opinion

OPINION: Renaming the art school was unnecessary



name-changes

The name of the art school here at IU has been changed three times in recent memory.

The first change was from School of Fine Arts to the School of Art and Design. This presumably happened to clarify that, yes, we do more than just painting and sculpture. This is understandable and is a significant change which feels more contemporary. I was only mildly aware of this change, because I was not yet an IU student.

I became an IU student in 2017, around the time of the second name change. This time, the word “Architecture” was added between the “Art” and “Design." I was keenly aware of this change, as it was given a lot of publicity both in and out of the classroom. This was to commemorate the addition of architecture to the school’s curriculum, but this change was unnecessary.

It was seen as a strange choice by many of my other class members, as this new program was, and still is, very small, much smaller than fashion merchandising. In fact, I recall hearing that the merchandising people were miffed that the IU administration had gone with architecture over the larger, established program, allegedly because architecture sounded more prestigious.

Architecture is an uncommon program in this state. At the time, I mostly heard about how the IU architecture program will come to rival that of Ball State. There are four architecture programs in Indiana, the other two at Purdue and Notre Dame. This makes it seem like the word was put in the school’s name in haste to validate the burgeoning program.

Also, the architecture program is based out of Columbus, Indiana. This makes seeing “Architecture” on all of the advertising here in Bloomington strange. Personally, I believe that the field of architecture is included in the word “design," making the name a mouthful and the point moot. 

The most recent change to the school name happened last semester, spring 2019. The Eskenazi family donated a lump sum of $20 million, which is now being used to construct a new facility and for further renovations. I do not claim to be fully aware of what this entails, but hopefully some will be given to the more poorly funded disciplines. This announcement was revealed on IU Day and was branded as an exciting surprise. I was not impressed.

The already elaborate name of my school had just gotten longer. I usually see “Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture, and Design” now. Sometimes, they even add “Sidney and Lois” to the beginning of that.

The Eskenzi family is associated with IU but are not artists, as one might expect. Sidney David Eskenazi amassed his obscene amount of money through law and real estate development and has apparently been on the hunt to secure his namesake ever since. I presume he wanted the art school name to match the art museum name, which is already called the Eskenazi Museum of Art.

Ethics aside, art needs patrons to survive, so I don’t expect the school to be too keen on turning down any donations. But why the name? After two recent and perhaps unnecessary changes, why is there a need for a longer one?

Tacking a name onto an institution is not an effective way to secure one’s memory. The name simply doesn’t matter to most people, who will never care to learn about where it came from. To me, it seems that the desire to name an institution which you do not participate in after yourself is a perverse overestimation of your importance. Regardless of why or how, this name has become too unwieldy. I just refer to the institution as “the art school at IU."

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