Arts fall into place


Guests at Alumni Weekend had a chance to hear a panel discuss the arts on campus Friday—the same day the University announced it had picked an architect for the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts. To be designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, the center will open in 2011, housing performance and gallery space plus parts of the visual arts, theater & performance, music, and cinema & media studies programs. At Friday's panel discussion Larry Norman, Romance languages & literatures professor and deputy dean in the Humanities for the arts center, noted that the new building will help fulfill President Zimmer's priorities for arts on campus: convergences between the creative process and academic analysis, between the different arts programs, and between campus and community.

While Chicago has a storied arts history—the Haskell and Walker museums, Loredo Taft, the Renaissance Society, University of Chicago Presents, Court Theatre, the Compass Players, Philip Glass, AB'56, Philip Roth, AM'55—in 2001 a faculty committee recommended that the University strengthen its arts curricula and facilities, noted David Thompson, PhD'97, associate dean in the Humanities. The Logan Arts Center, said Associate Provost Mary Harvey, PhD'87, is one result of that report (others include the Arts Planning Council, the Art Speaks program, and the Hyde Park Cultural Leaders Group). "Arts here has been at the margins," said Visual Arts Chair Laura Letinsky. "This center represents a huge shift" for the University, "a recognition of art as firmly embedded in the culture."

After watching two videos—one on the architectural design contest and one on Williams and Tsien—the audience got to ask questions. "What do you know about Acrotheatre?" asked Leah Yee, AB'56. The panel, it turned out, didn't know anything about the group, which combined dance, gymnastics, and theater, and in the 1950s "performed a single web over Mandel Hall." Acrotheatre, Yee said, helped keep her at the University when she wasn't happy there. Realizing it was part of Chicago's arts history that current administrators had overlooked, Thompson told Yee, "We'll talk later."


Photo: Associate Provost Mary Harvey tells Alumni Weekend-goers how around 2000 the Provost's Office began a committee to reconsider the arts on campus.

Photo by Dan Dry.

June 4, 2007