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Commission on Fine and Performing Arts
November 2, 1999

Attendance: Bob Chapel (Chair), Hilary Alger, Samantha Beer, Nancy Brockman, Marcia Day Childress, James Cooper, Wayne Cozart, Dean Dass, Ed Davis, Lear DeBessonet, Johanna Drucker, Jane Ford, Joan Fry, Larry Goedde, Jeff Hantman, Jill Hartz, Richard Herskowitz, LaVahn Hoh, Shona Hunter, Denise Karaoli, Judith Kinnard, Phyllis Leffler, Jane Penner, Jack Robertson, George Sampson, James Scales, Judith Shatin, Bill Sublette, and Beth Sutton, and Betsy Tucker.

Bob Chapel introduced a new commission member LaVahn Hoh, associate chairman of the drama department; as well as Hilary Alger, associate director of arts development for the College of Arts and Sciences; and Betsy Tucker, a faculty member in the department of drama who is serving on the interdisciplinary subcommittee.

Mr. Chapel asked Phyllis Leffler to report on the activities of the commission’s subcommittee on interdisciplinarity in the arts. Ms. Leffler identified the other members of the sub-committee: Marcia Day Childress, Johanna Drucker, Jeff Hantman, Jack Robertson, and Betsy Tucker. They have met several times to discuss possible ways to connect the art departments both within the arts and beyond the arts. Their discussions have produced many ideas and many approaches to interdisciplinary collaboration. They now seek reactions, guidance on directions, and advice on next steps.

Ms. Leffler said the group has identified some annual activities, e.g., the film festival, the jazz festival, and exhibitions at the Bayly, where it would be ideal to develop academic courses to go along with the festivals. Such curricular planning might require a 2-year planning cycle. They also discussed arts projects that could be connected with residential colleges. Such projects might be centered on evening workshops drawing from architecture and art, for example. The notion of using a project as the vehicle to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary work has great appeal.

The sub-committee members discussed the new media studies program and the opportunity it may provide to bring together the study of media and the arts, in which technology would play a significant part. They also discussed the possibility of a core curriculum, which would include instruction in the use of the University libraries to enable students to become literate in using new information technologies for media and the arts. They agreed that the University needs to foster a climate that encourages risk-taking, i.e., students should not fear taking courses outside their majors and outside their areas of expertise. Students should be encouraged to develop creative abilities and to explore the arts. Another idea was to form a new interdisciplinary major in performance, similar to the program at NYU.

The sub-committee also discussed how to develop interdisciplinary work with non-arts departments, like sociology, history, anthropology, and psychology. The subcommittee recognizes that students are vital resources for generating ideas and designing successful, creative, interdisciplinary programs. Students need to be brought into the planning process. Lear DeBessonet said that she is sending e-mail to all students majoring in the arts to ask them about their interests.

The planners of new arts curricula will need structures to develop interdisciplinary courses or projects. The sub-committee members wondered if appointing an arts coordinator for curriculum would be helpful. A coordinator would not impose ideas or courses but would listen to faculty members’ and students’ ideas, discuss their interests, and then bring together people who have similar or complementary interests and ideas.

With the exception of Betsy Tucker, the members of the sub-committee are all outside the arts departments, and they are not sure how to move forward. Next steps might be to talk to the chairs of all of the arts departments, or meet with faculty in all the arts departments to discuss their ideas and to discuss future possibilities. When the ideas have gelled, then the sub-committee could develop and submit a proposal to the Faculty senate.

The sub-committee is approaching its considerations of interdisciplinary projects in the arts by asking questions: how can an interdisciplinary approach strengthen the arts; how can interdisciplinary cooperation help departments achieve their goals; and how can an interdisciplinary effort help extend people in new directions? An additional question is how can interdisciplinary arts projects bring new resources to the University?

Mr. Chapel said that he thought the sub-committee’s ideas were wonderful. He reported, however, that in a departmental discussion of interdisciplinary projects, faculty members were very wary of taking on additional, time-consuming work. The drama faculty is concerned that interdisciplinary efforts might lead to the neglect of fundamental education. Team teaching brings only half credit to the participating faculty member, and team teaching requires just as much if not more preparation and effort as teaching alone. Departments would need additional resources to hire part-time or replacement faculty.

Jill Hartz applauded the sub-committee’s ideas. She suggested that the arts look at themes and consider them not so much from the point of team teaching, as of projects that can include several departments. Larry Goedde observed that academic departments need to learn to plan their curricula ahead with attention to scheduled exhibits at the Bayly or the announced themes for the film festival. Departments are not accustomed to thinking far ahead and planning courses in this manner.

