Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 23:03
By the end of this academic year, Lafayette will have a director of the arts.
“We have a director of engineering. Why not have a director of the arts?” English Professor and Theater Director Michael O’Neill said. “We could use an advocate for the arts in the life of the college. An ambassador who will have an ongoing dialogue with members of the Board and will help with fundraising.”
The nationwide search, led by Music Professor Anthony Cummings, drew 80 applicants. The committee narrowed the group to 10, and from those 10 chose four final contenders—a film historian, an architect, a printmaker, and an orchestra conductor.
One dropped out, but the remaining three will be interviewed by the end of the week.
The director must not only understand the historical and theoretical dimensions of the arts but also the practice, Cummings said. “One person on-point, dedicated to worrying about the arts.”
“I’m overjoyed,” English and Theater Professor Suzanne Westfall said. “I don’t see why not, if we have money from the Mellon Foundation, do something wonderful.”
The $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was awarded in 2011 “to integrate further the performing and visual arts throughout the curriculum and in co-curricular activities, to create new programs in the arts and enhance existing ones, and to strengthen the college’s connections with artists and arts communities,” according to the Lafayette website.
The grant, which also funded the 2011 art of urban environments festival, makes it feasible to add the position, said Associate Provost and search committee member John Meier.
But the grant will not pay the new director’s salary for long. That money will come from “college resources,” according to President Daniel H. Weiss.
“I like the idea that the college is placing an emphasis on the arts,” Williams Center Operations Director Allison Quensen Blatt said. “I hope that one thing that will happen…is that they will reinstate the general education requirement that students have to take a course in the arts.”
Cummings agreed. “One hope among some segments of the faculty is that the new director of the arts will help us to revisit the question of whether there might be an arts requirement in the [common course of study], and what shape it would take.”
Cummings was unsure what kind of impact the director of the arts would have on student arts groups. “I suspect that they’ll continue to function independently, within the general realm of campus life,” he said.
“But some of the programming offered by the faculty and various administrative offices on campus might be more effectively coordinated and supported, so that they’re better advertised, better facilitated logistically,” he added.
The director will serve the dual function of faculty member and administrator, teaching two courses a year and coordinating arts programs across campus.
“Hopefully this position can create a more integrated relationship between the department and administration,” art and math double-major Amy Durcan ‘13 said.
Some faculty are optimistic, but cautious.
“Is it helpful? Yes, it could be helpful,” O’Neill said. “Is it necessary? Maybe it is.”