Merger with SNHU would swallow NHIA whole

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It’s so important for people in the community to understand what a “merger” means, especially in terms of the potential deal between SNHU and NHIA. Only one culture moves forward in a merger, never more than that, and it is that of the surviving entity, which in this case is SNHU. Two cultures simply can not be maintained moving forward from a merger, and a secondary culture can not be preserved. Any claims otherwise, of attempts to “preserve the culture” of NHIA post-merger, are simply a sales pitch to push a deal through, since it is factually incorrect that two cultures survive a merger.

Sadly, this deal would mean the extension of SNHU and the loss of NHIA.

If the name of NHIA were kept for this leg of SNHU, post-merger, it would be a token gesture only.

There is certainly a place for SNHU and the business and corporate philosophies of Paul LeBlanc, but that place is not absorbing and then expanding his business umbrella over New Hampshire’s only independent art school.

The creative and artistic students who make their way to NHIA do so BECAUSE it is a small school, BECAUSE it is free of a vast business umbrella over it, and BECAUSE it is specialized and intimate, as opposed to broad-based and more corporate. Creativity and true artistic freedom would struggle to thrive under the weight of the growing behemoth that is SNHU. Paul LeBlanc proudly calls his students “customers,” but at NHIA we are indeed students, artists, and individuals.

Manchester does NOT need an ever-growing SNHU at the expense of other arts, culture, and history of the city.

A mosaic of artwork by Sydney Sparrow, a senior at NH Institute of Art.
A selection of paintings by Sydney Bella Sparrow, a senior at NH Institute of Art.

We need diversity in education, diversity in the arts, and diversity in the cultures offered to students and the community in our city and state. If Paul LeBlanc does indeed love the arts and cares about the preservation of the NHIA community, he would be welcome and well-advised as a donor and contributor, as opposed to initiating a merger deal that will, in fact, eradicate the school and it’s culture, and disband much of its community.

The two cultures of NHIA and SNHU are gravely different, which is the leading reason mergers between entities don’t work. And sadly, the proposal of this deal makes apparent that the cultures between our NHIA community and our current Board of Directors may also be quite different.

That the handful of individuals proposing and possibly pushing this deal through are not, at this time, in touch with or aware of the intangibles that make up the close-knit and rich culture of artistic commitment, expression, and pursuit that makes up the people of NHIA. The fact that these board members seem resistant to truly hearing and working for the constituents that they sit for, but instead would move forward in a tone-deaf fashion towards a deal that would hand our beautiful buildings over to SNHU and water down or wipe out entirely the culture that has steadily carried on since 1898.

Instead, these same NHIA board of trustees seem, based on this merger proposal, closer in cultural empathy with Paul LeBlanc and what he is doing at SNHU. They seemingly appreciate and understand better the massive numbers that he’s crunching, the vision of endless, unstoppable corporate growth, the tidiness of the business-only approach. The truth is, that any board member who would promote such a deal, as the possible merger with SNHU in question, absolutely does not understand the intangibles of our culture made up of creativity, fluidity, and freedom to ignite passion outside of a strict business harness, or the sense of family and intimacy that our small school provides.

These things, I’m sure, sound petty to them. The numbers on our books may look small in their eyes, and the moderate, reserved decision-making involved in maintaining a small, independent, unique entity may seem trying or even boring to individuals normally excited by flashy, big money deals, absorptions, and trades. But it is, in fact, the very balanced and considered tone we need and want as a community, to continue to maintain a small entity with a specialized focus, where all voices can be heard, and growth is based on day-to-day relationships and artistic experimentation, as opposed to being gauged by data analytics and bottom-line numbers.

A welcome sight in coming years would be for the NHIA board of trustees and the NHIA community to spend time getting to know one another and growing a stronger line of communication while maintaining the Institute’s independence and distinct mission. The individuals on the board simply cannot make decisions about our community, our buildings, and our future without this. In return, the NHIA community needs to engage our board members more regularly, and make our culture and voices heard and known, so that they can best help us facilitate our unique direction moving forward. There is also nothing but good will for Paul LeBlanc and SNHU, and we would welcome him building his own art department, with his own resources, and which best meets the needs of the demographic at that institution.

Sydney Bella Sparrow is professional painter, and currently is a senior in the BFA program at NHIA. Her post-graduation goal is to teach drawing and/or painting at NHIA.


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About Carol Robidoux 5855 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!