So here’s the deal: Watkins College of Art, a financially stressed institution in Nashville, plans to merge in Fall 2020 with Belmont University, a Christian school that is also located in Nashville (Chronicle of Higher Education, February 21).
Not surprisingly, students and faculty at Watkins are worried about the merger’s implications for artistic freedom, given Belmont’s strong Christian identity. To explore this issue, University Life reporter Todd Quandell sat down with a senior Belmont administrator for a candid interview. The administrator asked not to be identified, and thus will be referred to as “X.” Key excerpts from the conversation are presented below:
Quandell: “Let’s cut to the chase. Will nude models be allowed in class after the merger?”
X: “Wow, you really do hit the ground running, don’t you? Our Board of Trustees is debating this very question as we speak. The problem is that many Belmont students come from highly sheltered backgrounds, and some have never seen a naked body, not even their own. It might be traumatic for them if their first exposure to the unclad human form took place in an art class. One solution might be trigger warnings for these courses, but a decision has yet to be made.”
Quandell: “There are rumors circulating among Watkins students that the only portraits they will be permitted to paint for course credit are Madonna-and-child depictions. Is that true?”
X: “Absolutely not. Students will also be able to submit portraits of Joseph, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, and lambs. At Belmont we’re very big on lambs. Our campus art museum has the largest collection of lamb paintings in the Northern Hemisphere.”
Quandell: “What about Modern Art? Will students be able to study the work of artists such as Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Andy Warhol?”
X: “Picasso divorced his first wife, so he’s out. And Pollock was an alcoholic, so the answer for him is ‘no’ as well. Warhol was homosexual. No Warhol. No way.”
Quandell: “You do know that most scholars believe that Michelangelo was probably gay?”
[X punches Quandell square in the face, knocking him off his chair.]
X: “Take that back!”
Quandell: “So I guess this means that the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe would also be out of bounds?”
[X grabs the folding chair he’s been sitting on and takes a home-run swing at Quandell, sending him sprawling across the floor. There’s some blood.]
Quandell: “I’ll take that as a ‘no’ on Mapplethorpe.”
X: “That would be correct.”
Quandell: “In addition to religious icons and lambs, what sorts of subjects do Belmont art students focus on?”
X: “Baskets of fruits and vegetables, mainly. You know, still lifes. And meadows. Lots of meadows. Of course, students must avoid provocative fruits such as overripe peaches or bananas at any stage of development. Apples are nice. Our students are very skilled at painting apples, and not just the traditional varieties like Red Delicious and McIntosh, but also the newer ones like Cosmic Crisp and SugarBee.
X: “We certainly think so. Here, let me put a bandage on that head wound. It’s still oozing a bit.”
University Life tips its hat to Todd Quandell for his intrepid reporting on this assignment.