The issue of finding additional funds to support interdisciplinary projects in the arts, elicited several suggestions. Betsy Tucker said that the University should be convinced that the arts are essential; all educated people must be knowledgeable about the arts. Rather than pleading for funds, the arts should demand them, and UVA should be recognized for having a different and exiting interdisciplinary arts curriculum. James Cooper suggested that the central administration set aside funds for summer planning or for temporary faculty replacements. The arts departments would share information on upcoming themes and faculty would be invited to submit proposals. This approach would encourage growth of projects that support and take advantage of events that are going to happen anyway. Mr. Cooper also mentioned that the University once had a fund called the "Sesquicentennial Awards," and suggested that perhaps this fund could be revived for arts funding. Or, the David Harrison teaching awards, which fund different projects each year, might be targeted to the arts. Marcia Day Childress suggested that rather than sponsor a lecture series on the arts, the President’s Office could support the kinds of activities the subcommittee has suggested. The University Seminars offer another model where the administration set aside funds to hire part-time or replacement faculty to cover courses for faculty members released to teach a University Seminar. University Seminars are also a good model for interdisciplinary learning.

Jeffrey Hantman pointed out that the issues of counting credits for team teaching and creating special funds to hire replacement faculty are essentially administrative. Wayne Cozart asked whether interdisciplinary arts projects are a University imperative or are they an imposition of the Commission. Dean Dass said that faculty in studio art are looking for ways to do less, not more, because faculty members already feel overworked. Arts follow a model of teaching different from other faculty because of the need to be present and intensely involved in rehearsals, practice, lessons, etc. Bob Chapel and Ed Davis agreed that it would be a mistake to create any sense of imposition of interdisciplinary projects on faculty. Even the most creative ideas about developing new curricula become caught up in thorny issues about people, space, and resources. Phyllis Leffler asked the group not to lose sight of the commission’s mission, which is to plan excellent programs and facilities that will make the arts at Virginia preeminent, and not to get bogged down in identifying problems and chasing details.


Bob Chapel asked the subcommittee on interdisciplinary cooperation in the arts to continue to brainstorm, to gather ideas from commission members, students, faculty, and others, and to prepare a report.

Discussion then turned to a model for interdisicplinary cooperation across the arts. Everyone agreed that the council at Cornell, which Marilyn Rivchin described might work well for us. At Cornell, a council comprised of one or two members from each of the arts departments (totaling 15-10 members) regularly discusses projects, content, and ways to interact. A separate council of the chairs of the arts departments meets on policy issues. George Sampson wondered if at UVA, the larger council might also serve as a re-granting agent, which would invite applications for funding, assess the applications, and make awards.

There was general agreement that a logical next step would be to form an arts council and get started on developing a voice for the arts. A discussion ensued, but with no definitive conclusion about formation of the council. The question was whether it might be an expanded function of the existing University Committee for the Arts housed in student affairs and might have access to students’ arts fees, or whether it should come out of the provost’s office with that office’s academic imprimatur. Regardless of the outcome of that discussion, one major point of consensus was that the arts faculty need to get to know each other better and know what others are doing. This is a good idea regardless of future interdisciplinary efforts or new resources in the future. Bob Chapel said he would organize such meetings.

Mr. Chapel turned to the remainder of the agenda and announced that the commission would meet on November 16 to look at future planning. He went over the subcommittees he has proposed forming:

Buildings: will review space and design requirements. Are they still the same as proposed in the Dagit-Saylor study? Judith Kinnard will head this group.

Benchmarking: will go over the criteria each department used. Jill Hartz with the help of James Scales will meet with department chairs to get this data .

Interdisciplinary: Phyllis Leffler and the members of this subcommittee will continue to meet, to brainstorm, and to generate ideas for projects and possible structures for promoting them.

Publications: Bill Sublette and Bob Chapel will continue to work on publishing a University-wide arts publication as well as departmental newsletters.

Student Task Force: Samantha Beer, Lear DeBessonette, Shona Hunter, Adam Popp will continue to assess students’ interests, concerns, and suggestions.

Phase I Report: Bob Chapel and Joan Fry will collaborate on a report which will cover the Commission’s work last semester.

Survey of the 500 best arts high schools in the United States: LaVahn Hoh will work with James Scales to assemble this information.

Lecture Series on the Arts: Bob Chapel will call together a group to work on this project, which President Casteen has volunteered to sponsor.

Visits to arts centers: the sites remain to be decided, but possible visits will include the University of Illinois, the University of Minnesota, the University of Maryland, the concert hall in Minneapolis. Respectfully submitted, Joan B. Fry

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