MANCHESTER, NH – After rejecting a merger proposition last fall from Southern New Hampshire University that would have changed everything about New Hampshire Institute of Art, the century-old downtown institution is moving, full steam ahead into the 21st century, with a new president at the helm and a new sense of purpose.
Changes are in the wings for the 117-year-old art college. The art supply and camera shop on Amherst Street will be closing, and there will be some reorganization from within to create a stronger online presence and funnel resources where they matter most, says new President Kent Devereaux, who started his new job Jan. 5.
Changes, which were announced last week to faculty and students, also include some staff contracts which won’t be renewed and other positions being created, said Devereaux — six layoffs and six new positions, in all.
“The most noticeable change will be closing the Institute’s Camera Shop and Art Supply Store as of July 1. We’ll also be changing some of our academic programs, and launching a search for a chair of liberal arts – and we’re also going to be hiring a new director of human resources, as well as a director of marketing. We have nobody overseeing marketing right now, and to be able to do that, we had to take a look at our senior management situation,” Devereaux said.
Devereaux said closing the art store will be a savings in the low “six figures” while allowing the Institute to expand its gallery space to provide more exhibition opportunities for students, faculty and visiting artists. They will also be able to negotiate a better deal with an online art supply provider.
“Between our students, faculty and staff, and community education students we can offer 2,000 users to an online provider, so it’s an attractive proposition,” Devereaux said.
A significant loss will be the exodus of Executive Vice President Rick Strawbridge, who Devereaux says put himself on the chopping block. According to Devereaux, Strawbridge said it was the right time for him to bow out and pursue other interests.
Also being phased out is the Dean of Undergraduate Studies position, which means Zdzislaw Sikora will not return to that post after July 1. Longtime faculty member Patrick McCay will take over as interim Dean of Undergraduate Studies.
These changes will allow the Institute to redirect resources into its marketing department, primarily in a push to upgrade its online presence and promote the residential living opportunities NHIA offers.
“To be quite frank, when we did a financial analysis, all our academic programs are fine; it’s other things – like the store with declining sales, and not having optimized the residence hall – that made us very much like being a rental landlord. We are at 70 percent occupancy, which is not where we want to be,” Devereaux said.
The Institute’s fastest-growing demographic is students from outside of New England, which is why a compelling web presence is essential to NHIA’s future growth and continued success, Devereaux said.
“Right now we’re exceeding our expectation for bringing in students from outside of New England. Imagine what would happen if we had a coordinated strategy? Imagine how successful we’ll be once we can truly reflect all that we have to offer through our website,” Devereaux said.
“We’re taking a play out of our new playbook by looking at what other colleges are doing well; we have to if we’re going to be a competitive college. Our focus is still on fine arts and providing a solid art and design-based education. What we do in the classroom doesn’t change. Where we haven’t been as successful is in marketing all that we are and what we offer,” Devereaux said. “We’re quite confident we’ll see enrollment growth and financial stability. We’ve been around for 117 years. We’re not going anywhere”
Ultimately Devereaux said he’d like to see a 10 percent increase in student residency each year over the next two years to be up around 90 percent occupancy.
Devereaux said an announcement will be coming in about three weeks which will further illuminate some of the changes and innovations on the horizon for NHIA, to capitalize on its current resources while creating unique partnerships with Manchester’s other colleges and universities.
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