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COUNCIL: State of the University

October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09

Al Filreis

I also wanted to note that Vince has challenged us—those of us who are provostially attached to arts and culture venues—to collaborate between and among the centers, to see if we can create a greater whole than the sum of the parts. I want to describe a few of the benefits of this kind of collaboration. First of all, such organizations, which normally don’t work together, are working together, and we end up producing a lot of energy among our staffs.

In the case of the person that we hired to teach this course (he’s going to be doing it for the fourth or fifth time next year), Kenneth Goldsmith, has a BFA in sculpture from RISD, and would never have been the kind of person that we would have invited to the faculty to teach a course unless we had collaborated in this way. He is after all a writer who has his origins in the visual and plastic arts. We never would have gotten Kenny Goldsmith to come to Penn; and he’s a 3.9 or 4.0 undergraduate teacher. So Penn now has Kenny Goldsmith who is a hot commodity in the art world, partly because of the exposure that the University of Pennsylvania has given him. Kenny is a wildly fun person and that means that Claudia and I, as directors of the two centers, inevitably have a great deal of fun working with the students and with Kenny, the curators and the Writers House people. 
Another benefit that derives from this is that our staffs begin to realize how good it is to work with other organizations within the University. 

This is a collaboration between the Kelly Writers House, The Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing (CPCW)—which is a School of Arts and Sciences entity, all the writing programs are in that—and the ICA. The funding comes partly from SAS; Dean Rebecca Bushnell has supported it and recently we’ve found donor funding for that side of things. The provost supports the ICA side of it, which produces these fabulous materials [published exhibit catalogues produced by the students in the class]. As for the students, I personally recruit them and I know about 80% of them quite well. This is a life-changing experience for them and probably a third of them who have graduated from this experience are working in some aspect of the art world now, which for us is a tremendous victory because the program is so hands-on and so much about producing things and accomplishing things pedagogically. It leads them naturally—Kenny lives and works in New York—to make connections to the art world in New York. The Writers House has not had that kind of relationship to the art world; working with Claudia has made that all possible for our kids. So it’s a win-win-win-win-win—in about five different ways.  Thank you, Vince, and the Provost’s Office, for supporting this. We think this is the real thing; we’d like to get it on a regular footing and do it forever. Claudia, did you want to say one more thing?




Almanac - October 26, 2010, Volume 57, No. 09