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Admins narrow locations for new performing arts venue

New arts initiatives include Brown in Berlin, dual-degree architecture program

The University’s arts programs are experiencing a season of expansion, with new initiatives such as a new performing arts venue, a potential study abroad program in Berlin and a six-year joint degree program in architecture with the Rhode Island School of Design on the agenda, said Michael Steinberg, vice provost for the arts.

Though not finalized, the University is currently narrowing down locations for the new performing arts venue, Steinberg said. “I’m pretty sure it will be in a very prominent location that will be not only accessible to people but will demonstrate the importance of arts to Brown,” he said. The new space will include a multifunction performance hall with excellent acoustics, proper seating, dance space and acting studios, Steinberg said.

The venue will serve “first and foremost as a concert hall for the orchestra” but will also “encourage unpredictable and multidisciplinary art performance that will involve singing and dance and theater,” Steinberg said.

In addition, existing arts spaces that are “desperate for help” will be renovated. The administration will vote on a budget for a list of spaces and a renovation plan at the end of the month, Steinberg said.

“My hope is that the new building will be more than a building. I would like to see that we have both an interesting and innovative performing arts space that will allow us to do some work in theater, dance and music that we haven’t been able to do up to this point because of the limitations of the spaces that currently exist,” said Patricia Ybarra, associate professor of theatre arts and performance studies and member of the Creative Arts Council. The University is currently “really short on spaces” for dance and other rehearsals, she said.

Emma Dickson ’16, president of performing arts group Brown University Gilbert and Sullivan, also spoke about the lack of performance space. BUGS produces its shows in the Alumnae Hall Auditorium, which is often too busy to allow the group to rehearse in the space before the performances. Instead, the group rehearses in classrooms around campus before receiving access to the crowded space for the actual event.

“It’s really great that the new venue will be open and accessible to student groups,” Dickson said.

Other new initiatives include a new joint degree program with RISD in architecture, which is launching later this year. The six-year degree will comprise a Brown bachelor of arts degree combined with a master of fine arts degree from RISD.

Brown will pursue “much more collaboration between” President Christina Paxson P’19 and RISD President Roseanne Somerson in the future, Steinberg said.

A new arts program in Berlin is also pending approval for the Spring 2016 semester. If approved, Brown will collaborate with Berlin’s Bard College to offer a course on German architecture and politics and another course taught by Steinberg on music, religion and politics. Both courses will be taught on campus and include trips to Berlin during spring recess. There is also a pending option to take courses while spending an entire semester in Berlin, Steinberg said.

“We are exploring strategic and global locations for the arts,” Steinberg said, adding that he hopes the program will grow to include other global “hubs” for the arts.

Other expansions to arts education include new faculty appointments, as well as new types of programs, including a “fairly extensive visiting artist program,” Steinberg said.

The Fall Festival of the Arts, which includes programs from many visiting artists this semester, is a “huge repertoire of exhibitions in theater, dance, art, new media, music and visual arts,” he said. The festival began Oct. 1 and will continue through Nov. 9.

The difference between the Fall Festival and other past arts exhibitions lies in new financial support for arts programs from the University. Visiting artists are able to stay longer, do workshops in classes, conduct public talks and provide internships for students, Ybarra said.

The festival is designed to showcase “the artistic and critical intersections that we find valuable as faculty and students,” and includes over 40 events, all arranged by the CAC, Ybarra said. There are 26 visiting artist lectures included in the festival’s schedule, according to the University’s website.

“Brown is continuing to be flexible and creative in the arts in new, different and exciting ways,” Dickson said. She believes that new initiatives like the Fall Festival will foster collaboration between students and professional artists and groups.

The CAC, which is composed of arts-related departments as well as key partners in the city, including the Trinity Repertory Company, Community MusicWorks and the RISD Museum, is responsible for driving these recent advancements in the arts, Steinberg said. It meets weekly to discuss new artistic developments, including the above projects.

“Everything is collaborative,” and is especially focused on integrating the Brown arts culture with the rest of the city of Providence, Steinberg said.

The CAC’s new website, Arts@Brown, was created this semester and will eventually display a virtual gallery for students to exhibit their work, Steinberg said.

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