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SW School stays out front with library add-on

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Paula Owens, President of Southwest School of Art

This Tuesday the Southwest School of Art and the San Antonio Public Library announced the formation of the Marie Swartz Art Reference Library, a new collection that will be developed from the pooled books and materials of both institutions. It will be housed on the second floor of the Central Library on Soledad Street. The reason for the new project? In the fall of 2013, the SW School begins a new phase in its almost 50-year life as a community art school, when a new four-year BFA degree program enrolls its first class.

The new collection will be the Library of Record for the new program. "There are art departments at many universities, but this will be the only independent art school in Texas," said Paula Owen, president of SW School. When the new program, accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art (NASAD) is in place, the SW School will join the ranks of institutions that now attract the best young artists away from Texas — Rhode Island School of Design, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the Art Institute of Chicago. "The programs at these schools aren't comprehensibly different from what we already do," said Owens. "If there is any difference, it is that we get to take a look at what is happening in the visual arts today and design our curriculum around that inter-disciplinariness that is occurring — that collection of the DIY movement and collective effort as opposed to the singular artist in their studio."

Begun as the Southwest Crafts Center, later named the Southwest School of Art & Craft, the SW School is ahead of the trend to abandon fine art exclusivity and give credit to works in all media as art making. Owens acknowledges that the new program won't have to scurry to play catch-up with the big boys. "There are trends right now that incorporate what we have been doing from the beginning, we don't have to add them on."

The BFA program will offer not only studio training, but a full curriculum including science, math, and languages. How will this change things for those who still want to take a studio class or two? While the school is discontinuing its certificate program, studio classes for the public will remain. With a small degree program in its midst, the SW School can only get better. And the new reference library across the street will be open to the public, too.

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