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Commission on the Fine and Performing Arts
Minutes
December 14, 1999

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

Mr. Chapel reported that on December 13, the chairs of the four Virginia 2020 planning commissions gave interim reports to the University’s senior leadership. Robert Rosenzweig, a consultant from Stanford University who is working with the University of Virginia on this planning initiative, convened the breakout session for the Commission on the Fine and Performing Arts. He opened the discussion by characterizing the interim report as focused on the current status of the arts programs and the arts’ many needs, but lacking a vision for the future and a description of future academic plans. Mr. Chapel agreed with the assessment, but said that the interim report accurately reflected the commission’s work to date and its initial focus on existing programs and needs. The final report will emphasize programs and the vision for the arts in the future at the University. Future work will include the School of Architecture, which is nearly absent from the commission’s considerations to date.

In the ensuing discussion, Mr. Chapel and others who had attended the previous day’s session on the interim report cited a number of items the commission must address. It must formulate a case statement for fund raising. This is urgent. The case statement must convey to potential donors a brief but exciting vision for the arts at the University, including the content of the arts programs, new uses of technology for the arts, new collaborative linkages, and the benefits that the arts bring to everyone at the University and in the community. The case statement will also include descriptions and renderings of the facilities envisioned in the Arts Village. Karen Van Lengen, the new dean of the School of Architecture, is eager to work with the planning commission on concepts for the Arts Village. Mr. Chapel will convene a small group to work with Bill Sublette to draft the case statement.

The commission’s final report should show that the arts are a facet of each of the other three Virginia 2020 planning commission’s work, i.e., the arts as public service, the arts as a dimension of international activities, and the role of new technologies in the arts. The final report should also elaborate on the information set forth in the case statement and set out goals, priorities, plans, and the costs of implementing the plans. It should address plans for the near term (without immediate growth), for the intermediate years, and the vision for the arts when plans are fully implemented in the year 2020. Mr. Chapel suggested adding a few scenarios describing different University of Virginia students in 2020, and how each would be participate in the arts as envisioned. The model for this idea came from the interim report of the Commission on International Activities. Development of the case statement and elements for the final report will occupy the commission during the spring and fall. Mr. Chapel anticipates completing the commission’s work by the end of the year 2000.

Mr. Chapel noted the need for all University arts fund raisers to coordinate their work and messages, and they need to share current information on the planning and fundraising process. The various boards for the University schools and programs and arts organizations also need to be kept apprised. Mr. Chapel proposed that all arts fund raisers meet once a month, and that these meetings will include Peter Low and Mel Leffler.

Mr. Chapel also discussed the need to identify a person to coordinate the site and design planning of the Arts Village. This coordinator would see to it that the programmatic requirements identified in the planning process are reflected in the plans for facilities, and that the visionary statement on how the arts will potentially work together is reflected in creating the architectural plan for the Arts Village.

Phyllis Leffler reported that the subcommittee on interdisciplinary activities in the arts has identified several initiatives, which do not require resources. The subcommittee suggests: 1) immediately establishing an arts council of faculty from the relevant arts departments to explore and promote a variety of interdisciplinary arts activities; 2) making the fall arts commission conference a workshop to demonstrate how new technologies can apply to the arts; 3) having appropriate arts commission members urge the Faculty Senate to propose that next year’s Harrison Awards be earmarked to support proposals to develop new interdisciplinary arts courses where faculty and students work together; 4) and having the arts commission seek funding from the administration to develop one or two state-of-the-art projects using technology in the arts as showcase projects that will attract future donors.

Lear DeBessonet distributed the results of the survey she conducted to assess undergraduate students’ interests and concerns about the arts. She worried that the survey comes across as complaining, since the students enumerate the arts’ many needs and studio art students’ concern for their safety. Overall, students want more classes, more space, more graphics/digital expertise, and generally more opportunities to participate in the arts at the University. Students are very pleased with the faculty.

Samantha Beer tried to survey the graduate students, but received few responses to her e-mail inquiry. Students who replied cited their interest in expanding interdisciplinary programs, adding cinema and dance, and having the Bayly open more than four hours a day. She will convene a meeting of graduate students to get a broader assessment of graduate students’ arts interests. Both Ms. DeBessonet and Ms. Beer hope to get students’ points of view incorporated in the work of the planning commission.

Nancy Brockman asked about the idea, previously broached, of having an "arts explosion" to showcase student work in the arts, whether through academic programs or student organizations. Mr. Chapel suggested that such a daylong or weekend event could be added to already-scheduled departmental activities, e.g., a concert, dramatic production, museum exhibit, dance recital, etc. LaVahn Ho suggested making the festival Grounds-wide, not just in the usual arts locations. Phyllis Leffler suggested planning a year ahead and identifying a theme for the event. Judith Shatin volunteered that next year’s music programs will use a "world arts" theme. Other ideas included scheduling the student arts festival during a prospective student’ weekend, or during parents’ weekend. Jim Cooper observed that some donors may not be interested in giving funds to support arts majors, but they may be interested in supporting arts activities that provide non-majors opportunities to participate in the arts. Ms. DeBessonet and Ms. Beer thanked commission members for their suggestions.

Phyllis Leffler inquired about plans for the lecture series on the arts. Mr. Chapel replied that the group has not met since their initial meeting where they suggested possible speakers. He is pursuing the idea of bringing Steven Sondheim and his three close arts friends and Williams College classmates. Julie Taymor was another person to consider. There has been no other progress.

Ms. Leffler also inquired about plans for the major conference on the arts, to be held next fall. She reiterated that the subcommittee on interdisciplinary potentials for the arts had discussed technology in the arts as a possible focus for the conference. Dean Dass said that studio art had used this subject as its theme for work this semester, suggesting that the subject was old. Commission members disagreed, saying that the conference would be broader than the use of technology in creating art. By showing how technology can be used to integrate the arts across departments, it would build on strengths, and also get the message out to students across the Grounds. As such, it could be a powerful follow up to studio art’s work.

Mr. Chapel concluded the meeting by announcing that on January 11, he will convene a meeting of arts department chairs only. The next regularly scheduled meeting of the commission will take place at 7:30 AM on January 25, 2000.

Respectfully submitted,

Joan B. Fry

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