Town Hall discusses Harpur School of Arts


The arts have long been a source of strength at Harpur College of Arts and Sciences, with alumni appearing on stage and screen, in the writers room and behind the camera lens. Others become benefactors and philanthropists focused on the arts, while pursuing careers in other fields.

The time has come to establish a school of the arts within Harpur College, according to Dean Celia Klin.

The campus community had the opportunity to learn more about the project on September 7 in the Casadesus Recital Hall. During a public session, Beatrice Szalas of marketing firm Red Cactus discussed what she found during a competitive market analysis of the project and how a designated art school could stand up. emerge from it in the face of competing and counterpart institutions.

Expect more conversations over the next few years as the project takes shape, Klin said.

“Harpur College has a long history of providing a rigorous liberal arts education that is both broad and deep, with a commitment to transformative education, excellence in scholarship and creative activity, and a commitment to creating an accessible and welcoming environment,” Klin said. . “To do that, we have to continually take stock and see where we are going.”

Discussions about the new school began in earnest in 2019. It would center on five existing departments: art and design, art history, film, music and drama.

Currently, the proposal is making its way through the Faculty Senate at Binghamton University. A search committee was also formed to find the school’s first principal. Also at stake: the Beaux-Arts building must undergo renovations, a process that will be both costly and time-consuming.

“We want to make sure that we design a building that works for the college in 10 years and 20 years, 30 years, because it’s not going to happen again anytime soon,” Klin said. “We have to provide the breadth that students want and need, and that means being really deliberate in how we shape the college. And right now, that means building in the arts.

“A Special School”

The goal is not to establish a conservatory, but rather to take advantage of Binghamton’s unique strengths as a high-quality public university.

Some students choose Binghamton specifically to study the arts, but others don’t discover the opportunities until after they arrive. And then there are students with specific career goals who may have participated in theater or music in high school; rather than abandoning those interests in college, they find a way to pursue them, whether through a double major, minor, or by participating in theater productions, orchestra, or bands outside of their college program. ‘studies.

Szalas conducted focus groups and interviews with Binghamton faculty, staff and alumni about what makes Binghamton and Harpur special, reviewed data and statistics, and benchmarked Binghamton against key competitors and aspirational peers. . Each focus group explained how students can and do double major in wildly divergent fields, she said. A former had specialized in music and chemistry; while she is currently pursuing music, her plan B is becoming a doctor, she told Szalas.

Harpur College already has a collaborative, interdisciplinary spirit when it comes to the arts: think of the spring 2022 premiere of “Word of Mouth,” in which music majors created compositions around poems written in college classes. creative writing, which were then performed by other music students. . An arts school could spur new cross-arts collaborations and strengthen interactions between other campus programs and groups, Klin said.

Prospective students are also interested in the arts. From 2019 to 2020, visual and performing arts was the 10th most popular major nationally, with more than 155,000 degrees awarded, a 13.8% increase from the previous year, a Szalas said in his report.

Additionally, over the past decade, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted the growing need for artists and designers. A National Endowment for the Arts report also predicted a need for set and exhibit designers, actors, film and video producers and editors from 2016 to 2026. Creativity and critical thinking at the heart of the arts are also an asset in the world of employment in other countries. manners; arts majors can be found in a wide range of companies and roles, Szalas pointed out.

“I believe we have the opportunity to create a special school, where students are exposed to multiple disciplines and dual opportunities, state-of-the-art facilities, internships and performance that connects graduates to real employment and in request. opportunities,” Szalas said.

Binghamton’s broader community also embraces the arts, from public events such as LUMA and Porch Fest to performances by the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra and Tri-Cities Opera. Artistic events offered by the University could foster greater community interaction and contribute to the success of the region.

“We know that arts-rich communities are communities where people want to live,” Klin said.

There are, however, challenges. Binghamton is renowned for its academic strength, particularly in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) related fields; it’s not as well known in the arts, which makes spreading the word a priority once the school takes shape.

However, Binghamton has the opportunity to inject its population of “diligent, scrappy, unprivileged students” into an art school environment grounded in the realities of the art world, focus group respondents pointed out. in Szalas. In turn, having “School of the Arts” on a resume can help graduates pursue arts-related careers and instill pride in their alma mater.

“Rather than another ‘dumb arts college,’ let’s make sure we set ourselves apart and prepare our graduates to go out and make a real difference in the creative economy,” Szalas recounted.

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