Few people immediately understand what we do in our diverse and interdisciplinary department. But perhaps our lack of clarity, instead of something to be bemoaned, is one of our strengths. When I first became Chair of the InterArts Department, I considered whether we suffered from a branding issue: not being visible enough, not having a clear enough name. I thought about changing the name of the department.
InterArts comprises the Fashion Department, where students follow a neatly defined track, exercising their fashion and design skills, learning pattern making, accessories, including jewelry, hat and shoe making, fashion history, and producing surprising and gorgeous sculptural garments for our fashion shows. We have at least a three-year track record of having all our senior fashion students go on to either Parsons School of Design, in Manhattan, or Central Saint Martins, part of the University of the Arts London.
Now for the complicated part: InterArts students who are not fashion students. But I don’t want to define them by what they are not. InterArts students forge their own pathways through the school, taking classes in different art departments. They may define themselves as storytellers, performers, designers, or digital communicators. All InterArts students learn to relate their art to issues in the outside world.
Most of my InterArts students care about social justice, politics, and saving our planet from environmental disaster. We practice our art as a form of expression and communication, for whatever power that may have. There are as many definitions of InterArts as there are InterArtists themselves, as each one follows a slightly different pathway, guided by his or her own unique obsessions and skills.
InterArts is ambiguous, but its lack of neat definition allows for a myriad of diverse artists to interpret and interact, for their projects to intersect, for their art to intercede in the issues of the day, and for interplay between personalities, talents, and intellects. And I think that is the way I like it.