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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University July 11, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 39
Task Force Outlines Vision for the Arts on Homewood Campus

Task force member Eric Beatty, director of Homewood Arts Programs, in the black box Swirnow Theater of the Mattin Center, which opened in 2001.

Five-year plan addresses academics, administration and live performances

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Following 10 months of close and thoughtful examination of its broad topic, the Homewood Arts Task Force has issued its final report, which articulates a vision to raise the visibility for the arts at Johns Hopkins and make them more central to the intellectual and social life of the Homewood campus.

The 47-page document includes 10 major recommendations — in the areas of academics, administration and live performance — that the task force feels can be accomplished within the next five years.

The recommendations include the creation of a senior administrative position to promote and coordinate the arts; renovations to existing arts-related facilities, the establishment of a universitywide arts coordinating council and the creation of a comprehensive arts Web site for students.

The report also calls for the expansion of the formal academic curriculum to create more opportunities for Homewood undergraduates to study the arts, the synchronization of class schedules at Peabody and the Homewood schools to better serve students enrolled in joint programs, and the furthering of academic partnerships with local art institutions such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, Walters Art Museum and Maryland Institute College of Art.

Other recommendations include the development and implementation of a universitywide collections management policy for Hopkins' artifactual collections and the development of a funding strategy for arts-related programs and projects, including an Arts Innovation Fund to support creative programming.

The study confirmed the robust nature of the arts at Homewood, which today boasts an array of programs and facilities that includes 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 endeavors in recent years, most notably the opening in 2001 of the Mattin Center, a 53,000-square-foot complex that includes a black box theater, photography labs, art exhibition space, and dance and music practice rooms.

The Homewood Arts Task Force was created in September 2004 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. The task force was focused on, but not limited to, Homewood arts programs and facilities. Offerings at Evergreen House and joint ventures with the Peabody Institute were also considered.

Winston Tabb, dean of university libraries, chaired the 18-member group, which included staff, faculty, students, a trustee and a community member. Tabb said the campus needed a shared strategy for promoting and sustaining the arts at Homewood as a vital part of the university's explicit mission to promote lifelong learning. Whether students come to Johns Hopkins to train in the sciences or the humanities, Tabb said, many seek out the arts in order to round out their academic experience.

Tabb said that in order to help steward the implementation of the recommendations, the creation of a senior leadership position, such as a vice provost for the arts, will be critical.

"This would be someone who can look at the arts in a holistic way, help secure funding for all these endeavors and make sure the recommendations are being followed through on," he said.

Several colleges and universities, among them MIT, Harvard and New York University, have created an associate provost for the arts position and/or an office for the arts. Tabb said that Johns Hopkins looks to these schools as models for where it wants to be in this arena.

Until the point in time when a vice provost for the arts can be named, the task force recommends that a current member of university administration be charged with the task of implementing the report's recommendations.

One of the major catalysts for Johns Hopkins' looking into this area was the continuing inadequacy of facilities for the arts and the growing, excessive competition for limited space among Hopkins student groups.

In terms of facilities, the report calls for renovations to Shriver Hall's auditorium and related performance spaces, such as the green rooms; the conversion of the Arellano Theater in Levering Hall to a true performing arts space; and conducting a study to determine the need and feasibility of building a new dedicated performing arts facility with one or more performance venues.

For academics, the report cites the need for new arts-related courses, such as a comprehensive history of art survey class, and for fostering existing relations with the BMA, the Walters and MICA through collaborative programs that would benefit all participants, such as the establishment of a museum studies minor.

Task force member Eric Beatty, director of Homewood Arts Programs, said that the university has made a lot of progress in promoting arts programs and encouraging the efforts of students in artistic areas. He cited the recent creation of two new a cappella groups, the S.L.A.M.! hip-hop dance group, Witness Theater and the Egyptian Sun Bellydance Troupe.

The passion and desire are there, Beatty said, and now the university needs to expand and enhance the arts venues and do a better job of consolidating the promotion of arts programs, such as having a central Homewood box office and a dedicated arts Web site.

Pamela Cranston, associate provost for academic affairs and a task force member, said that this report will serve as a vital guiding document.

"We see this report as a road map for the future of the arts here," Cranston said. "It's a start, but not the whole book."

The Homewood Arts Task Force final report can be found online at:


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