Students and professors at Harrisburg Area Community College recently discovered that the college has cut valuable courses from the arts program. Strategically, as enrollment for the next semester opened, classes including ceramics, screen-printing, printmaking, and glass quietly disappeared from the catalog.
Last week, I spent time with some of the students who are not only enrolled currently in those classes, but are part of a tight-knit community of makers thriving and supporting each other through the arts programs at HACC.
Allanah Green in the hot shop of Harrisburg Area Community College. March, 2018.
Although she initially came to HACC for equestrian studies, Allanah was always fascinated with glass. When she learned that the program existed, she quickly switched her major to pursue Fine Arts. Following the switch, her life was quickly consumed by glass. “[The hot shop] was the first place I felt accepted.” After graduating, she continues to audit the class–building a portfolio to apply to bachelors programs at four year art schools. Without access to the shop, she will not be able to build a glass portfolio.
The shop, tucked behind the Rose Lehrman Arts Center is student maintained and also partially student built. “I fix everything,” she states confidently. She is adamant about how important it is to be trained in the maintenance of the shop in addition to developing skills as a maker. Students here develop well rounded, valuable skills that make them strong assets to programs at other schools and established glass shops.
Roderick (Rod) Dixon sitting with his classmate and friend, Allanah Green, before heading into the hot shop at HACC. March, 2018.
This isn’t Rod Dixon’s first experience at Harrisburg Area Community College. Initially, Rod came to HACC to pursue a career change in 2002. He received an Associates in Web Design and subsequently moved on to Duquesne University, finishing a Bachelor of Science in Leadership and Computer Systems Technology and then a Masters in Information Systems from Shippensburg University. Since then, he has been working as a business professional in the Harrisburg area.
After purchasing a new camera, Rod eventually returned to HACC in 2014 to take a beginning digital photography class. Once again realizing his endless capacity for learning, he began to foster his new curiosity for the arts in photography. While waiting for photography courses to be offered in the evenings to accommodate his schedule, Rod was also introduced to glass. He immediately fell in love with the process and the hot shop promptly became a happy home for his creativity. Currently, Rod is working on an Associates in Fine Arts in Photography with a focus in Glass Arts at HACC as well as a MBA from Western Governors University and hopes to eventually open an arts focused business.
“The possibility that we won’t have this anymore is extremely disheartening.” Rod speaks sweetly of Allanah, his other classmates, and future students who will potentially never have the opportunity to explore glass art. He has found camaraderie and community through the arts program, specifically the glass courses, at HACC. “Glass forces you to form a bond,” Allanah adds. The hot shop can be a dangerous environment and it is crucial to communicate clearly, trust each other, and develop supportive, nurturing relationships as classmates and fellow makers.
Rod is determined to help the administration come up with solutions to keep these classes in the community college. “To figure out ways to try to save this program is on the top of my agenda… to push [HACC] to do the right thing.”
Please consider signing the student petition below and share your personal stories about HACC Arts with the hashtag #saveHACCarts.