The University of Houston is home to an internationally acclaimed museum, one of the world’s top choirs, an award-winning opera program, and a theater school producing stars of stage and screen. These are just some of the pride points of UH’s arts programs.
Soon, the University’s performing and visual arts units will be consolidated under a single college focused on training aspiring artists and delivering innovative programming and performances to the public.
During its Feb. 18 meeting, the UH System (UHS) Board of Regents approved the creation of UH’s College of the Arts. Comprising this new academic unit will be the Moores School of Music, School of Art, School of Theatre & Dance, Blaffer Art Museum, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, Center for Arts Leadership and the Graduate Program for Arts Management. All of these units and programs are currently based in UH’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. They will fold into the College of the Arts when it officially launches on Sept. 1, 2016. Degree programs in the college’s schools and programs will remain unaffected by the transition into a new college.
The arts are among UH President Khator’s “Big Rocks” initiatives – or University cornerstones – in addition to student success, athletics, health and energy. Paula Myrick Short, UH System senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, introduced a presentation on the college for the Board’s Academic and Student Success Committee. The item was forwarded to the full board and approved.
This new college, Short said, will enhance UH’s creative presence in the community and beyond.
“By uniting under a shared mission and vision for the arts at the University of Houston, we take the next step toward recognizing one of the ‘Big Rocks’ that have defined President Khator’s tenure at UH,” said Short. “We hope to further increase the visibility and engagement of the arts between the university community and the Houston community. I am proud to announce this momentous change, which I hope will further attract and retain Tier One faculty and students at our institution.”
A benefit to the College of the Arts, said its planning dean Andrew Davis, director of the Moores School of Music, is building stronger creative programs with a shared strategy.
“The performing and visual arts have historically been among UH’s strengths,” said Davis. “Our arts schools and programs have produced some amazing talents. We’ve never had a situation when they have been operated as a singular, cohesive unit. The College of the Arts provides an opportunity for us to do that. Having a unified agenda will enhance the profile of each of the college’s schools and programs, and in turn attract larger numbers of talented students.”
Establishing a College of Arts also puts Houston in league with other major cities that have prominent academic centers dedicated to the arts, Davis added. He cited such noted institutions such as the New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts or the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. He added that the college also would likely expand UH’s creative output in the community.
“All of the great cities have had places of learning that are fully dedicated to the arts,” he said. “Such colleges and conservatories feed students into those cities’ arts and cultural scenes. It’s the right time for a global city like Houston to host such an institution.”
Student artists will benefit from the College of the Arts in a host of ways, Davis said. Among those will be expanded opportunities for collaborations across the disciplines. Likewise, they will gain creative insights from being part of an academic unit that is being guided by fellow artists.
“It’s important to have a college that is run by artists for artists,” Davis said. “This is essential in growing programs that will meet the needs of tomorrow’s creative minds.”
Last year proved to be a success for many of the University’s arts programs. The Moores Opera Center earned first and second prizes in a competition hosted by the National Opera Association (respectively for productions of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and “The Consul”); the Moores Concert Chorale took World Championship Honors at the Grand Prix of Nations in Germany and now holds a No. 3 world ranking, and the city of Houston proclaimed July 31, 2015 as “Houston Shakespeare Festival Day” in honor of the annual event produced by the School of Theatre & Dance. These are just a few of the honors awarded to UH arts programs. To learn more about the University’s creative departments and public programming, visit http://www.uh.edu/uh-arts/.