Author Archives: Tyler Bennett

A letter to Jeffrey Hoffman on his last day as Dean of Students at Art Center

Jeff HoffmanHey Jeff,

It’s Tyler. This letter is hard to write. On your last day as our Dean of Students, I’ve collected a few thoughts about the impact you’ve had on my life, the life of students and how much you’ll be missed by everyone.

When I first heard about you in the hallway most every person who mentioned you would remark, “Jeff? He’s great.” In the past few years I have seen how true this is, and how it doesn’t go far enough. Jeff, you’re wonderful. You’re compassionate and fair, steadfast and kind. The positive change you have made in the lives of students and everyone at Art Center has made a momentous difference and will not be forgotten.

Your energy inspires. Seeing the dedicated attention that you give every issue that comes across your desk and the grace and diligence with which you handle things big and small motivates me to be the kind of leader I have been so privileged to see you exemplify. The work you have done to ensure students’ health and happiness through the CSE has changed the school’s culture. The policy changes you have pushed for — being student-centered and seeing the learning opportunities at every step — modeled the generosity that we needed and continue to aspire towards as an institution. Your initiatives with the Council on Diversity and Inclusion and the environment you helped create have made for a truly safe space where everyone is heard, appreciated and empowered to act.

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Nap Stars: Art center students rally around a dedicated sleep space

Nap time for Isaac Oaks

Nap time for Isaac Oaks

In addition to the beautiful illustrations and sleek looking car models adorning the halls at Art Centers’ Hillside Campus, there’s an intriguing installation viewable to students and visitors alike. In the library, on couches in the hallway and on top of most any flat surface available: students can be found splayed out catching some shut-eye, desperate for a place to rest their head during the long demanding days and weeks of the term.

Rumors and horror stories flood new students, with tales of students who crashed their cars and somehow walked away unharmed (i.e.’How funny it is that so-and-so hurt themselves while building a model?’) and how people in authority positions support and contribute to this propaganda of self-denial. As the student population diversifies in age and life experience it is clear that additional co-curricular and non-curricular structures are necessary to continue producing top-notch designers and artists.

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A Transman Speaks Out on LGBTQ Allyship, DOMA, and Eating a Cookie

Tyler Bennet's self-portraits track his transgender transformation

Tyler Bennet’s self-portraits track his transgender transformation

Tyler is a student at Art Center in the Fine Art Program. Last week OutNetwork, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Student Club along with the Center for the Student Experience and Tyler led an Awareness and Ally Day at both campuses; encouraging staff, students and faculty to wear red and outwardly honor their commitment to a diverse and inclusive Art Center. Tyler’s work centers on large-scale photographs of his gender transition and daily life as a transgender man (transman.). Tyler is the current President of the Art Center Student Union, Vice President of the Art Center Service Club and the Director of Student Concerns on Student Government.

When I came to Art Center a few years ago I never could have imagined that I would be making 12’ photos of vulnerable parts of my life/body, sitting in countless committee meetings or walking down the hallway pinky promising students to take a nap. In my first few terms I observed the extreme work mentality, negation of personal narrative and absence of critical theory dialogue happening in and out the classroom; and ultimately how detrimental this vacuum can be to a creative. I started standing up for a supportive educational model — one where doing things outside of school and a commitment to self-care is viewed as integral to success in the studio. When I started taking testosterone as part of my gender transition I became even more aware of the need to bring these things into the present educational dialogue, also remarking on the exploitation and exoticism of minority populations in design work; including that of gender non-conforming people.

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