This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Questions &Answers

Published: October 21, 2004

Thomas Burrows is director of the Center for the Arts.

The Center for the Arts is celebrating its 10th anniversary. How has the climate for the arts changed at UB since the facility opened?
The Department of Music had presented high quality concerts for many years prior to the opening of the Center for the Arts. There also were numerous academic performances in music, theater and dance. The center gives the university an opportunity to expand the spectrum of performing arts available to our student and community populations. We make the arts more accessible to our students by subsidizing relatively low prices generally and by offering discount tickets for center presentations. I believe the center is a growing source of pride for the university.

Does the center have a unique niche in the Buffalo arts market?
Most definitely. We have come to fill one niche with our early concentration on dance, presenting professional companies, encouraging conferences and festivals. The eclectic diversity of our season is unique. We do seek to fill local gaps in professional art offerings, such as dance and, more recently, opera. We also feel it is our role to develop new artists that are just starting to gain public attention. We present contemporary performers to appeal to the student population and, as a university organization, we also focus a lot of our energies on educating and developing young performers.

How do you decide which performances to book?
The center has the finest professional staff it has ever been my pleasure to work with. I ask them. We have a programming committee that meets regularly to discuss different artists that we feel will be of interest to the public and will fulfill our mandates as well. We consult with faculty when considering artist residencies. Recently, we have started surveying members of our patron email list to gauge their interest in a variety of performers. We also receive in-person feedback and letters from patrons who have attended performances at the center. All of this is valued and considered.

The touring production of "Rent" is coming to the CFA in February. Isn't that quite a coup for you?
After the positive reaction to our presentation of "Fosse" last year, we would like to present one or two short-run musicals per year. We will, however, only seek presentations which we feel are of high quality, will appeal to the university population and be of some benefit to the students in the Department of Theater and Dance. We believe that "Rent" was the perfect fit for this season.

In your opinion, what's the "must see" event occurring in the CFA this season?
Given the variety, it is so difficult to pick one. I would hope that we offer something for everyone. The dance series, for example, ranges from the St. Petersburg State Ballet Theatre to Savion Glover. I hope that our patrons will attend many of the performances to enjoy the full range of experiences. Since I chose or approved them all—it's not an easy choice—I would not have missed Kathleen Battle. I will not miss Linda Eder or Savion Glover. There truly is something for everyone in our season. It should be noted that Theatre & Dance productions—which enjoy a longer run—are becoming "must see" events.

What are some of the other highlights of the season?
A lot of people are excited about Linda Eder's holiday concert in December. We're looking forward to the Pat Metheny Group performing here in February for the first time. We also have some great dance events ahead: 22-time world champion Irish dancers the Trinity Irish Dance, and tap-star Savion Glover.

What performer/event would you personally like to see appear in the CFA?
There are two: A professional theater residency to meet our dual mandate of service to the community and our student body as we have had for seven years with our dance residents, and for the Jazz Dance World Congress to make the center its home in alternate summers.

What question do you wish I had asked, and how would you have answered it?
What are your plans/intentions for continued growth? The short list:

  • We will extend our successful "Explore the Arts" summer program in 2005 for students in grades 4 thru 9.

  • We will seek more community partnerships with cultural nonprofits that can benefit from performing in the center. In 2004-05, we are working with American Ballet Theatre's "Nutcracker," Neglia Ballet and the Jewish Repertory Theatre.

  • We will strive to build our in-house, television-production capability in order to capture student and professional performances of broadcast quality.