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A University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts

The members of the Allen Committee agreed that the creative and performing arts cannot flourish at Princeton without an organizational home that would unite them, nurture them, and secure their prominence within the University. The arts need a strong voice within the University as a whole and an organizational structure that can ensure coordination, increase public awareness and appreciation, and promote the exchange of ideas and information among the creative arts programs at Princeton. In short, the creative arts need strong leadership and persistent advocacy.

The Allen Committee noted that the University’s curricular programs in the creative and performing arts have long had the benefit of the guardianship of the Council on the Humanities, which has done much to promote and support them. The committee suggested, however, that the status quo would not be sufficient to enable the creative arts to flourish and grow in the future. Either the Council would have to be reformed to emphasize more explicitly the arts as well as the humanities, or Princeton would have to create a new academic unit devoted specifically to the arts.

After careful deliberation with colleagues, I believe that the arts at Princeton need more visibility as well as a voice and presence of their own. The arts must be integrated rather than insular, and the humanities—including the Humanities Council itself—will be important partners for the creative and performing arts. I am confident, however, that this goal of engagement and partnership will be fostered by giving the arts a platform devoted specifically to them, through which they can actively participate in the conversations and collaborations that constitute University life.

I believe that Princeton should create a University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts that will serve both as an administrative umbrella for the undergraduate curricular programs and as a focal point for scholarship, teaching, and practice in the arts. The Center would directly oversee expanded programs in Creative Writing, Theater and Dance, and the Visual Arts (and coordinate closely with the program in music performance in the Department of Music). The Center’s role will be to coordinate and enrich the individual programs, not to supplant them; the programs will continue to exist as distinct academic units, as they now do within the Council for the Humanities, and they will likewise continue to have principal responsibility for appointments to their own faculties.

The Center’s Director should be a tenured member of the Princeton faculty, and a distinguished scholar or artist who teaches in the creative and performing arts and is seen as a leader for the arts on campus. He or she must be able to provide leadership for the arts while also respecting the independence and autonomy of the particular programs that reside within the Center. The Director will have responsibility for administering Center endowments to support the academic programs and other activities in the creative and performing arts, in consultation with an Executive Committee composed of Princeton faculty and appointed by the Dean of the Faculty. The Executive Committee will include the directors of the academic programs in the creative and performing arts, and Princeton faculty who teach in those programs will hold appointments through the Center.

The Princeton University Art Museum should be a principal partner with a University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. Among the museum’s defining commitments is its aspiration to promote object-oriented learning at Princeton and to integrate its exhibitions into the more general intellectual life of the University. Recognizing the museum’s importance by allying it with the University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts will enhance the museum’s impact on campus and beyond, and it will help generate powerful synergies among the creation, exhibition, and study of visual art at Princeton University. By coordinating the museum’s educational programs and activities with the Center’s curricular efforts, we will ensure that Princeton students have an opportunity to participate fully in the object-oriented learning made possible by the University’s splendid museum.

I envision that the Center will be the hub of a dynamic community of creative endeavor that brings together students with faculty members and artists whose interests are well suited to Princeton’s distinctive conception of undergraduate education. It will serve many of the functions of an academic school or department without either forcing the creative arts to conform to all the practices of traditional research disciplines or veering toward the professional school model that has been used at other institutions but would be inappropriate at Princeton.

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From painters to pianists and authors to actors, students would benefit from the creation of a University Center for the Creative and Performing Arts. It would serve as a focal point for scholarship, teaching and practice in the arts as well as an administrative umbrella for undergraduate curricular programs. Photo Credit: John Jameson

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