Letter from Head of School Charlie White

Posted on March 18, 2020

Grid of 25 people on a video conference call

Dear School of Art Community,

As we begin the second half of the spring semester this week, we find ourselves in an unprecedented time of uncertainty and concern. I want to reach out to our community to both acknowledge the many obstacles we will continue to face, and to express my belief that, in our roles as artists and creative thinkers, we will all find ways to continue confronting the realities of our times with the insight and imagination necessary for both personal and cultural resilience.

First, I want to acknowledge the impact on our students of our move to an entirely remote second half of the semester. We all understand that the loss of studio space, shops, and labs creates a chasm between vision and execution. However, despite the difficulties of the past week, I have been inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of our incredible faculty and staff as they have worked to radically rethink curricula in a matter of days. Though remote instruction is obviously not ideal for an art school, I am genuinely excited by the solutions our faculty have devised for their courses. I feel confident that, though altered, the education students receive in the next seven weeks will be rich and meaningful. We have a brilliantly creative cohort of students, and the innovative thinking that is at the core of education at Carnegie Mellon University equips us all to devise transformative responses to difficult situations. 

At this time, it is also important to remind ourselves that art and artists have always played a key role in times of hardship. Art gives us the tools to ground a fraught present within the context of forgotten pasts, and to envision new futures arising from current crisis. Artists unite disparate forms of knowledge, create communities, and bridge seemingly unbridgeable divides. Even—or especially—in times of separation, art speaks to our individual and collective experiences and links us through our shared humanity.

Going forward, in order to best acknowledge and support the critical work that you—our community of students, faculty, alumni, and friends—are undertaking, we will shift the structure of this newsletter, as well as our social media platforms and other online efforts, in order to showcase our graduating seniors; highlight the amazing work all of our students are creating out of this challenging moment; and offer a space for the words, voices, and experiences of our entire community. The School of Art remains vibrant, and we will shift the lens of our school to focus on what we are all doing, creatively, intellectually, and personally, so that, although we are no longer sharing the same physical space, we can create a space of support among us all. 

Though never in our lives have we faced a situation like the one we are in, I believe we can apply so much of what we know to make this moment tenable, to grow within it, and to support each other as the days and weeks pass. Thank you all for taking the time to read this, and I hope you are all finding a space of comfort and strength in knowing that you are each an essential part of the School of Art. 


Charlie White
Regina and Marlin Miller Head of School
School of Art
Professor of Art
Carnegie Mellon University

The School of Art MFA cohort meets with faculty and staff remotely via Zoom. Photo by Jackson McKeehan.