School of Creative Arts receives $95,000 from arts council

Funds go toward visiting lecturers, new courses in music, theater and fine arts

Members of the Brandeis Arts Council with President Fred Lawrence.

The Brandeis Arts Council awarded grants totaling $95,000 for the 2011-2012 academic year to the three departments within the School of Creative Arts.

The council, comprised of alumni, parents and friends of Brandeis interested in fostering the arts on campus, grants support to exceptional creative needs and opportunities for artistic development that directly benefit students.

The School of Creative Arts has received nearly $400,000 from the council since 2008.

Each year, all three arts departments - music, theater and fine arts - are invited to submit up to three proposals for consideration by the council. This year, the council funded all proposals.

For the fine arts department, the council allocated gifts to a series of guest lectures from noted scholars, art critics, curators and acclaimed artists; summer internships and study abroad opportunities for fine arts students; an intermediate level photography course, Memory and Photography. In 2008, the council supported the first introductory photography course taught at Brandeis, and the university has since continued the course.

Grants to the music department will help fund world music concerts and performances of student compositions. The beneficiaries are the program, MusicUnitesUS, including a concert and residencies by the South Indian dance theater group Navarsa and Afghan musician Homayun Sakhi; an instructor to teach the newly established African drumming and dance ensemble; the Talujon Percussion Quartet Residency, which hosts professional drummers performing the music of graduate and undergraduate student composers; and Polyphony: Workshop, Performance and Symposium, which allows vocal and ensemble students to study alongside professional musicians, attend a weekend-long retreat, and prepare for end of the semester concerts.

Council funds were awarded to the theater department to provide sets, costumes and other production support for a new Senior Thesis Theater Festival; new literature and history courses in African American and feminist theater; and a residency by actor, director, and music composer Bill Barclay, who will also direct a Brandeis Theater Company production.

Scott Edmiston, director of the Office of the Arts, says "Arts Council members enjoy their work because they know by the end of the meeting there will be a new course or an artist visiting campus thanks to their generosity and commitment to arts students."

The council meets twice a year; in the spring on campus to award to grants and in the fall in New York City to attend cultural events and connect with Brandeis alumni working in the arts.

As part of their New York City gatherings, the council has had a personal tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Gary Tinterow '76, enjoyed a theater salon with Broadway producer Robyn Goodman '69 and playwright Theresa Rebeck M.A.'83, M.F.A.'86, Ph.D.'89 and visited the Whitney Museum's Georgia O'Keeffe exhibition with a private tour by Professor Nancy Scott. Last year, the council had an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the Metropolitan Opera hosted by the Met's Resident Costume Designer Mitchell Bloom '84.

In the spring, the council met with students for lunch, participated in a drumming and dancing workshop and watched excerpts from the New York showcase for graduating MFA acting students that they funded. Edmiston highlights the "interaction between the arts council members and those who receive support. Council members do this because they care about the students and want to give back." He says, "it's fun to see alumni and art students share their different experiences of Brandeis across the decades."

In discussing the integral importance of the work of the council, Edmiston says there is an "experiential element to the arts that is unique - producing plays, concerts, and exhibitions. The arts programs need a special level of support for that to happen" and the council has created this vehicle.

Elaine Wong, a senior associate dean of Arts and Sciences, led the deliberation process on campus in which members reviewed proposals and awarded grants. Members met with President Fred Lawrence at the end of the board meeting to discuss his ideas and vision for the future of the arts at Brandeis.

For the 2010-2011 academic year, the Brandeis Arts Council awarded grants to support residencies by Afropop musician Lamine Toure, Palestinian musician and composer Simon Shaheen, British ensemble Fretwork, and New York Virtuoso Singers ensemble; professional guest artists for the Brandeis Theater Company season, a New York showcase for graduate student actors, and collaborative performance and design project by faculty in theater and fine arts; a full-day concert by Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio with international guest artists; and a new-media studio art course, visiting artists for studio arts critiques, and a New York City museum trip for seniors in fine arts.

There are currently 20 members of the Arts Council from New York City and New England. Edmiston hopes to increase the council to 25 or 30 members for the next academic year. The council is an "example of people who really care, really understand the value of the arts and make a difference in the lives of art students at Brandeis."

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