Fine and Performing Arts Commission
Bob Chapel, Chair
Presentation to the Board of Visitors
October 15, 1999
Good morning. I'm very pleased to be speaking to you today and I have
three words for you all -- buildings! buildings! buildings! The Fine and
Performing Arts Commission has been meeting on a bi-weekly basis since
February 2, 1999. Our initial task was to carefully examine each arts
program as it currently exists, to allow the chair of each program to
articulate the department's future goals, and to assess the needs that,
if met, will allow each department to realize their dreams. This assessment
phase is complete, and we are currently in the process of citing benchmark
university arts programs, which will be closely scrutinized in the next
Last weekend we held a two-day retreat to which we invited the leaders
of ten excellent programs from around the nation in art, drama, music,
media arts, and museums, to tell us what it was that made their programs
outstanding. It became clear that in nearly all cases they had solid support
and respect from the top down at their universities and that they
had fine facilities, a prodigious faculty and much more than adequate
funding for their programs. Cultural life was as important at these institutions
as academic pursuit.
An enormous amount of information was imparted and we are in the process
of identifying the salient points which we can use in making our recommendations
for what we all need to transform the University of Virginia into a place
where the arts are truly respected, are constantly nurtured, and will
continue to flourish year by year.
More hard data will also be gathered in regards to facilities, funding,
faculty and staffing at these and other benchmark institutions. Visits
to various arts programs and centers will also take place over the ensuing
year and a final report on the current state and future of the Fine and
Performing Arts at our University will be submitted to President Casteen
in the not-too-distant future. I believe that while this planning is enormously
important, it is also important not to take an inordinate amount of time
for this process and dissipate the current energy and interest of everyone
involved, from all of you, and from the President of the University on
down. Each program has a clear identity and vision in regard to how it
wants to evolve, and we feel we can make a compelling case as to why potential
donors would want to give their money to help make the arts great at UVA.
And . . . while a great arts program a building doth not make -- a bad
building can certainly slow the growth of any sort of educational mission
in the arts. The spatial needs to teach performance with the cello, or
sculpture or painting, or acting, or costume design, or dance, or video
production, are inherently different than the spatial needs to teach history
or English. I am convinced that the arts faculties are doing all they
can to fulfill their educational missions -- but until an adequate number
of practice rooms are constructed for instrumental music performance,
until the young sculptors or painters have a healthy environment within
which to work, until there is somewhere in which to hold a dance class
without hurting the knees of our student dancers -- UVA doesn't have a
prayer to become an equal with other arts programs in the nation. Unlike
history or English, artistic performance is best taught one-on-one or,
at least, one-on-twelve. And because of our spatial inadequacies and lack
of faculty, scores of students interested in taking courses in the arts
are not able to enroll, or, in many cases, they choose to go elsewhere.
If funding support for graduate students and faculty is realized, and
if the current facilities (some of them, quite frankly, an embarrassment
to a university with the prestige of the University of Virginia) are improved,
then I believe a cultural transformation can occur. A wonderful arts program
touches everyone's life.
It should be noted that, in regards to these four commissions, that the
arts directly intersect with the other three -- in finding ways to work
with international arts organizations and artists from around the world,
in the development of technology in the theatre, music, and art worlds,
and in reaching out to the public at large and simply making life better.
The Music Department prides itself in having a first-rate academic program,
but it also considers performance extremely important, and, when it has
the facilities it so desperately needs, it will seek to integrate its
academic and performance programs so that students will benefit from this
interdependence and the department will take that next step toward excellence.
The Studio Art program is woefully hamstrung due to the terribly inadequate
and unhealthy facility of Fayerweather Hall. This program possesses a
strong faculty, but they find it an impossibility to grow in any sort
of positive way with such dismal space within which students have to work
and study. I was pleased to hear that a number of you took a walk through
Fayerweather Hall recently, so you have first-hand knowledge of the unhealthy
and shoddy conditions about which I speak.
Likewise, The Bayly Art Museum is in need of additional space and staffing.
The Department of Drama and the Heritage Repertory Theatre share what
is possibly the best Arts facility on Grounds, yet we are desperately
in need of additional technical staffing in order to continue to deliver
a vibrant production program. And there is nowhere for young, would-be
dancers to study dance.
With Tim Robertson's recent gift to the University, the new Media Studies
program has been given a sound lift-off, and the just-opened Robertson
Media Center is a wonderful new facility where our students can view and
edit videotapes and study many aspects of the media, but more funding
will be needed for additional faculty if this interdisciplinary program
is to flourish. We are very pleased that a most distinguished scholar,
Johanna Drucker, has just joined us as the new Director of Media Studies.
One of the immediate goals is to create an exceptional arts newsletter
and website for all of the arts at UVA, much like the ones produced
by many schools, to be sent to alumni, Virginia high schools, and to university
and college arts programs around the nation to let the world know that
the arts are indeed alive and flourishing in Charlottesville. We have
been a well-kept secret for far too long.
The Fine and Performing Arts have also been the poor step-children
of this University for far too long. It is a most exciting time for all
of us in the Arts to realize that the University of Virginia has made
this commitment to finally work to provide the resources that will elevate
our profiles and programs. Programmatic vision still remains paramount,
but we desperately need these buildings to house these programs.
This commission is dedicated to doing all it can to further this cause.
The synergy seems good, so I hope we can all join together to make this
great cultural transformation a reality. In the year 2020, we want no
less than when the University of Virginia is mentioned, our arts programs
are thought of immediately as one of the strengths of this great institution
of learning. Quite frankly, I hope we don't have to wait until 2020 --
I want this to happen while I'm still here.