Massachusetts College of Art and Design
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How MassArt Students and Faculty Saved MassArt on May 16th, 1979.


The future of MassArt was very much in question and top of mind for the entire College community in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Decreasing enrollments in state colleges across the Commonwealth played a role in this uncertainty, as did the resulting budget cuts to higher education. This fueled the lightning rod topic, pushed by budgetary hawks in the legislature, of “merging” some state campuses to save money. MassArt was among those being considered for merger, despite its unique studio-based curriculum, its unusual degree content, and its long history. 


In the midst of this crisis, during the Spring of 1979, MassArt Professor Dean Nimmer excited a passionate ‘uprising’ among the MassArt community. As an artist and educator, Dean held a democratic, universalist conviction that art-making should be the province of all.   He believed firmly in art’s transformative powers, both for the individual and for the collective good.  “There is neither ‘good’ art nor ‘bad’ art” he was known to say.  “The only ‘bad’ art is not making art at all.”  


On May 16th, 1979, galvanized by Dean’s “dream,” busloads of MassArt students and faculty descended upon the Massachusetts State House to draw, paint, film, and photograph many of the legislators whose districts these students hailed from. The event was well-covered in the local press, and culminated in an exhibition in Doric Hall at the State House rotunda one month later.  

This exhibit and the adjacent exhibit Raising the Gavel are dedicated to the memory of their Founding Father - Dean Henry Nimmer (b.1945 - d. 2023).

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  • Rowan Kaplan

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