Final Thoughts: The Arts

Now is the Time

As members of the St. Thomas community, we have a lot about which to be proud. We have outstanding academic programs – from those in the College of Arts and Sciences to programs in law, business, social work, engineering, education and divinity. We have incredible curricular and co-curricular offerings that engage our students in the community and in the world.

We have excellent athletic teams and exceptional new facilities that promote the physical health of our students, faculty and staff. And we help our students to develop as full human beings by challenging them to explore not just their minds but also their faith. I think we all recognize these strengths, and we are excited to promote and support them.

Now is the time, however, to be sure that we promote and support yet another area of excellence – the arts. While St. Thomas does not include majors in every fine arts program possible (for example, we currently do not offer studio art or theater majors) we have incredible curricular and co-curricular offerings in the arts.

As one important example, consider art history. At both the undergraduate and the graduate level, this program is distinctive in its commitment to contextualizing art for our students. The American Museum of Asmat Art at the University of St. Thomas, gifted to us several years ago, has expanded learning opportunities for our students. Students engage their creative side as they work to curate Asmat exhibits and find ways to translate life in a remote region of Indonesia to the campus and the larger community.

Beyond the Asmat collection, the department’s exhibit program is outstanding in both scope and quality and is fast becoming a venue for artists of significant reputation. And the Frank Gehry-designed Winton Guest House that will open next fall on the Gainey campus is an architectural work of art that has huge educational value.

We have an outstanding program in music. Hundreds of St. Thomas students participate each year in a broad range of instrumental and choral ensembles. Whether performing in Orchestra Hall at the annual St. Thomas Christmas concert (now reaching thousands of viewers through public television broadcasts around the nation) or on stages in China or Italy, these students stir our souls through the beauty of their work.

Nothing demonstrates this more than the recent honor received by the University of St. Thomas Chamber Singers, under the direction of Dr. Angela Broeker. The Chamber Singers performed at the American Choral Directors Association national convention in March. One of only five college or university choirs accepted, their selection came after a blind audition process that included CD submissions from more than 70 college and university choirs across the nation. The ACDA National Convention, this year held in Chicago, is attended by thousands of choir directors from across the country. Being invited to perform is a singular honor. This invitation is recognition of the national stature and exceptional quality of our program.

Oh, and by the way, the performance did not disappoint the audience. The St. Thomas Chamber Singers, rewarded with multiple standing ovations, were a hit and the hot topic of conversation at the convention.

Never in the history of St. Thomas have the arts been as present and as exceptional as they are right now. As we celebrate all that St. Thomas is and can be, let’s ensure we continue to build and support the arts. Fostering the creative dimension of human existence also is a critical part of our mission to foster the development of the whole student.

Marisa Kelly, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences since 2006, will become provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ithaca College in Ithaca, N.Y., on July 1.

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