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Kathryn Farley, Generative Systems

Final Years

As Generative Systems’ offerings grew, Professor Sheridan found herself struggling to balance various administrative, teaching and service-related responsibilities. In an effort to continue providing students with individualized instruction and to better distribute organizational tasks among program personnel, she approached administrators at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to suggest ways of supporting her operational initiatives. For example, when Professor Sheridan submitted a budget to Dean Roger Gilmore detailing projected expenses for the 1976-1977 academic year, she attached a memo describing changes in Generative Systems that prompted the need for a more flexible style of managerial and financial oversight (c).

In 1980, administrators became concerned about the possibility of budgetary problems at the School. They encouraged program directors to devise plans for streamlining operations and increasing enrollments. In February of that year, prompted by fiscal and enrollment concerns, the Faculty Senate Budget Committee decided to reduce the amount of days that teachers would be compensated for instructing Generative Systems courses during the 1980-1981 academic year. In response, she sent a memo to Dean Gilmore urging him to reconsider implementing the Faculty Senate's decision. (d) Dean Gilmore countered by verifying his original position. A few weeks later, the Time Arts Faculty sent members of the Joint Committee on Curriculum and Budget a memo in support of Professor Sheridan’s program and articulating their concerns about its demise. Shortly afterwards, Professor Sheridan submitted an inquiry to Donald Irving, Director of the School, asking for information about early retirement options. In effect, the letter served as her formal resignation. (e), (f)

Recently, Professor Sheridan commented on the succession of events that motivated her to pursue an early retirement from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. (a)

Even without an institutional base, though, Generative Systems continued to thrive long after 1980. Graduates of the program, guest lecturers, and faculty affiliates went on to pursue distinguished careers in the arts, cultural affairs and education. In this interview excerpt, Professor Sheridan speaks about the significance of Generative Systems in shaping the lives of participants and providing a forum for the exchange of ideas regarding the role of technology in contemporary art praxis. (b) In the end, the program’s “networked” infrastructure has served to extend the Generative Systems classroom in new pedagogical directions and creative terrain.

Kathryn Farley © 2007 FDL