New major proposed, will link science, art

By Lauren Kelly

A new major may be offered at Columbia if approved at the College Council meeting on May 1. An undergraduate degree in Art Conservation, offered through the Science and Mathematics Department, may become the third undergraduate program in the country offering a degree in conservation.

The major would combine many science and mathematics classes with fine arts, forging a new connection between the departments. The proposal was announced at the April 3 College Council meeting in the 1104 Center, 1104 S .Wabash Ave.

Many courses the major would require are already offered through the Science and Mathematics Department, including Chemistry of Art and Color, Concepts of Biochemistry and Chemistry and Art: Textiles and Dyes. Intensive chemistry courses required for the major would be taken at Roosevelt


Students would also be required to complete coursework and study in Florence, Italy at Lorenzo de’ Medici, an art conservation laboratory. The relationship between Columbia and Lorenzo de’ Medici has been cultivated by Columbia President Warrick L. Carter. Dr. Constantin Rasinariu, Science and Mathematics Department chair, said the partnership would provide hands-on training for students and give them real-world experience.

One concern voiced in the meeting was the additional cost for students involving the required study in Italy.

“What’s the price tag on this going to be?” Journalism Department faculty member Rose Economou asked. She said because travel and living expenses in Italy are required, some students may struggle with the costs on top of tuition.

Rasinariu said funding and potential scholarships are being looked into by the Science and Mathematics Department, but he did not know the exact costs.

The field and study of art conservation is being affected by advances in technology and science. In the past, people learned the craft by serving as an apprentice, but now the discipline requires formal education and understanding of science.

Art conservation is not currently addressed in Columbia’s curriculum, and, according to a comprehensive 92-page proposal, the creation of the major may draw students already attending Columbia. Though the college has a well-formed Science and Mathematics Department, very few students major in the program.

“Considering that science and math have always had kind of an unusual status in mostly an arts school, I think this is actually a brilliant idea for a major within that department,” said Jeff Abell, associate chair of Interdisciplinary Arts. “It makes clearer the connection between science and the arts at this institution.”

Rasinariu said this major “echoes a trend of implementing interdisciplinary studies across the country, and it offers immense opportunities for collaboration between the arts and sciences at Columbia College Chicago.”

Combining fine art and science, this interdisciplinary field is currently only offered as an undergraduate program at two colleges in the United States. This would make the program highly competitive, as it would be the only art conservation program in the Midwest. Rasinariu said the department anticipates seven to 10 students enrolling in the program each year.

Science and Mathematics Department faculty member Robin Whatley said in addition to the undergraduate programs in Delaware and New Mexico, there are seven graduate programs.

“A lot of students who are going into [graduate programs] don’t end up going through an undergraduate program that is for art conservation,” she said. “They start from different avenues and they end up spending a year trying to get the experience that we’re going to provide to actually get into graduate programs. It seems like there really is a need for this.”

According to the proposal document, the city of Chicago may provide valuable opportunities such as internships and future job placement for students studying the major. In addition to the many galleries and museums located near the campus, Columbia is working to develop a relationship with the Chicago Conservation Center, 730 N. Franklin St., the largest private conservation business in the nation.

College Council will vote on approval of this major at its next meeting on May 1.