Joseph Futtner has been dean at PCC since 2011, but he’s been teaching here since July 1993. All these years, he’s been introducing new programs and enriching the college experience for many students. He will be leaving his job here as a dean in July, and he’ll go back to teaching, but this time in Italy.
The Department of Visual Arts and Media Studies (VAMS) the dean’s responsibility here at Pasadena City College. It is the heart of two divisions: the Center for the Arts, originally designed for performing and communication arts and their sister division, Visual Arts and Media Studies.
“The original plan was to create a sense of interaction and opportunities for exchanges among the faculty and that has worked quite well on a number of occasions,” said Futtner. “Several years ago, one of the early initiatives that went forward came from dance. It was a dance and a drawing enterprise that was undertaken by the two faculty members from the different divisions.”
There is a variety of programs at VAMS: everything from digital media to traditional, conventional studio arts. They have drawing programs, with live and table drawing, and they have also had a very notable painting program at PCC for a number of years. The department used to be called Digital Media Art, but they want to make sure that the component of design is now included, so it’s now called Design Media Art.
Rebecca Morrison and Claire Baker are the principal faculty contributors in that area; one of their instructors, Mary Rose Mendoza, has just become a Guggenheim fellow as a result of her recognition as an artist within the Los Angeles region and beyond. She is the second Guggenheim winner at PCC; the first one was Morrison several years ago.
Futtner is very proud of the quality of the instruction here. It’s a pride for a program that goes back many, many decades before world war II.
Futtner considers himself as a person educated in the old school model. He went to college in the 1970s, then to graduate school in the 1980s. He was a humanities and a history major, and he taught the latter subject for a number of years here at PCC. He says that he’s excited to be doing that in Italy again.
“One of the things that I’m responsible to oversight is the study abroad program,” said Futtner. “Working with the faculty member Andrea Morrey, we took the project to a very interesting and exciting direction: we have increased the number of programs and courses offered, we run a ‘conventional Florence’ program in the Fall and we run the Oxford program. Those are full semester programs in the Spring. We also have a series of intersession courses that are about five to six weeks depending on the venue. They are quite successful because they provide a smaller and less expensive opportunity for students to have an international experience.”
Futtner and Murray will be going to Florence as part of their faculty assignment when the dean returns to the classroom as an art history teacher.
“I will miss being the dean of the Visual Arts and Media Studies department at PCC a great deal,” said Futtner. “But I will also be welcoming my return to the classroom. The job of being a college manager, particularly being a dean is a difficult one because you’re trying to satisfy a lot of needs, a lot of folks’ understanding of what the job is and what the parameters of that assignment are and of course you’re always faced with issues of enrollment, and principally of money and budget issues.”
He thinks that it’s a very interesting job, and his own personal feelings about leaving his job as a dean at PCC is one of sadness on one hand but also one of delightful relief because sometimes in life it’s necessary to have a turnaround. Going back to teaching and doing it in Italy is going to be Futtner’s enactment next school year.
“I speak Italian enough to save my life.” Futtner said.
He added that his French is better than his Italian, but he said that for good or for ill, Florence is such a highly touristic city that both Italian and English are spoken. In the past, he took one of PCC extension courses in Italian. He said that he doesn’t know how well he performed in that class, but he certainly learned a great deal.
“That’s something to look forward to in my own terms of personal development, to try to increase my skills in a way that will enhance my teaching, prior to my ultimately retiring from the working world within a few years.” Said Futtner.
Brian Tucker has been collaborating in different ways with Futtner since 2005 when they were both teachers here at PCC. When Tucker first arrived at PCC, he was running the campus art gallery which used to be in the Quad where now there’s the conference center. They have a program called the artist in residence that has been going on for more than 30 years. This show brings in prominent artists that have a show and they come to campus for a week and they usually donate a piece of original art to the school. These are usually kept in the library.
“Futtner and I were collaborating for the first time on the artist in residence,” said Tucker. “We were given a very short notice to research and write about each of the artists and the works that they donated to the campus and he really stepped up and helped me until two in the morning trying to get things done. That was probably the first time that I collaborated with him on anything. Of course, as a dean, there are lots of occasions to talk with him about various issues relating to teaching students, curriculum, etc.”
For the last two years Futtner has also been the overseeing dean of the study abroad program, in addition to his work at VAMS. Andrea Murray is the faculty coordinator of the program, and she said that she had the pleasure to work with him in that capacity and she is also happy to be able to go to Italy to teach alongside him in the Florence program in the Fall. Murray teaches anthropology and archeology classes and she will be teaching those classes in English to PCC students while in Italy.
The program also offers Italian classes from local instructors. They will be teaching PCC classes but in an international location. The classes there will last for three months, the duration of the Fall semester. After that, Murray and Futtner will return to PCC and go back to teaching here. Futtner’s dean position will end in July and they will be leaving for Florence in September.
“I am happy for him because I know that this was a hard decision and one that he didn’t take lightly,” said Murray. “I know that he thinks that there are a lot of positive benefits for him personally and I know that he thinks that it will be good for the campus having a transition in leadership as well but I will miss him. He has been a dean on this campus for a very long time and I will always continue to see him as one of the leaders here at PCC. I will always appreciate how kind and supportive he was to me, and the advice he offered; I see him as a mentor, as well as an administrator and a colleague, so I will miss him in that role, as well as a dean over the study abroad program.”