Separating the art forms in reorganizing the department

Brianna Hawkins

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The department of fine and performing arts, which included visual art and design, music, theatre and dance, has been reorganized into two departments. The new departments are the department of visual arts and design and the department of music and performing arts. Theatre is under the former and dance the latter.

The reorganization occurred due to how broad the arts department was and how it affected the future when it comes to creating new programs and budgeting.  The reorganization of the department has been active since July 1, 2017.

Contemporary Art Gallery Director and Professor of Sculpture Dale Newkirk said that the department of fine and performing arts became the largest department in the college of arts, humanities and social sciences.

The different areas of study within the department are not located near each other. Most of the art buildings and theatres are spread out around campus, which could be confusing for students and faculty.

Newkirk explained why the department was reorganized and how the reorganization improves things for the two departments.

“As a department, it made sense to put everything together because it intellectually was ‘department of art,’” said Newkirk. “Kind of made sense, like all the arts together. But in terms of management, it was different than putting together, let’s say, English and history or sociology and psychology because we have a lot of facilities. So, it was a very complicated department for one person to run.”

Newkirk also feels that by dividing the department, the administration can focus more on improving the department for a better future.

“The administration felt, starting from a proposal to the dean and approved by the president, that we need to look at that,” said Newkirk. “And if we really wanted to focus on the future and growth and being able to do fiscal planning and preparing for the future and having time to create new programs, that it would be better to split the department back up, which was how it was before it was merged in the past.”

Students who are majoring in general studies with a concentration in dance also feel that the division of the department provided benefits.

Senior general studies major Hayley Jordan who has a concentration in dance thinks that the art department split helps make sure that every area in the department gets equal attention.

“It was hard to devote all the attention equally to every area of the department,” said Jordan. “I think that the split allows us to focus in and devote enough equal attention to every department because the more areas you have in a department the harder it is to devote your attention to every single one.”

Another benefit students in dance major get from the department split is the collaboration with the music program on campus.

“A lot of the music we use for our shows is composed by music majors,” said Jordan. “Sometimes we are lucky enough to be able to get the permission to get those musicians to perform live on stage during our performances.”

Senior general studies major John Duplantier, who is the technical consultant for the dance program on campus, also thinks the split is beneficial.

“It’s not that we need our own department because we only have like 120 majors,” said Duplantier. “But it’s that, having a department with resources that are spread between visual arts and music and theater and dance is difficult because then inevitably, one of the four ends up becoming the forgotten stepchild, which sort of happened to dance.”

Newkirk is currently working on implementing the changes based off the division of the two departments. One of these changes is hiring a new department head for music and performing arts. 

“It’s going smoothly,” said Newkirk. “The hardest part was just the mechanics of that of working out that reorganization in terms of the catalog and the website and the budgets, but that work has been done. Now kinda the last piece is completing the department head search, which is going on right now.”

When it comes to how it affects the students, Newkirk believes it will benefit them.

“If each department is being given more attention in terms of management, there would be more opportunities for growth in the department, more time to do fundraising, to look for new scholarships, to recruit new students, to deal with growth, and to give more attention to each academic area from a management point of view,” said Newkirk. “But otherwise, I don’t really think it’s going to make that much difference to the students. The average student, I’m not sure they really care what their department is called as long as they’re getting the education that they want and the experience that they need and are getting quality education.”

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Separating the art forms in reorganizing the department