September 20, 2018

Meeting This Afternoon at Lyme Academy to Discuss Future of College, Campus

The sign at Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts prior to its take-over by the University of New Haven.

A meeting is being held this afternoon at Lyme Academy at 4:30 p.m. to which all “alumni and friends of the college” are invited to discuss the future of the college.  The meeting is hosted by University of New Haven President Steven Kapland and Lyme Academy Dean Todd Jokl.  It is being held in response to the UNH Board of Governor’s announcement last Monday afternoon that it, “has decided, effective at the end of the academic year in May 2019, to discontinue the University’s degree-granting academic offerings on the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts campus in Old Lyme.”

In a letter to alumni and friends of the college, UNH President Steve Kaplan and Lyme Academy Campus Dean Todd Jokl say, ” We realize that this decision may come as a shock, and we know that there is little we can say that will allay any disappointment you have.” They continue, “All students accepted to begin this fall and those currently enrolled in B.F.A. programs at Lyme will be able to finish the 2018-19 academic year on the Lyme campus, with all programs fully operational and with no changes to residential or student-life services.”

After the end of the 2018-19 academic year, the BFA Illustration program at Lyme Academy will relocate to the main UNH campus at West Haven.  It is unclear at this point what will happen to the other three majors that the Academy offers, namely painting, drawing and sculpture.  The letter mentions the possibility of “continuing in those disciplines through an articulation agreement that we are in the process of establishing with the University of Hartford.”

The letter states, “Candidly, with the benefit of hindsight, this decision was made more with our hearts than with our heads, and the challenges we have faced at Lyme over the past four years have been greater than anticipated.”

Reaction to the news, which was given to current students, staff, faculty and alumni on Monday, was swift and numerous posts on Facebook expressed both sadness and anger.  Questions were raised about the future of the buildings at the Lyme campus, the timing of the announcement on the heels of the previous day’s major fundraiser at Ocean House, RI, and the use of the $1.1 million bequest to the college by Diana Atwood-Johnson.  There was also universal dismay in relation to the incoming freshmen who are due to start what they believed was a four-year BFA program later this month — one person commented on Facebook that their situation resembled a “bait and switch.”

Campus Dean Jokl said in an email to the publisher of LymeLine.com that, “The future of Lyme Academy will be determined in the months to come but I am hopeful it will be a vibrant arts education institution.”

The press release from UNH states that a Lyme Transition Task Force will be formed, “to consider future pathways for Lyme Academy College students,” adding that this Task Force will, “examine options for students in Drawing, Painting, and Sculpture. Two potential options for students enrolled when current programs cease in May, 2019 have been identified: switching to a different art or design major offered at the West Haven campus, or continuing in those disciplines, through an articulation agreement with the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford.”

In the Frequently Asked Questions posted on the Lyme Academy section of the UNH website, it says in answer to the question, “What will happen to Lyme’s facilities?” that, “The Lyme Board will determine future plans for the campus.”  LymeLine.com has received many comments regarding the future of the campus and so, to serve our readers, we raised some initial questions with UNH.  We were referred to Lyn Chamberlin, UNH Vice President for Marketing and Communications, and her responses to our questions are detailed below:

Q: Can students who are enrolled as freshmen or transfer students starting this month receive a full refund? 

A: Of course. Questions may be directed to the Lyme Transition Team at 860.598.5067 or lymetransition@newhaven.edu or on the website:newhaven.edu/Lyme.

Q: What is the plan for the Southwick Commons? 

A: Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts is in a multi-year contract with the developer, and as of now, there is no change.

Q: Can you comment on the timing of this announcement in light of Lyme holding a major fundraiser yesterday (Sunday)? 

A: We felt that it was in the best interest of new and returning students and their families to give them this news as soon as we could. This event had been scheduled for some time, and any money raised will be used to support our students this academic year.

 Q: Similarly, can you comment on the timing of this announcement in light of Lyme not holding its traditional major fundraiser, the ArtsBall, in June? 

A:There is no connection between these two events.

We asked SECoast, the independent not-for-profit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the historic coastline communities of Connecticut and Rhode Island, for their reaction to the news. Their Executive Director Greg Stroud said, “Lyme Academy has provided outstanding classical art education for students in an irreplaceable setting that is home to American Impressionism. The future of the campus is of enormous importance to the very vital arts community of the region, and to the character of the surrounding historic district in Old Lyme. Obviously, moving forward, this will be a top priority for our organization.”

More to follow on this story.

 

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