School of Visual and Performing Arts
Western Connecticut State University began the 2006 academic year with a new School of Visual and Performing Arts. The Board of Trustees of the Connecticut State University system approved establishment of the school in June 2006, bringing together the art, music, and theatre arts departments for the better development and promotion of the arts disciplines. The school has the potential of establishing WestConn as the premier regional center for cultural, intellectual, and artistic excellence.
“This new school is a perfect example of how WestConn employs its regional advantage to educate for global realities,” said President James W. Schmotter. “It also will serve as a hub for the many other arts organizations and initiatives in our area. It will complement and collaborate with the other impressive cultural resources of our region.”
Carol Hawkes is the founding dean of the school.
“This is much more than a beginning,” Hawkes said. “It is the culmination of a century of building excellence and distinctiveness in the arts.”
She said bringing the three arts departments together in their own school will make it easier for students and faculty to work together.
“An example is musical theater, where students and faculty in theatre arts and music already have a tradition of collaboration and outstanding productions,” Hawkes said. “A school of the arts will increase the visibility of your programs and build recognition of the value of your degree. It will attract other talented students and faculty to the programs and build community support.”
The school also will allow WestConn to:
- Offer the highest quality educational, pre-professional, and professional programming within a liberal arts environment;
- Recruit the highest quality students in the arts disciplines;
- Fulfill the role of designated center for the arts of the CSU system;
- Attract major funding for scholarships and endowed faculty chairs;
- Enhance the cultural life and image of the university; and
- Provide significant experiences in the arts for all students in academic programs across the university.
The school will capitalize on its location in Fairfield County, home of many artists and friends of the arts, and within easy distance of the artistic and cultural centers of New York City. This proximity has allowed the university to draw faculty from leading professionals in the arts, which translates into offering students a world-class educational experience.
“Our location gives us not only a unique pool of faculty talent, but also incredibly exciting off-campus learning venues for our students in the arts,” Schmotter said. “The new school also will address workforce needs — in K-12 music education, which the state has identified as an area of teacher shortage as well as in areas such as graphic design, a need of both corporate, government and non-profit organizations throughout the state."
Students studied music as early as 1905 at WestConn, with the first music degrees awarded in 1945.
A Visual and Performing Arts Instructional Center to house the school will be constructed on WestConn’s Westside campus, with construction and funding approved by the Connecticut State Legislature and Governor M. Jodi Rell. Preliminary planning has taken place, and Amenta/Emma Architects of Hartford will begin work on design in Fall 2008.
Hawkes is enthusiastic about the achievements of students and faculty in the two years since the foundation of the school. “Bringing the arts together has indeed opened the way for freely sharing ideas and skills and raising creativity to a new level,” she said. She cited the collaboration of Music and Theatre Arts in musical theatre such as The Who’s Tommy, the annual Jazz Festival produced by Music, the MFA Thesis exhibition at a New York City gallery, and the many awards received by students and faculty for outstanding achievement.
“I look forward to welcoming new and prospective students to the campus,” Hawkes said. “Please come, phone, or e-mail if you have questions or need the dean’s signature or advice. My administrative assistant, Ms. Linda D’Aurio, will be happy to set up an appointment.
Hawkes’ office is in Higgins Hall Annex, Suite 105. Her telephone is (203) 837-3222; e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org