Land grant means utility, culture equal


The Issue: Balancing agriculture and arts at a land-grant university

Our View: The university’s support for fine arts needs to be as strong as its willingness.

The land-grant charter for South Dakota State University focuses on agriculture. We understand that. But the mandate is for more than a flourishing agricultural school and extension service. It calls for a balanced liberal education.

SDSU has had its moments in the sunshine. Ada B. Caldwell was an industrial arts professor in the early 1900s and the teacher of famous painter Harvey Dunn.

Caldwell was a stronger supporter of new building on campus, including Wenona, Weneta, the Campanile, Lincoln Music Hall, and Pugsley Hall-what was then the student union.

Many of those buildings she promoted are now key landmarks on the SDSU campus and are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Caldwell described the land-grant ideas as “utility and culture.” That’s the best description we can think of-it doesn’t detract from SDSU’s agricultural focus, but emphasizes the need for a liberal, balanced education.

SDSU has many excellent non-ag opportunities. The Pride of the Dakotas and a magnificent theater program show the university has its heart in the right place. But support needs to extend to all areas of art, including the Ritz Gallery.

As reported in the cover story of this week’s Juice, the best location on campus to show student’s work has basic problems. Among other things, the gallery lacks good lighting and a gallery-style door.

Fine arts faculty have aimed for upgrades for years. SDSU arts students raised $5,000 for the gallery improvements by selling chocolate. Norman Gambill, visual arts department head, says Jerry Jorgensen, college of arts and science dean, has always been supportive. However, the gallery remains a relatively poor display area.

Money is tight everywhere. And the lack of a professional quality gallery for student’s work is just another symptom of that problem.

But the solution to cultural support is not necessarily more money, although that would be nice, too. What SDSU needs is a fundamental re-examination of its balance of “utility and culture.”

It’s no one’s fault, yet it is everyone’s duty.

Students have raised money. People in the administration have supported the gallery improvements from the beginning. Recently the Students Association funded repairs to the historic Woodbine Cottage. The spirit is willing for land-grant balance, but the support is still weak.

We have a fine art program. It’s full of enthusiastic students who are excited to learn and create their dreams. Working together, we can improve the balance of utility and culture and give them a display place to be proud of.