Thomas Jefferson understood the power of art to instruct and enlighten, to delight the senses as well as touch the mind. In his famous letter to Joseph Priestley, Mr. Jefferson counted the fine arts among the "useful & practicable" subjects worthy of study.
Although a lack of resources kept Jefferson from including the arts among the branches of knowledge originally taught at the University. Today's students benefit from distinguished programs in the visual arts, drama, and music with diverse resources in libraries, museums, classrooms, theatres, and studios.
The McIntire Department of Art offers a gallery in their studio art building, Ruffin Hall, which exhibits work by faculty and students as well as nationally recognized artists. Administered by the faculty and operated by students, the gallery is an integral part of the teaching program and a cultural resource for the community. The Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library supports teaching and research in the fields of art and architecture.
The Fralin Museum of Art exhibits art from around the world dating from ancient times to the present day. In addition to its permanent collection, the Museum presents an ongoing schedule of changing exhibitions.
The Department of Drama houses modern facilities to accommodate its classroom, studio, and production activities, including two theatres — the 595-seat Culbreth with proscenium stage and the flexible 200-seat Helms. The department has recently expanded to meet students' interest in dance and now offers a minor in dance. Each year, Drama produces six plays and musicals, two dance concerts, and brings in leading guest artists to conduct master classes and lectures.
The popular Heritage Theatre Festival offers the University and area community traditional and innovative drama and musical theatre during the summer months. Past productions have included South Pacific, Sunday In The Park With George, Proof, and The Light In The Piazza.
The McIntire Department of Music offers a pioneering program that balances study in academics and performance within a liberal arts environment. Department resources include the largest music library in Virginia and the Virginia Center for Computer Music for work in computer sound generation.
Numerous faculty- and student-directed ensembles and community performance groups perform in the Charlottesville area. Offerings include a symphony orchestra, chorus, chamber choir and orchestra, swing orchestra, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, early music ensemble, new music ensemble, opera workshop, and various a capella singing groups.