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Fine and Performing Arts Commission
October 19, 1999

Attendance: Bob Chapel (Chair), Samantha Beer, Nancy Brockman, Marcia Day Childress, Dean Dass, Angela Davis, Ed Davis, Lear DeBessonet, Johanna Drucker, Jane Ford, Joan Fry, Larry Goedde, Jill Hartz, Richard Herskowitz, Shona Hunter, Denise Karaoli, Judith Kinnard, Phyllis Leffler, Marita McClymonds, Clo Phillips, Adam Popp, Jack Robertson, George Sampson, James Scales, Judith Shatin, Bill Sublette, and Beth Sutton.

Mr. Chapel gave the commission an update on exploring site options for the future performance hall. A potential donor has expressed interest in the project. The President needs a well-documented proposal that will address programmatic, logistical, and master planning issues, and he needs a reliable estimate of what it would cost to build it. A small group is working to determine what the hall should look like and where it would best be located. The group is in agreement that the hall should address music’s needs; it should have a minimum of 1500 seats; it should have first-class acoustics; and its design should accommodate a variety of uses and include a fly, wings, a sprung floor, dressing rooms, a scene shop, and costume area. The group is looking at a site near Clemmons Library and the parking garage. A site on Emmet Street near University Hall has also been suggested. Discussion indirectly related to the location of the performance hall has suggested the possibility of locating the fine arts library near Alderman and Clemmons Libraries, and housing the music department in a building adjacent to the performance hall. It is not clear that there is sufficient space to accommodate all these buildings. Further, removing the music department from the other fine and performing arts weakens the concept of creating an arts precinct that would encourage the engagement of students and faculty in learning, projects, and conversations that cross the arts disciplines.

Marita McClymonds said that the music department has four goals: 1) to keep the music program together, i.e., do not separate performance space from the intellectual space, 2) as a part of the College of Arts and Sciences, the music department must be within ten minutes of the center of Grounds, (i.e. an Emmet Street location is too far removed from Central Grounds), 3) music needs major parking facilities for performances, and 4) music wants to be part of the arts community and needs the music library located with the music department.

Judith Kinnard expressed her surprise about the discussion of a possible new site for a performance hall. No one in the School of Architecture has heard about this. She urged better communication and requested that Karen Van Lengen, the new dean, be sent copies of the Commission’s full minutes. She asked that the master plan be studied carefully, lest we lose sight of the hope to keep all the arts together. Mr. Chapel added that Dean Leffler had said he had little information about the work of the commission. The commission members agreed that the full minutes should be sent to all deans.

Clo Phillips, who is heading the group that is exploring potential sites for a performance hall, reassured everyone that nothing is firm and no decisions have been made.

Mr. Chapel gave commissioners copies of his notes from the commission’s October 8-9 retreat and of his report to the Board of Visitors on October 15. He emphasized that his notes from the retreat were very sketchy, and because his talk to the Board was limited to seven-minutes, he could not include everything. He explained that the chairs of the four Virginia 2020 planning commissions (Science and Technology, International Activities, Public Service and Outreach, and the Fine and Performing Arts) summarized the activities of their commissions to the Board members. Mr. Sweeney, Vice President for Development, followed with his report to the Board saying that the end of the current $1 billion capital campaign does not mean that fundraising will end. It will be necessary to continue to raise funds for the programs and facilities that will be recommended in the plans developed by the four commissions.

Mr. Chapel said he had reviewed the mission for the commission for the purpose of gauging progress, and concluded that the work is about one-third completed. The group has reviewed the past and current programs, department by department. Now the commission must turn to current and future programs, define the goal, and determine what it will take to achieve the goal. Then it must build a compelling case for fundraising in support of the fine and performing arts at the University envisioned for the future. Mr. Chapel suggested that at this point, the commission might work most effectively in small task groups.

Mr. Chapel asked commission members to comment on the ideas they heard at the retreat. Everyone agreed that one overriding message was the desirability for interdisciplinary approaches to the arts as a whole. A second point that everyone heard was the need to raise endowment to operate any buildings we construct. Such endowment should be one-half the cost of the building. Commissioners agreed that we should stop thinking in terms of departments, but rather to think more programmatically about the arts in their entirety. Look at projects and see where there are common approaches, common interests, common goals – regardless of who or what department.

Speakers at the retreat told us that if you have good people and excellent facilities, lots can happen. We need to move forward, and while it is wise to plan, planning can be a way not to move forward. Likewise, benchmarking can be fine, but it does not enable us to do really creative things. Phyllis Leffler suggested taking ideas from the retreat, but also looking carefully at ourselves and asking who is innovative. We will benefit by thinking of new ways of putting people together.

Lear DeBessonet asked what can students do to promote the work of the commission. She has contemplated conducting a survey, writing an article for the Cavalier Daily, organizing a festival of the arts, or doing something else to bring the arts more to the attention of the University community. Mr. Chapel responded that he thought a survey of student interest in the arts would be useful. A survey could help us learn whether the arts are offering students what students want, or what the faculty wants. Ms. DeBessonet noted also that without performance space available to students, the University does not encourage students' creativity.

Shona Hunter agreed about the lack of performance space and asked where space for dance fits into the facilities planning. She feared that even though the proposed performance hall will have a sprung floor, it will not be available to students for dance. The dance club is not a formal program, and as a club, dance would have to pay to use the space. It cannot afford to pay. Bob Chapel and Marita McClymonds reassured Ms. Hunter that dance is very much a part of the discussions. Both music and drama plan to include dance studios in the facilities they hope to build.

In further discussion of the retreat, Angela Davis suggested that common goals of the arts departments should be the guide to developing a curriculum with common purposes. The arts need to decide on their focus and look for relationships in goals. Out of that curricular planning can evolve a plan for proximity of students and programs and facilities.

Dean Dass said that the visual arts start off with basic drawing and then build toward painting, print making, sculpture, photography, etc. The visual arts become increasingly interdisciplinary at advanced levels, and it would make sense to look at joint appointments between art and architecture, and art and the new media studies program, for example.

Phyllis Leffler responded that joint appointments make sense on an individual basis, but wondered if such appointments rather than being made on an ad hoc basis could not be fully programmatic, like the performance program at NYU. Dean Dass said that the visual arts do not fit into standard program descriptions. Marita McClymonds cautioned that departmental structures do not encourage team teaching, and said that team teaching would require additional faculty

Bob Chapel agreed that our thinking needs to break out of the box; we should get together and commit to doing new things. The interdisciplinary task group (a subcommittee of the commission) would be a logical group to investigate projects that bring people together on projects, or shared goals, outside the department structure.

Johanna Drucker observed that new media may provide creative ways to bring the arts together. She suggested that the commission take a systematic look at projects and build the scheduled fall 2000 fine and performing arts conference around projects. Rather than the usual "talk at" conference, this conference can be lively and involve participants who have a project in which their energy is invested. The conference would bring in experts to demonstrate how to take the projects we are doing to the next step. Marcia Day Childress suggested also involving students to define arts projects and lead us in new directions. Clo Phillips added that a core group of people in the University and the community are already enthusiastic about the arts. We need to figure out how to spread interest in the arts beyond this group by showing how the arts contribute to learning and society, and build a broader base of support for the fine and performing arts.

Bob Chapel announced that the next meeting would be on November 2. At that meeting he will present a plan for work in sub groups of the commission.

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