Tailoring American Business and Labor History for Art and Design Curriculum

AHA Session 211
Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Gibson Room (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Daniel Levinson Wilk, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
Visualizing Labor
Carol Quirke, State University of New York, College at Old Westbury
Behind the Screens at FIT
Daniel Levinson Wilk, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
Invisible Faces: Business of Visual Art
Kyunghee Pyun, Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York
Fashion and Slavery: A New Course in Fashion History
Jonathan Square, Harvard University
The Audience

Session Abstract

In this experimental session, historians and an art historian present their most effective and least expected tools for teaching issues in the business and labor history of artists and designers.

Currently at Fashion Institute of Technology, faculty from School of Art and Design, School of Business and Technology, and School of Liberal Arts are collaborating in monthly faculty seminars to find ways in which to engage their students with various aspects of business and labor history. As the Freelancers Union claims to be the fastest growing workers’ organization in America, representing “the 57 million independent workers across the country,” most workers in creative industry are forced to forego full-time jobs with benefits and to reinvent themselves as part-time, project-based freelancers/contractors. Faculty at FIT believe that students need a historical context to understand this job environment and how they might change it. They have asked the following questions in monthly seminars over the course of two years. How did artists and designers feed themselves? In different eras previous to the age of Google Search Engines and the LinkedIn, how did they find employers and customers, join firms, universities, artistic movements, trade associations, unions, or try to stick it out on their own? How have workflows and supply chains turned pen-and-ink concepts into satisfied patrons and consumers? How have gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, race, ethnicity, age, disability, and other markers of identity affected the careers of artists and designers? How have artists’ and designers’ control over the final product and its reproduction waxed and waned? Can a technical designer stay employed through middle age? Why are there so many job announcements in advertisements, sometimes from the same companies over and over, and is this level of job turnover a detriment to good work and profit?

FIT faculty members are pursuing ways to engage fellow artists and designers as well as students aspiring to grab jobs in creative industries. The pedagogical “tools” for this effort are as varied as technological platforms, biography excerpts, movie clips and popular songs, or Andy Warhol’s works of art as an illuminating example for queering advertising industry in the '70s. In this experimental session, historians and art historians will share their pedagogical toolkits and lead a discussion about curricular innovation using photography, a student-produced television interview show, 360-degree videos of artists' studios, workshops, talks, etc.

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