of the arts as a young plan: central to campus life
a year assessing the state of the arts on campus, identifying
program opportunities, and prioritizing space needs, the Arts
Study Group released its recommendations in October. Based on
meetings with representatives of academic programs, student activities,
and professional arts organizations on campus, the report calls
for a number of brick-and-mortar projects aimed at meeting an
arts wish list. Even more importantly, the group called for renewed
recognition of the arts' centrality in the life of the University-not
simply for its students, but also for its faculty and staff.
commonly held view links the practice of art at the University
primarily with recreation
. A result has been the peripheral
status of the practice of art on our campus," states the
report, calling for a new perception: "[W]e should understand
the practice of art not only as a recreational diversion from
the rigors of academic life," the group argues in the report's
introduction, "but also as a central activity of the 'life
of the mind.'"
nine-member Arts Study Group, chaired by then- Provost Geoffrey
R. Stone, JD'71, began meeting in September 2000. Explaining
the group's founding impetus to the University of Chicago
Chronicle, Associate Provost Mary Harvey, PhD'87, said,
"We reached a moment when we realized that there were pressures
in several different quarters, and they needed to be addressed
in a systematic way."
those pressures, the study group also found a "good news"
side to the story: evidence of an already lively campus arts
scene, with more than 80 arts-related registered student organizations.
"We really underestimated both the depth and breadth of
the offerings in the arts," said Harvey. "We just
need better facilities and more resources." Undergraduates,
for example, want more arts classes and rehearsal and performance
spaces. Meanwhile, Midway Studios needs extensive renovations
to make it a state-of-the-art arts facility-a goal complicated
by its landmark status. And the Humanities division wants to
expand its creative-writing curriculum.
most of the recommendations remain in the recommendation stage,
some already have been implemented-or moved on to the next stage
of study. For example, Caren Skoulas, associate provost for
planning, is investigating ways to adapt existing spaces, and
she has also formed a committee to do a program study for Mandel
Hall, identifying which groups would benefit most from using
it and which would be better served in other campus spaces.
In addition, Skoulas's group will study the feasibility of another
round of renovations to the 1903 building: installing an HVAC
system, updating lighting and sound equipment, and remodeling
the dressing rooms and green room.
an Arts Planning Council to help oversee the University's new
focus on the arts was another of the report's recommendations,
and the 12-member council, chaired by Douglas Baird, the Harry
A. Bigelow distinguished service professor in the Law School,
held its first meeting only a few weeks into the fall quarter.
As one of the council's first acts, it launched UChicagoArts,
a funding program to support new arts projects and artistic
collaborations on campus with grants of $1,500 to $15,000. The
program will award its first round of grants in February.
crop up in many of the recommendations made by the Arts Study
group, including more internship and work-study opportunities
for students in the city's professional arts organizations and
the forging of closer links between the professional arts organizations
on campus and academic life. The Smart Museum staff have pioneered
activities in this area, such as planning exhibitions that feature
faculty-member curators and publishing exhibition catalogs that
include student essays (see Reading
further into the future, the report makes several major facilities
recommendations: the creation of a Center for the Creative and
Performing Arts at 60th Street and Drexel Avenue, incorporating
a renovated Midway Studios, student theater spaces and music
practice rooms, and a new Arts Quadrangle at 56th Street and
Ellis Avenue, near the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art
and Court Theatre.
For more information on UChicagoArts and the Arts Planning Council,
go to www.uchicago.edu/artscouncil.