Fabrication is an iterative process of manipulating physical materials into purposeful form that promotes embodied learning through tool use, process, craft, and holistic practice.
Task Force Objectives
The College of Fine Arts Fabrication Facilities Task Force is charged by Dean Dempster to assess existing fabrication facilities and describe a strategy to modernize these facilities in a way that encourages interdisciplinary synergies and benefits all COFA programs and students.
- Analyze and describe existing fabrication spaces, operations, and usage
- Identify access pathways, activities, strengths, and any unmet needs of facilities from the perspective of the student
- Envision opportunities and rationales that address unmet needs and enhance student fabrication activities
- Recommend short term, intermediate, and comprehensive initiatives to build on existing facility strengths and address barriers to improvement that are consistent with the Mission and Vision of the College of Fine Arts.
Background and Context
All COFA facilities have been placed under increased pressure by growing enrollments of new programs within the School of Design and Creative Technologies. Irrespective of this growth, the University-wide emphasis on experiential learning (EL) has increased interest in fabrication activities by students and faculty alike. Because of the unique production and performative nature of fine arts disciplines and programs, EL in our college often manifests as a project-based curriculum that prompts individual students and collaborative teams to create prototypes, objects, installations, experiences, or performances. As interest in these activities has increased, so has the pressure on existing fabrication facilities.
The college has responded to these pressures by adapting existing fabrication spaces — designed decades ago and outfitted for a variety of pedagogical and programmatic priorities — on an as needed and provisional basis. The Fabrication Facilities Task Force will recommend holistic strategies for sustainable growth and flexibility of these spaces that build on existing successes and imagine future opportunities.
To accomplish these objectives, the Task Force will conduct both a qualitative and quantitative investigations of fabrication spaces and activities using the methods below.
REPRESENTATIVE PROJECTS: ONLINE SURVEY AND INTERVIEWS
We will solicit suggestions from faculty, staff, and students to develop a pool of fabrication projects that were led by COFA students and/or made use of COFA fabrication facilities. We will seek out a diverse set of projects that not only include studio art, design, and live event production but also represent less conspicuous fabrication efforts that arise from music and art history disciplines. To get the fullest view of fabrication activities in COFA we will also consider “passion projects” that are not driven by coursework or curriculum.
From this project pool we will reach out directly to project leaders to ask for their participation in an online survey. We would like to incentivise this survey with a small gift to encourage participation. From these online survey results, we will select six respondents or teams and request follow up interviews.
We feel that both the text based surveys and interviews process are necessary to learn how facilities are truly being utilized and essential to capture the diversity of fabrication activities in our College.
FABRICATION SPACE AND OPERATIONS ASSESSMENT
We will develop an assessment instrument that includes both quantitative and qualitative criteria. This assessment will measure such things and square footage, tool inventories, materials management, and staffing sources. This same instrument will record and compare safety practices, access policies, training methods, intended usage, ancillary usage, recent upgrades, curriculum support, and outstanding needs. We will define each of our COFA fabrication spaces using the definitions of maker spaces commonly found on academic campuses as a method to compare our facilities with those of peer institutions.
PEER INSTITUTIONS AND OTHER UT AUSTIN FACILITIES
Nationally, the most prominent fabrication facilities and makerspaces are housed within engineering and architecture schools. As COFA continues to initiate and invent interdisciplinary programs, it is natural for us to learn at the best fabrication facilities and operations among our peers both regionally and nationally. We hope to arrange for a site visits and interviews as opportunities arise so that we fully informed on challenges and successes that other institutions have experienced.