UB invests in major new initiative to connect and engage students with the arts and arts community

Release Date: October 23, 2015 This content is archived.

“We have a strong commitment to supporting expressions of creativity across the full spectrum of arts on-campus and in Buffalo, and providing students with opportunities to interact directly with creative work and artists. ”
UB Provost Charles F. Zukoski

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A new, pioneering University at Buffalo arts initiative will bring to UB world-class creative and performing artists in all fields for on-campus residencies exploring creative expression in innovative ways that reach beyond studios and performance spaces and into all aspects of the university and Western New York community. It will involve students and faculty and audiences both on- and off-campus in exhibitions, performances, public conversations and new course development.

UB’s Creative Arts Initiative (CAI), a four-year, $1 million investment in the arts, links the university’s resources, rich history and enduring commitment to the arts with Buffalo’s already vibrant local arts environment by encouraging the creation of new works through residencies inspired by collaborations with university and community partners.

“UB is proud of the Creative Arts Initiative and excited about all that will arise from it,” says Charles F. Zukoski, UB provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.  “We have a strong commitment to supporting expressions of creativity across the full spectrum of arts on-campus and in Buffalo, and providing students with opportunities to interact directly with creative work and artists. A dynamic, creative culture stimulates imagination and empathy, strengthening and enriching our entire university and community.”

Co-directed by Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and James Agee Professor of American Culture, and SUNY Distinguished Professor David Felder, Birge-Cary Professor of Music, the CAI is itself a work of art with a carefully conceived and developed outline that ultimately will be shaded and filled in with selections from an initial round of residency applications from university members and arts organizations that will determine the first wave of participating artists.

“No one has done anything like this before. I’m very excited with the opportunities presented by inviting established artists to UB on a regular basis, working here, utilizing our facilities and spending time with our students,” Jackson says. “We want to work more closely with the people at the center of arts activity in our community and involve our students more closely with them.”

“UB has a history of bringing artists and scholars to campus that is so important,” Felder says. “But we’re talking about something more sustained and much wider in its circulation by inviting artists to stay here after a performance or exhibition, to work and meet with students over the course of a few days, a whole week or maybe an entire semester.”

Through this broadened approach, Jackson and Felder say the CAI will encourage students to experience creative life on campus and in the community, connecting a new generation to the arts and positioning UB as a leader in the arts and arts education.

“We’ll have people of demonstrable world-class import at UB, interacting with our students on a human-to-human level,” says Felder. “Lives can be changed by that kind of contact.”

Jackson and Felder say the first round of applications for visiting artists will be considered this spring.

“We’ll be evaluating these requests for proposals just as a university press evaluates a manuscript before making a decision about publishing,” Jackson says. “We’ll involve our board and will be asking people in various academic departments for their input as well.”

For this year, Jackson and Felder will consider a number of visiting artists, many of which could become part of Arts One, a new UB class beginning in the spring 2016 semester.

Arts One is designed to give undergraduate students in all disciplines access to arts events and artists, increasing visibility for the arts and acting as an innovative bridge reaching out from the university to connect students with local venues.

“This course is deliberately designed to put students in direct contact with artists and arts organizations in a very topical way,” Felder says. “Each semester will be very different based on what’s happening in Western New York.”

The course’s “fluid classroom” can conceivably flow throughout the community, connecting students directly to the creative arts and performance and exhibition spaces, while providing opportunities for students to hear directly from artists and arts leaders featured at or hosting specific events.

“The idea is to expose students to a wide range of artistic performance and creative activity in a way that doesn’t currently exist,” Jackson says. “Students might, for example, attend a reading by a visiting poet. Or we might invite the poet to discuss the process of writing a poem or poetry in general. It could just as easily involve drama, fiction or dance.”

Arts One will be based in two departments.

The English department will offer a section of the class in the fall semester with Jackson after the spring semester’s music department offering overseen by Felder.

“Bringing great artists to the university and having them interact with students and community members opens all kinds of creative possibilities,” Felder says. “The arts, like all spiritual pursuits, fills a part of the soul that is deeply important to our humanity.”

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