Spotlight: University nurtures new era of the arts

Author: Gail Hinchion Mancini

When one University of Notre Dame student asks another “are you going to the football game Saturday,” the expectation is that the answer will be “yes.”p. Simply put, attending a home football game is a pervasive cultural ritual.p. A group of campus visionaries has examined the intensity of dedication to the Notre Dame football ritual and has set out to replicate it. Their venues involve no turf, goal posts or balls.p. If they succeed, Notre Dame students will flock to University operas, theatre, musical performances and art openings with enthusiasm equal to their football spirit. And they will follow throughafter graduationas the next generation of theatre subscribers, symphony goers, and museum members.p. “Art is another lens through which we see the world, and the way we perceive things,” says John A. Haynes, who arrived at Notre Dame in August as new director of the Marie P. DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts, having left a position as chief executive officer of the California Center for the Arts. “Appreciation of the arts is an important facility that needs to be developed, not unlike spirituality.”p. Haynes’ job, in part, will be to see that the seats are filled for performances in the new 150,000-square-foot facility, which is scheduled to open in 2004. But more important to him is “to fill every heart.”p. “How do we weave the arts inextricably in the fabric of life at Notre Dame, and not just as a series of events? I want the arts to be as pervasive in the lives of Notre Dame students as is their engagement in athletics,” he says.p. Haynes and another newcomer, Peter Holland, an internationally regarded Shakespearean scholar and former director of The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon, England, represent the new face of Notre Dame’s arts initiative, just as the DeBartolo Center is the new place.p. They arrive, and the building is being constructed, at a point of great activity that has been highly publicized, but rarely examined as a movement in itself. Nathan Hatch, provost, and Mark A. Roche, dean of the College of Arts and Letters point to a rich confluence of events, among them:p. Summer Shakespeare, only three years old, regularly sells to sold-out audiences. A new relationship with The Guthrie Theatre of Minneapoliswhich brought “Ah Wilderness!” to the area in Marchsignals the program’s growing stature among national education and performance programs.p. p. Visual arts programs such as graphic design are experiencing burgeoning enrollments.p. The student body’s need to perform is becoming irrepressible. Last spring’s opera “The Magic Flute,” and the theatre department’s performance of “The Life of Galileo” represented the largest, most complex and most ambitious performances to date. Meanwhile, enrollment in Marching Band, Concert Bands and Varsity Bands has grown from 430 in 1991-92 to about 800 in 2001-02, according to Ken Dye, director of bands.p. The faculty’s contributions to scholarship and creativity increasingly earn accolades, from Jessica Chalmer’s Obie Award for “Jetlag” to Donald Crafton’s inaugural Motion Picture Academy fellowship for his research on animation.p. p. The Fischoff National Chamber Music Association now calls Notre Dame home and began hosting its annual spring competition on campus in May.p. p. The music department is coordinating the installation of music practice rooms in dormitories. The concept helps ease a shortage of practice facilities, but also brings the presence of music into living spaces.p. p. Actors from the London State exists to help students in the classroom experience Shakespeare as both text and performance. With Notre Dame as their home campus in the United States since 2000, the benefit has been a noticeable increase in enthusiasm for an awareness of the role of stage performance in dramatic works. Many of these examples reflect the growing relationship between performance and academics. The spring production of “The Life of Galileo” complemented a major academic conference on Galileo and the Church. It foreshadowed the kind of thematic coordination Haynes expects to see: “Not just a singer here, an opera the next night, but a minifestival of multiple activities that illuminates an idea or a forum.”p. Hatch credits the Snite Museum for leadership. There, blending art and curriculum is practically an art form in itself.p. Education Program coordinator Diana Matthias has staged specialized tours for classroom groups from introductory chemistry to business ethics. She coordinates foreign language tours for language students of Spanish and French. The Snite invites faculty and students to develop an exhibit as a classroom assignment, as sociologist Eugene Halton and students recently did on Louis Mumford, the architectural critic and social commentator. The sophomore-year Core Course program closely aligns its themes with the Snite collection and Mark Roche would like to see curriculum development expanded to include for-credit signature courses about the arts. Meanwhile, director Charles Loving says to watch for a new foreign film series, which students list at the top of their cultural wish list.p. Roche is especially cognizantand eloquent— about the special importance of developing an arts culture at a Catholic university. Recall, first that in early modern times, the Church was THE great patron of the arts.p. “Art deals with the basic structures of being, nature, and spirit, spheres that are to be taken very seriously at a Catholic university,” Roche says. “Art is a privileged way in which humanity learns to express itself, to innovate, and, in imitation of God, to engage in creativity.”p. To Haynes, one of the joys of developing an arts culture will be to address how arts at Notre Dame will fulfill the academic mission, one that is uniquely Notre Dame. Loving also looks to the added benefit that an active events roster can have: rich opportunity for faculty and students to enjoy one another outside the classroom. The change should be good for the off-campus world as well.p. “I would hope,” Hatch says, “that Notre Dame can become one of the loci in the Upper Midwest, particularly in the summer months, for the arts and related opportunities, serving a broad community that would include the Notre Dame community and the local region as far as Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis.”

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