year-old venue acquired by UArts in 2017, which may cease operations following the UArts closure.

UArts owned and operated many performance spaces and galleries across the city, many of which were open to the public. With the school shutting down, many of these spaces may also close, limiting local venues and diverse art open to the public.    

Philadelphia’s public art scene curates a unique city through well-known venues such as the Kimmel Center and the Philadelphia Art Museum. Mural Arts Philadelphia also has 4,000 murals across the city, making it the largest public art program in the nation. 

The closing of UArts leaves Philadelphia’s art community vulnerable and the importance of art education remains questioned. Students and faculty are left without guidance or structure from UArts. During this period of uncertainty, it is important to recognize that art always mirrors cultural and political realities, and when there are no artists there is no social reflection.

CORRECTION: A previous verison of this story misstated programs offered in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture. The story has been updated to reflect the correct information.

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