The studio is both place and culture, and for students and faculty in the art disciplines, it is equally house and home.

Art is everywhere at Cornell. Even a cursory survey of Cornell’s academic landscape reveals an extraordinary richness of art and design departments, programs, and courses. They are dispersed among multiple colleges and disciplinary fields: the Department of Art, the Department of Performing and Media Arts, the Program in Interior Design, the Department of Architecture, the Department of Landscape Architecture, the Department of Music. The list is long and varied, but there are common characteristics. Most of these programs focus on modes of expression based neither in text nor in symbolic logic, but rather use material, form, and the bodily senses to explore aspects of the human condition. Students in the arts are, in a profound sense, fabricators, in that they craft their work by engaging and reshaping the material world. Art and design students work in particular ways: they work iteratively, responding to their own marks and moves in search of an ever more precise question, for the goal of an artwork is rarely an answer but rather a precise and provocative question. And in contrast to other academic practices, a work of art or design is not submitted and graded. It is exhibited and critiqued, a public event where faculty and students collectively affirm and advance the state of their discipline through discourse and by example.

Testing a robot in the autonomous systems lab.

All this activity requires a specialized environment, a type of space particular to the arts and essential to the education of emerging artists and designers: the studio. The studio is the gravitational core of student life for those in the arts. These are the midnight-oil-burning, draftingtabled, computer-screened, over-caffeinated centers of art teaching and learning where habits are formed and aesthetic identities are shaped. The work in the studio is open and public, even in embryonic form, so the studio is also a place of trust and collaboration. And anxiety. And debate. In the studio a drawn line can provoke an extended argument; a brushstroke can evoke a historical reference; a sketch can launch a critique of the city; an image can declare a philosophical position. The studio is both place and culture, and for students and faculty in the art disciplines, it is equally house and home. Studios dot the campus. They are easy to spot after sundown.

Cornell Fashion Collective Runway Show But learning and teaching in the arts at Cornell is not limited to these specialized academic programs or sites, for there is in fact no clear divide between science and art. In the Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, for example, test tubes and sewing machines, artificial skin and skin-clinging fabrics reside side by side, surrounded by hand sketches and MRI scans. In the Faculty of Computing and Information Science, computer scientists and fine art students collaborate on game design, and computer graphic programmers study Vermeer paintings in an attempt to capture his light, while art students script programs to insert their art into the digital public realm. Art and design students work with equal facility on printing presses, CNC milling machines, and 3D printers. Scientists in the NanoScale Science and Technology Facility participate in an annual competition for the best photograph captured with an electron microscope, while art students study the etching of silicon wafers in the context of traditional etching techniques.

The studio is both place and culture, and for students and faculty in the art disciplines

Then there are the collections: numerous and vast archives that gather together discrete worlds of artifacts into systems of order and classification to facilitate study and reflection. The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art is the university’s principal venue for exhibitions and events, and it serves classes across campus with its special collections and dedicated study galleries. The Kroch Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections is an archive-cum-museum, where the book is revered as much for its text as for its physical presence and material craftsmanship. But perhaps most spectacular is the model collection of invertebrate sea creatures at the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, comprising more than 540 luminous glass sculptures of sea specimens, hand-crafted by the nineteenth-century glass artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in order to display to scholars and the public those spineless creatures that could not, as it were, be stuffed and mounted.

The web of art on campus is vast. But when I say that art is everywhere at Cornell, I intend more than the sum of the classes, the students, the faculty, the studios, the shops, and the wondrous collections that support and advance studies in the arts. Quite literally, as a physical place, Cornell itself is a work of art. Much is made of Cornell’s natural beauty, of the extraordinary topography and sublime nature. But to experience Cornell is to recognize the remarkable reach of the design arts. To be sure, the natural geology is splendid. But make no mistake: this landscape is designed. It has been crafted carefully and lovingly— indeed artistically—to produce the picturesque quadrangles that define the individual precincts of the arts, agriculture, and engineering colleges. It is tethered audaciously to its surrounding environs with bridges that span two gorges and provide a platform and frame for viewing 400 million years of earthwork below. It has been leveled into terraces and graded into slopes that yield the grand vistas and secluded nooks that generations of Cornellians discover anew each fall semester. Cornell is a collection of very fine architecture, and recently some extremely important works have joined the historic fabric of the campus. But even more than its buildings, Cornell is an ensemble of artfully sculpted open space, carefully trimmed view corridors, measured promenades and meandering pathways, mighty oaks sited decades ago with great care to appear as if they were always thus. All this makes Cornell one of the finest examples of nineteenth-century campus planning in the country; a great, if always unfinished, work of art; and a most fitting canvas for a community of wildly creative students and scholars, regardless of their fields of study.