Building an Art Department from a Merger

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A year ago I took a position as Chair of an art department in a university existing in a constant state of flux. It’s the product of what I call an extreme merger. In 2012, Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences Universities were combined to make Georgia Regents University. The goal was to create a comprehensive research institution. These institutions had little in common other than geography. In the short term, what happened was chaos. The name even changed once more to be Augusta University. But as the dust is settling the institution is proving to be a bastion of opportunity. As painful as the process was for everyone involved, it has created a wonderful place to work and learn.

During the past year, I’ve been coming up to speed with my new institution and the community surrounding it. A surprising understanding I’ve come to is how my department is far better if we build it as a creative community.

By a community, I mean a layered community extending outside the institution. The first layer resides within the department – we need to work together, communicate and support each other. The second layer includes the remainder of the institution – by working with all other departments on campus we can better utilize the wide an unexpected resources within the university. The third layer extends to the geographic area – there needs to be a fuzzy edge between the institution and the local community where collaboration is the norm. Creativity is a no-brainer because we now exist in an age of innovation where creativity is a must. Everyone institution should be ramping up support for creative initiatives.

Over the next year, I’ll tell the story of our transformation from a small department (80 something art majors) serving the local community to a nationally recognized department building a creative community in Augusta. To get a full read on my vision check out this article, Scott Thorp: Designing the Future, published in the Master’s issue of Augusta Magazine.

As I post, probably once per week, you’ll see how the Department of Art and the university are advancing. We just established a social media presence for the department, so follow us on twitter, Instagram and Facebook as we build our creative community @aug_artdept, #artinaugusta.

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