While I've been out of it, the tough news has continued to mount. Yesterday I checked in to The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research only to learn that last week my alma mater had, along with other cuts, eliminated its gallery program and laid off its director, Judith Tolnick Champa (Greg Cook has continued to be on top of the story, adding details here and here.) While I don't mean to minimize the importance of the other affected programs, I have to say that this particular development strikes me as a shortsighted and really damaging development. Everyone knows about the difficult financial environment, but there's no equivalent for the program in the entire southern part of the state, or indeed within Rhode Island's system of higher education, in terms of range, ambition, and quality. The Fine Arts Galleries have been a major asset for the University and their loss, along with a superb curator and educator, will have a negative impact on the school and the cultural life of the state. I admit to being biased, as it was now close to 15 years ago that I first had the opportunity learn art history from Tolnick Champa and have my eyes opened by the exhibitions she curated (I still remember first seeing a Louisa Matthíasdóttir landscape in a show she curated; I also know I've written about at least one exhibition at URI, but can't find it now to link.) My own experiences aside, however, this is a major blow.
Slightly further afield, Boston's Museum of Science also is cutting back, in a move that no doubt sent shudders throughout the Hub's non-profit world. The Museum emphasizes in the article that these are not entirely budget-driven but strategic cuts (small comfort, I'm sure, to the newly jobless), and I do wonder how much they reflect a certain retrenchment after what seems like a period of rather heady growth. Still, the Museum of Science has long been a powerhouse in its field, so when it catches a cold . . . you can fill in the rest.