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Fine and Performing Arts Planning Commission
March 22, 1999
Robert Chapel, Planning Commission Chair

I.  Definition of Scope

The Arts Commission is focusing on the major arts programs currently in place at the University of Virginia -- Art History and Studio Art; the academic areas of Music as well as music performance; Drama; the Bayly Art Museum; and other programs such as those in the School of Architecture, the media arts, and the English Department’s Creative Writing program. The Music and Fine Arts Libraries will also be included in this overall examination of the arts programs as well as the new Media Studies program, the Virginia Film Festival, and the Heritage Repertory Theatre. The central purpose of this study is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the current programs, especially Art, Drama, and Music, to cite benchmark programs to which we wish to aspire, and to determine the resources needed to realize these goals.

At this writing, the Arts Commission has had three meetings – the first centered around a general discussion of some of the major topics the Commission members felt were important to discuss in the ensuing months. These included expanded arts program collaboration and interdisciplinary interaction across Grounds; an examination of how to better involve more UVA students in the arts and to make them more aware as to what is being produced in the arts; examine how we might better promote our programs to the University, the local community, the Commonwealth, and the nation; and, examine the traditional split between theory and performance in all of the arts programs. The second meeting centered around President Casteen’s address to the Commission followed by questions to him from members of the Commission; The third meeting centered around the current ongoing discussion of the specific programs with Music leading off. Art, Studio Art, and Drama will follow – as will the Bayly, Architecture, Media Arts, and Creative Writing. I anticipate that these discussions will take up most of the scheduled meeting times for the rest of the Spring, 1999 semester. The goal by the end of this semester is to clearly identify the strengths of these programs as well as their limitations.

As these discussions progress, certain small task forces are also being formed which will bring additional information to the Commission. At this time a student task force, co-chaired by the two Commission student representatives, is being formed to identify major student issues in regards to the arts; an alumni task force, chaired by Wayne Cozart, will be formed to extract opinions and engender interest from our alumni in regards to past and present UVA arts programs; a task force will be formed to help identify benchmark programs; and finally, another task force will be formed to research how the arts may be more thoroughly integrated with other programs at the University.

In addition, the possibility and cost of a publication such as the University of Michigan School of Music produces twice a year centering on all of its arts programs will be examined. This publication would serve three functions – to bring what we are actually doing here in the arts to the rest of the world, to connect with our alumni, and as a device for fundraising. This publication would be sent to our alumni as well as to arts programs throughout the nation. Bill Sublette, who is on the Commission, will be asked to research the possibility of developing this sort of publication.

The local community of Charlottesville will also become informally involved. Beth Sutton, the Commission’s community representative, and I will be meeting with various members of our community in an effort to get their opinions in regards to the community’s arts needs and the type of programming they would hope to have presented at the University that is not currently offered. We hope to create excitement for the future of the arts at UVA as well as keep them informed as to our future plans which involve the proposed arts center. Beth is coordinating her efforts in concert with Bob Sweeney and Charly Fitzgerald. In addition, the Development Office has hired Peter Kellogg as a consultant whose task it is to locate potential benefactors for the proposed arts center. Much is happening at once. Our hope is that a clear report about our strengths and what makes our programs unique, as well as our limitations, and a clear definition of what else we would want to do, will evolve from these numerous studies. A plan to improve what we are doing will be the final part of this report.

II.  Identification of Aspiration Group

Concurrently, during this time that the various programs’ strengths and limitations are being examined, each program is being asked to cite outside programs or aspects of outside programs which they might use as benchmarks for excellence. It is hoped that a short list of these programs will be created and the heads of these programs be invited to Charlottesville for an October, 1999 retreat with members of the Commission. This retreat will encompass two days and should prove to be highly beneficial in determining what changes we need to make to reach our goals and what resources will need to be found to accomplish these changes. I anticipate having this list of aspiration groups completed by May 1 with invitations for the retreat going out soon after that.

III. Metrics of Aspiration Group

It is most important that each arts program clearly define what it is that it aspires to do and objectively assess if it is indeed accomplishing its goals. If it is not, what characteristics of other successful programs are lacking that are causing the UVA arts program not to reach its fundamental goals? These characteristics, as cited in Polley McClure’s model, might be funding, faculty, or facilities or all of these, together. It also might be an unclear or unrealistic vision of what a program should and can aspire to be. A specific program’s clarity of vision, I feel, is the most important characteristic to examine of all. This "characteristics identification" will be the primary goal for the Arts Commission during the Fall, 1999.

IV. Metrics of the University of Virginia

Once the "characteristics identification" has been completed, a comparison between the benchmark programs’ central characteristics and those in the arts programs at UVA will be made, also during the Fall, 1999.

V. Gap and Opportunity Analysis

It is anticipated that in the Spring, 2000, short trips to outside programs will be taken by various members of the Arts Commission. These visits will be used to help more clearly identify strengths of these "aspiration programs" as well as to look more closely at arts facilities which would be used as examples of eventual facilities to be constructed at the University. The Commission has agreed that not only our benchmark programs should be visited, but also those programs which are considered "the best," such as in Drama’s case – it might be the Yale School of Drama. In Music’s case, from the point of view of Ph.D. programs – it might be Harvard. It should be stated, once again, that none of our programs are necessarily attempting to become "just like" one of the top ranked programs in, for instance, U.S. New and World Report. We all believe we offer certain unique aspects to our students and to the University, and we wish to capitalize on our strengths, decide on what changes or additions need to be made to our programs to make them truly excellent, and clearly define the resources needed to make these changes or additions. Aspiring to equal what U.S. New and World Report ranks as "The Best" will not necessarily be the best for the University of Virginia’s arts programs or for our students. But it is important that we know what those programs considered "the best" include as a frame of reference, if nothing more.

VI.  Strategies for Improvement

It is anticipated that a national conference will be held in the Fall, 2000.

The exact topic is yet to be determined. Bob Rosenzweig, consultant to the Arts Commission from Stanford University, has suggested the following: "The Arts in the University and the University in the Arts" with central issues being – "1) education in the arts for increasingly career oriented students; 2) reconciling different, and often conflicting, ideas of now to evaluate performance and quality for arts faculty; 3) the role of the community in university arts programs; 4) is it necessary, in order to have strong programs in the arts, to have separate schools organized around them?; and so forth. The second part of such a program would focus on the fact that universities have become key players in national arts enterprise, offering employment for large numbers of artists, training and education for many more, and providing important venues for performance among other things. Does this matter? Does anyone care?"

The suggested conference topic cited above has not as yet been discussed by the Arts Commission but will be soon as we proceed to plan this national conference. It is very important that the major thrust of the conference be something which will enable us to further define and achieve our goals. The questions posed and suggestions for topics for discussion made by Bob Rosenzweig are central issues that many arts faculties face.

We will use the Fall, 2000 to begin to synthesize all that we have learned and our "strategies for improvement" should follow. It is anticipated that a final report will be completed by May, 2001 for submission to the President, the Project Management team, and the University.

Respectfully Submitted, March 17, 1999

Robert Chapel, Chair
Fine and Performing Arts Planning Commission

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