Fall Updates from the School of Art

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

The past few months have seen seismic shifts in our lives. After a global pandemic upended our Spring semester, we now turn to a newly energized moment of social and political consciousness in this country. Following the message from President Sparks about the upcoming academic year, we can elaborate here on some of the upcoming academic year’s planning and changes specific to the School of Art.

Fall Planning

After the sudden transition to the online learning in the middle of the Spring semester, the School of Art committed itself to understanding the impacts of these changes on our students’ experiences. Since then, we have been soliciting feedback and holding planning meetings to address these questions. In discussions with faculty and student representatives in the Curriculum Committee, the Administrative Committee, and Full-Faculty meetings, our school has moved its planning operations online and refocused entirely to respond to this moment.

Online Learning

As you will have seen in the email from President Sparks, the Cooper Union will be holding all instruction online in Fall 2020 and likely extending this format into the Spring 2021 semester. We’re particularly grateful to our faculty for the work that they have contributed to all these efforts, and look forward to sharing our recommendations for online teaching created by the newly established DAMHS committee (Equity Online: Disability, Access, Mental Health, Sensitivity for Presentation/Training/Resources).

We are encouraging professors to be flexible with the structure of their classes. Our goal is to allow students to spend less time on Zoom, and more time working. For studio classes, this may look like two class sessions, or multiple groups and meeting times.

In the meantime, we’re working with all professors to adapt their syllabi for online teaching. We understand that the abrupt transition was difficult for both our students and faculty, and we’re asking that all classes adapt to this new format. In practice, we expect syllabi to indicate how to prepare your physical space for studio work at home; how to prepare your digital space for studio work at home; to include considerations for students in different time zones; and to set clear expectations for what platform will be used, how assignments will be delivered, and how presentations and critiques will be structured.

In the Fall, grading will return to A-F. We believe that with the additional time to adapt the syllabi, and with clear expectations for each course, it is an appropriate time to resume the grading system.

Moving forward, we are working to increase access to online research materials. We are also increasing the budget for each class to purchase materials for students and to invite guest artists for lectures and studio visits. As many classes are dependent on specialized equipment, we will be implementing a check-out by mail system to support these courses. Certain classes with especially challenging material and facilities requirements are being adapted to run successfully in an alternative, home-studio scenario, while a limited number of courses that were determined to be impossible to run have been cancelled.

Shop and Studio Access

All classes will follow the above online plan.  While we are all eager to return to in-person instruction, continuing online instruction will allow the School of Art to convert classrooms into overflow studio spaces (and home-space areas for Foundation Year) for those students who can be based in New York City, and in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

We are working with Natalie Brooks and the Facilities team to determine if and how we can reopen our shops. Because this information is still evolving, we will continue to update you as we learn more about what facilities access students based in New York can have. As noted above, even those students who are not in NYC will be able to access some equipment and materials through our check-out by mail system.

Because access to the studios and the shops is strictly dependent on New York State’s social distancing guidelines, if there is a resurgence of the virus, or a case on campus, we may be forced to close the buildings and continue online-only. In a scenario where we are also unable to open our shops, we hope to expand what materials and tools are available for check-out, such as cameras, recording equipment, and basic hand tools.

Extracurriculars, Events, and Exhibitions

All public and class lectures will continue online, and we are working on ways to keep everyone informed about these opportunities. We will be sharing in-class guests school-wide, and we will continue to program IDS Lectures, the Wolf Chair, the Katz Chair, Foundation Projects, Lubalin Center lectures, and events in partnership with external institutions. We will also be offering increased honoraria for virtual in-class guests.

For exhibitions, there are two efforts underway. First, we are developing a site for digitally organized shows. This platform will allow student shows, senior exhibitions, and the End of Year Show, to be shared with the Cooper community online. Second, as in-person exhibitions and openings continue to be reevaluated based on social distancing guidelines from the State, we are working on and considering a few different options for in-person shows, should they be viable. The School of Art is currently working with faculty and students to launch our 2020 End of Year Show and we will invite you to the opening soon.

We are currently exploring what informal digital spaces for the community might look like. We know that much of the studio experience and the collaborative nature of artmaking has been lost in the transition online, and we want to cultivate spaces for social connections through your work and ideas, related or in addition to a hub for extra-curricular ideas. We want new and existing student groups -- including the Mental Health Group, the Reading Group, the Climate Group, the Black Student Union, and Art Student Council – to be empowered and active in student life.Additional information about student life will be coming from Student Affairs.

Technology Support

Many of these plans involve the rapid deployment of technology, and we're grateful to be working with IT on many of these items. The initial change to online learning included training for Faculty, Students, and Staff about online platforms, support for faculty technology needs, and financial and technological support for students with limited resources. We will continue to provide these resources as needed. If you feel that you do not have the necessary technology to effectively engage in online learning, and you qualify under the guidelines we have established, there may be financial aid available specifically for this purpose. To learn about these grant opportunities, please visit here and click on the link to apply.

Fall Course Offerings

Although our fall schedule is largely unchanged, we are working to add classes that are proven to work more smoothly within the online format. We are also working with Acting Dean Anne Griffin to add additional HTA and HSS courses.

Due to low enrollments, the following courses have been cancelled. If you were enrolled in one of these classes, you will be contacted soon by the Office of Academic Advisement about your schedule.

  • A/V Advanced with Nash
  • Advanced Drawing with Chuke
  • Techniques in Photoshop with Sohrens
  • Photography with Milan

These courses were determined to be not feasible to practice from home:

  • Lithography with Nobles (See replacement below.)
  • Etching with Ancona (See replacement below.)

The following coursesare dependent on the facilities, but have been adapted for home instruction:

  • Casting Techniques with Wilhelm
  • Silkscreen with La Rocca
  • Papermaking with Martin
  • Photo/AV/Film/Sound (all sections)

We have also added the following courses to the schedule:

  • A/V I, section 3 with Emma Hedditch
  • Relief with Ancona (Replaces Etching)
  • Silkscreen with TBD (Replaces Lithography)
  • Astronomy with Grcevic

We will be opening registration on August 17 to allow students and incoming transfers to modify their schedules. The Office of Academic Advisement (Doug, Fran, Judy) will be in touch with you soon to set up a meeting about your schedule.

For any students considering an elective leave, we ask that you please speak with the Office of Advisement and your professors before requesting a leave. Please note that the earlier April 25 leave deadline has been extended to August 1st to allow you more time to plan for the upcoming academic year.

Foundation Year 

For our Foundation Year students: we will be sharing a detailed plan for your first year with you soon, including your schedule, course descriptions, faculty bios, and materials lists. Foundation faculty are diligently working to adapt syllabi and assignments for these exceptional circumstances, and we will be sending a supply kit to each Foundation student that includes materials and tools necessary for your first year.

The School of Art is committed to creating the highest quality learning experience for our students, and we will continue to update you as planning for the Fall semester continues. As always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


Mike Essl, Dean
Adriana Farmiga, Associate Dean

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.