University News

Performing arts to grow under new initiative

U. hires consulting firm to expand arts opportunities and physical spaces as part of strategic plan

Contributing Writer
Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The University will create more spaces for student artists under a new strategic planning initiative aimed at expanding performing arts resources. The University will also hire more faculty members in the performing arts.

A new strategic planning initiative to expand performing arts at Brown could yield increased performance space, greater collaboration with the Trinity Repertory Company and the hiring of new faculty members and artists, said President Christina Paxson.

The initiative was originally developed by the strategic planning Committee on Reimagining the Brown Campus and Community, which identified increased support and physical space for the performing arts as a campus priority, said Russell Carey, executive vice president for planning and policy, who chaired the committee.

Paxson said the student body needs greater outlets and provisions for its expansive participation and talent in the performing arts. “Our students are so creative, and there’s a large demand for support for their activities,” she said.

The University wants to build on its existing creative strengths in order to make the Brown campus a more appealing environment for students wanting an education that encompasses both the liberal and the performing arts, Paxson said.

“I want Brown to be known as an incredibly attractive place for students and for scholars who are artists, who understand the value of a liberal education and want to integrate those two things,” she said. “But there’s a lot of building we can do to make that more so.”

To that end, the University has hired AMS Planning and Research, a consulting firm that works with academic institutions and community organizations to help identify and establish ventures for arts and entertainment, Carey said.

The company’s background and operational approach led the University to choose AMS to help create a plan for the performing arts expansion project, Carey said.

Administrators and AMS will discuss broad goals and academic needs throughout the semester, with implementation of projects coming at a later stage, Carey said. “We’re really trying to figure out the programmatic vision and academic priorities and goals first, and then what the right space needs are,” he said.

A number of different departments will contribute to the initiative, such as the Departments of Africana Studies, Modern Culture and Media, Music and Theater Arts and Performance Studies. Paxson said the Creative Arts Council, the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts and numerous student performance groups will also be involved.

A new performance venue is possible, but it is still too early to confirm any new construction plans, Paxson said.

The University aims to have a plan for expansion set in place by the end of the semester, Paxson said, adding that the summer will be a vital time for the administration to determine funding and strategic details required to implement the plan.

This planning process will likely lead to a recommendation for a performance venue, whether as a renovation of an existing structure or as the construction of a new building, Paxson said.

“I’m excited about the idea of having a really first-class visiting artists and residents program,” Paxson said. The University will also bring in visiting professors and new faculty members in the performing arts, she added.

Artistic Director for Trinity Rep Curt Columbus said the theater company will expand its ties with the University, building on the current joint MFA programs in acting, directing and writing for performance.

“The goal is to become one big program, which is theater at Brown, and to make it have this rich range of aesthetic and intellectual manifestation,” Columbus said.

More emphasis will be placed on creating spaces for increased student interaction and experimentation, Columbus said. The expansion will build upon projects such as Romp of Otters, a graduate student collaboration with the Providence community arts institution AS220. Students already present work they have created, directed or produced in AS220’s rented space.

Several students voiced enthusiasm for the new initiative’s focus on performing arts spaces and programs.

Lauren Behgam ’15, a member of Fusion Dance Company, said she is excited about the possible space additions for student group use.

“There’s a lot of student dance companies but not a lot of space to perform,” Behgam said. “And there’s always a really big competition to see who’s going to get space, (so) it’s very much needed.”

Hannah Lee ’14 said she has always appreciated the arts’ key role in campus culture, but added that student groups are already able to find performance venues.

“There have been great venues in the past, and I don’t think there’s necessarily a strong need for a permanent venue because we’ve done a great job without it so far, but I think it would be cool if we actually did invest in it,” she said.

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