School of Visual Arts Plans for the Future
As executive vice president of the School of Visual Arts (SVA), Anthony Rhodes, son of the college’s legendary founder, the late Silas H. Rhodes, is committed to furthering his father’s vision of “education as the primary means to improve people’s lives.” Fortuitously, the school is at the center of particularly timely, or “hot,” areas in our culture, and trains students in such disciplines as film and video, animation, cartooning, graphic design, computer art, and photography. Currently, the job market is very good in these fields. Rhodes is in charge of the college’s administrative departments including admissions, financial aid, external relations, and the Visual Arts Press, is creative director of the school’s award-winning Web site, and oversees the widely recognized, ground-breaking subway ad campaigns. His father (“Pops”) “was never an easy man to please,” he reports. “There was fuzziness about him, but when he said no, there was a reason.” The son is often mindful of Pops’ high standards and the advice, “If you do something well, you will be rewarded afterwards.” In admissions, the school has met its enrollment targets—3300 undergraduates and 450 graduate students—three years early. “SVA will continue to grow its graduate programs as well as own the land it sits on, moving from leasing to ownership in the future,” an important goal, explains Rhodes. Distance learning is being considered and additional academic concentrations are being planned. Rhodes is particularly excited about the new MFA program in Criticism and Writing. He notes there are very few writers on the history of design. Steven Heller, an expert with over 100 books in the field drew up the SVA program. Reflecting the founder’s vision, typically, 30 percent of a student’s program comprises courses in humanities and liberal arts taken alongside studio art courses. Foreign students are actively recruited and currently make up 14 percent of the student body. Rhodes explains the college does very little advertising to attract students from abroad, preferring personal visits to prospective feeder countries. “There are college fairs throughout the world,” he explains. He visited China in 2000 and SVA representatives actively recruit and get the school’s name out in many parts of the world. Last year, a poster show in Taiwan helped hook SVA into the local professional arts community. Super Phat, a recent New York exhibit of art by Japanese alumni, hosted a large crowd including graduates who flew in from Japan.
The Visual Arts Press designs and produces all print matter for the college ranging from catalogues to invitations for art openings. Rhodes explains, “Because we’re an art school, we have to present a better catalogue, better than liberal arts schools, and better than our peers.” The catalogues are very exciting. The subway posters, originally used as recruitment tools and illustrations of the potential of design, are now odes to the importance of art in people’s lives. They hang on walls of subway stations for about one month and appear three times a year. SVA is unique, says Rhodes, because it is a private institution and not committee-driven. Its structure keeps it nimble and able to make decisions quickly. “The cornerstone of this place is our part-time professional faculty,” he points out. “Some people don’t realize how important that is until they get here or leave here. Students get the most current knowledge of the time.”
Rhodes, who is not trained in art, cites his high school instructors and Ed McCabe, an advertising copywriter who now works for the school, for inspiring him and teaching him a great deal of what he knows. His great passion, he confesses, is cooking and when not at SVA, he is in the kitchen preparing food for weekend guests.#