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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 4, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 6
Spotlight Shines on the Arts

Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries, heads an 18-member task force charged with charting a strategy to strengthen the arts at Homewood.

With cultural activities on the rise, Homewood takes supporting steps

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

While cultural pursuits have never been a primary aspect of Johns Hopkins' mission, the Homewood campus today boasts an array of arts programs and facilities, including the Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, Theatre Hopkins, the Shriver Hall Concert Series, Homewood House Museum and numerous student organizations, ranging from theater troupes to a cappella groups. The university, in fact, has witnessed a great period of growth in its cultural programs in recent years, most notably the creation of the Mattin Center, a 53,000-square-foot complex that includes a black box theater, photography labs and dance and music practice rooms.

What JHU has lacked, however, is a shared strategy for promoting and sustaining the arts at Homewood as a vital part of the campus's intellectual and cultural life.

To help bridge this gap, a Homewood Arts Task Force was recently created by Provost Steven Knapp and charged with producing a set of recommendations designed to enhance the visibility and impact of the university's existing arts programs, foster a sense of community around the arts and develop synergies between JHU and Baltimore City cultural organizations.

Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries and chair of the task force that began its work on Sept. 23, said that the time has come for Johns Hopkins to craft a concrete plan of action for how the arts should be woven into the tapestry of campus life.

The 18-member group tapped to make recommendations comprises staff, faculty, students and a trustee [see below].

"I think some of the most important things that we are setting out to do are to determine what is really working well already in regard to the arts at Homewood and what is not working as well as it ought to be," Tabb said. "What we will determine in the coming months is what urgent problems there are that need to be solved and what opportunities are out there to make Johns Hopkins an even richer place."

While still in the information-gathering phase, the task force will likely focus on three general areas: how the arts support student life, how the arts could be better integrated into academic programs and how Hopkins' activities in the arts relate to the community at large.

Several colleges and universities, among them Columbia and the University of Chicago, have taken on similar efforts in recent years. Tabb said one of the major catalysts for Hopkins' looking into this area was the recent work of the Commission on Undergraduate Education, whose final report highlighted the need for a more holistic experience at Johns Hopkins, one that included personal enrichment as well as academic rigor.

"Another spur for this effort was the continuing inadequacy of facilities for the arts. We still see excessive competition for limited space among our student groups," he said. "And then there is the competitive edge aspect. The university has to be appealing in a very broad way to students and employees to be able to recruit and retain the best and brightest."

In terms of the purview of the task force, Tabb said that the group would focus on, but not be limited to, Homewood arts programs and facilities. Offerings at Evergreen House and joint ventures with the Peabody Institute, for example, will be considered.

"We wanted to keep our work at a manageable scope, so we want to focus on how the arts relate to the Homewood campus, which includes the academic programs here that have active relationships with local arts institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art and Walters Art Museum, in addition to Peabody," he said.

Some of the key issues the task force will address are the relationship between arts programs and student/faculty/staff recruitment and retention; what modifications, if any, should be made to the curriculum to offer students adequate opportunity to study and/or practice the arts; how the arts at Homewood should be funded; and how JHU's relationships with Baltimore City arts organizations might be strengthened.

In addition, the task force will likely look at Homewood's physical ability to support arts-related programs and determine what is the optimal way to provide managerial oversight and coordination for the arts.

Tabb said that the committee will meet often during the next month to determine the scope of the effort and to develop a list of specific questions the group needs to address. Following that, the task force will likely break into subcommittees to take the lead on specific issues.

The task force will solicit input from existing arts groups, many of which will have the opportunity to directly address its members. Tabb said that he wants everyone who has a stake in the arts at Homewood to have an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.

The task force plans to submit an action plan and list of recommendations to the provost by May 1.


Homewood Arts Task Force 2004-2005 Members

Eric Beatty, director of the Homewood Arts Program

Doreen Bolger, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art

Pam Buell, executive director of development for leadership and principal gifts, Development and Alumni Relations

Connie Caplan, chair of the Time Group, JHU trustee and chair of the Mt. Vernon Cultural District Board

Tom Crain, director of the Odyssey Program, SPSBE

Pam Cranston, associate provost for academic affairs

Linda Delibero, associate director of Film and Media Studies, KSAS

Doug Fambrough, professor of biology, KSAS

Arielle Goren, senior in international studies, KSAS

Sel Kardan, executive director of the Shriver Hall Concert Series

Christopher Kovalchik, junior in mechanical engineering, WSE, and violin performance, Peabody Conservatory

Jim Miller Jr., senior director of design and construction, Office of Facilities Management

Leah Miller, senior in the Writing Seminars and psychology, KSAS

Andrea Prosperetti, Charles A. Miller Professor of Mechanical Engineering, WSE

Rob Saarnio, director of historic houses and curator of university collections

Eileen Soskin, associate dean for academic affairs, Peabody Conservatory

Jamie Spangler, junior in biomedical engineering, WSE

Winston Tabb (chair), dean of university libraries


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