Arts initiative video transcript

Nov. 9, 2007 3 p.m.

Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman comments on the University's goal of enabling all students to participate in the arts. A $101 million gift from Peter B. Lewis that established the Peter B. Lewis Center for the Arts already has allowed Princeton to begin increasing the impact of the arts on campus.

Tilghman on transforming Princeton through the arts:

I am very excited about our new initiative in the creative and the performing arts. I think of all of the things that we are doing, this may be the one that has the greatest likelihood of really transforming the University in a very positive way. As a university, of course, we have always studied the arts. We have studied literature, we have studied art history, we have studied film, we have studied works of art as scholars. But what we have not emphasized as much as I think we need to do is the doing of art, the creation of art.

And as a scientist, I've always believed in the tremendous synergy that happens when you have an experimentalist and a theorist working together in the same space. They play off each other in ways that are really stimulating. I think the same thing is true in the arts. I think having on campus students and faculty who are devoted to creating works of art, who will be in conversation with scholars who are trying to understand the meaning of art, is going to have that same synergistic, catalytic effect.

I also believe that universities fundamentally need to be patrons of the arts. Universities have one tremendous advantage over the public domain, which is that we don't ask our arts to make a profit. We don't even ask them to break even. In fact, what we can do is nurture young artists, we can nurture new ideas, we can nurture the arts in a way that is protected from the marketplace, which is a very, very stern test of art and what can survive in this country.

The other thing I will say is that as we had conversations with students over the last four or five years, perhaps their largest clarion call, the loudest clarion call, was for more opportunities to encounter the arts as part of their academic program. The number of students who were eager to take a course in visual arts but were prevented from doing so by the fact that we offered so few classes and they were never able to get into those classes, is something that we don't accept any place else in the curriculum. There's no other place in the curriculum where having four out of five applicants turned down semester after semester would be considered acceptable conditions. We also know that as students applying to Princeton, we hear more and more often from students who are looking for an experience with the arts at the University. And we believe it's very important that we meet the needs of those students who are coming, some of them, frankly, already committed to the arts, already having some aspect of creative or performing arts as part of their lives. But we shouldn't forget the student who arrives having had no exposure to the arts. That we believe is as important a part of an undergraduate education as exposure to the humanities or to the social sciences or to the sciences or engineering.

So I think bringing the arts from the periphery, where I think they have been, into the center of the University is going to be exciting for students, I think is going tremendously exciting for faculty, and I can say as someone in Nassau Hall, I know it it's going to be exciting for me.

©2007 The Trustees of Princeton University

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