State of the Arts
The arts give life to whatever the mind’s eye can imagine — and open new ways of looking at our world.
The arts have been woven into the fabric of university life from the earliest years of the campus. Science Hall, which opened in 1877, included an art museum. (Unfortunately, the gallery and the collection were lost in 1884 when the building caught fire and its contents were destroyed.)
But since that inauspicious beginning, instruction in the visual and performing arts has expanded in size and reach, nurturing the creative promise in our students. A robust arts environment sparks new ways of looking at our world — and at ourselves. Today’s students will become tomorrow’s working artists, continuing the legacy.
Nothing compares to learning from a working artist. An interdisciplinary arts residency program, sponsored by the Arts Institute and now in its eleventh year, brings innovative, world-class artists to campus for semester-long residencies with two or more departments. The program exposes students to professionals and builds collaborations among departments, programs, and other campus and community arts entities.
In addition to providing an environment where students can discover and hone their skills, the campus is rich in opportunities to absorb art. The work of faculty, students, and artists with international influence is displayed in galleries in the Chazen Museum of Art, the Wisconsin Union, the Mosse Humanities Building, the Design Gallery, many campus libraries, and the recently opened Art Lofts.
On the performance side, stages in the Mosse Humanities Building, the Memorial Union, the Wisconsin Union Theater, and Vilas, Music, and Lathrop halls are alive with theater, film, music, and dance. Performers range from students and faculty to the brightest stars and leading names in their fields. And don’t forget the Memorial Carillon, with its fifty-six bronze bells and the campus’s very own carillonneur.
The growth of the arts on campus created some firsts for the university. The UW was the first university to offer a degree program in dance — beginning in 1926.
In 1940, the touring musicians of Belgium’s Pro Arte Quartet were stranded in the United States by the outbreak of World War II. The residency they accepted at the UW was the first such program at a major American university. Pro Arte hits the century mark next year.
And the glass program is the oldest among those operating full time on a U.S. campus.
Illuminate: Year of the Arts — designed to spotlight the breadth, power, and purpose of artistic exploration and expression — kicks off on campus this fall. Along with more than thirty featured events, some three hundred performances, exhibits, symposia, public events, publications, distinguished visiting speakers, and online resources will celebrate the arts.
“Throughout the university’s history, the arts have brought richness, depth, diversity, and insight to the campus community,” says Chancellor Biddy Martin PhD’85. “The Year of the Arts will provide opportunities to consider how creative expression frames our vision, enables change, and shapes our lives.”
Gwen Evans ’79 is a senior university relations specialist at University Communications. She tried to get into an art school advertised on a matchbook cover, but was rejected.
Published in the Fall 2010 issue