What About NESAD?
The artwork on the walls ranges from classic oil on canvas to contemporary graphic design at the New England School of Art and Design (NESAD) Alumni Reception that took place during Homecoming Week. Student work, done as an assignment for illustration or interior design mixed with professional pieces, proving a sophisticated level of the current NESAD class. The graduates then form a semi-circle surrounded by their art as they prepare for a question and answer panel.
The alumni range from graduating in 1973 to just last year, providing decades of real world experience. Their areas of expertise are also extensive with a gallery curator on one side of the room and a talent agent on the other. Not only had they survived their time at Suffolk University’s NESAD, they also managed to use their knowledge gained there to boost a unique career.
“When I look back it was an alchemy… a process into developing to where I am now,” said Jama Samek, Class of 1990. Samek now runs her own interior design business and points to her time at NESAD as being central to her success.
In particular, her entry level jobs and internships she gained through her professors and advisors at the art school. Samek made a point of telling students to spend time in galleries and showrooms, to get to know the regulars and the people of interest.
Fellow Class of 1990 graduate Jeanne Finnerty agrees that building this network is crucial to making a place for oneself in the artistic community. “My connections here are very current,” she tells the intrigued students.
Despite producing such talented and thriving individuals, NESAD has often been looked upon as the red headed step-child of Suffolk. A member of the University’s community since 1988, the New England School of Art and Design combines classical teaching with modernized tools and mediums. The main idea behind the merger was so students could have the education an art school offers while including the core classes necessary to any college experience.
Although the school still thrives and continues to produce talented graduates, Suffolk seems to be snubbing NESAD out of much needed improvements. For example, a press release from Jan. 29, 2009 claimed plans for “art studios for instruction in painting, drawing, sculpture and printing, along with electronic classrooms for computer instruction in graphic design and interior design.”
The new building was to be situated at 20 Somerset Street. There was originally space set aside for a student/faculty gallery as well. In years since, the original plan has exchanged these intentions for more College of Arts and Sciences classrooms and another cafeteria.
Vice President of Government Relations and Community Affairs John Nucci said in an interview that the reason for these changes was to “maximize efficiency” within the 20 Somerset building. Also, the original plans were put on the back-burner and later altered due to President James McCarthy taking office and the economic crash that occurred in 2009.
“Quite appropriately they decided to put the project on hold,” said Nucci. During the hiatus, board members and designers felt that moving NESAD was inappropriate for the time, but will the men in charge ever find a good time to bring NESAD on campus?
To start, the program holds a meek 350 students to Suffolk’s 5,000 undergraduates. Their facilities on Arlington Street are accommodating to most, but leave breathing room to be desired. Also, the location does not have a cafeteria or nearby restaurant that accepts the Ram Card. This would not be worth mentioning if it was not for every other academic building on campus housing a café and close to dozens of participating Ram Card accepting vendors.
James Helenski is a NESAD junior at Suffolk who has been working hard to increase the presence of the program on campus. “The thing that concerns me the most is that we have [little] representation on campus,” they* said. Currently the art school has a single representative in the Student Government Association which Helenski believes “largely has to do with the fact that the so-called ‘activities period’ does not account for the classes at NESAD.”
Helenski makes a fair point. Suffolk students are given a free period for an hour and a half starting at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This provides time to become involved on campus, a key component of the college experience. NESAD, however, often has classes that run directly through that time, keeping those students from building their relations with other students on campus.
The travel time also keeps NESAD students from going back and forth between the regular campus and their base of operations on Arlington Street. The walk from 150 Tremont can take approximately twenty minutes, a walk non-NESAD students do not even bother with. In fact, most go their entire career at Suffolk without ever going to the building. Nucci understands this detail and stated that “Suffolk’s location is our greatest aspect… but it is also our greatest challenge.” The 20 Somerset Street building would have brought NESAD closer to the rest of Suffolk; its inability to move only keeps it from integration.
Nucci has confirmed that NESAD will stay a part of Suffolk for at least a few more years as they have just extended their lease on Arlington. Also, attempts by Trustee Ambassadors such as Helenski to inform prospective students about NESAD keep new students entering the program. Undergraduate admissions have been sending out NESAD packets to schools and high school students so that awareness of the program is increased as well.
Helenski, however, plans to take the integration process a step forward. “Even though the plans are now laid out for the new building we cannot ask for at least a gallery space, we can however use the existing walls,” Helenski hopes. They believe the program needs more on campus recognition for the students’ incredible work and have recently been discussing artwork integration with non-NESAD students. “This would be an amazing opportunity for students to gain experience with loaning their work out plus just showing their work in general,” they said.
The alumni at the NESAD Reception consider the years they spent at the school to be among the most vital to their careers. Gaining experience and confidence during this time is fundamental to later success, as well as developing as an artist.
Joe Greco, who dates his time at Suffolk over four decades ago, still considers his studies at NESAD to be among his greatest moments. The program gave him a deep appreciation for the arts that he still holds today.
“Your art is a way to express how you feel in a very three-dimensional way,” he says with reverence. “Whatever you do, that makes you who you are, it’s your fingerprint as a creative person.”
*This person identifies as gender neutral.