UNCG plans to expand one of its academic divisions next fall. The Department of Art is set to join the School of Music, Theatre and Dance, shifting the setting of learning for many students.
The mission of the Art Department is based on three passionately held principles: “that the exploration of ideas through the visual arts is both necessary and culturally valuable; that an understanding of visual communications within contemporary society is critical for an informed world view; and that an appreciation and knowledge of art history, past and present is essential to both young scholars and developing artists.”
Housed in the Gatewood Studio Arts Center, beside the Weatherspoon museum on campus, the Department of Art has three undergraduate and one graduate program currently consisting of 400 enrolled students and 20-full time professors. Offering undergraduate degrees in art education, art history and studio art, the department has concentrations in painting, photography, new media design, ceramics and sculpture, and printmaking and drawing. The Master of Fine Arts in Studio Art is the only graduate degree offered by the department.
UNCG merged its previous School of Music, Department of Theatre and Department of Dance into one school in 2010. The School of Music, Theatre and Dance was established in order to promote the profile of UNCG’s offerings in the performing arts and to provide a centerpiece program for students pursuing an education in one or more of the performing arts. The School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s five departments are Music Performance, Music Education, Music Studies — including ethnomusicology, musicology and theory — Theatre and Dance. The school consists of more than 1,000 students and is the largest performing arts program in North Carolina.
Since its establishment, departments within UNCG’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance have been working to encourage collaboration between students in different performing arts disciplines. Adding the Art Department to the program will increase the number of opportunities for creative collaboration between students.
Provost Dana Dunn stated that the new college will bring four departments that have long been ranked as UNCG’s most visible programs under one organizational roof.
Discussions regarding the new arts college have been ongoing for years. The most recent conversation about the reorganization began during the fall semester of the 2014-2015 academic year. Loosely organized meetings regarding the college were held that semester. However, the meetings became more organized in spring 2015. In fall 2015, faculty members in the departments that would be affected by this transition were individually polled by the Office of the Provost. Later on in that semester, Provost Dunn and Chancellor Frank Gilliam announced that the reorganization would move forward, contingent on approval this May by the UNCG Board of Trustees and the UNC Board of Governors this summer.
Lawrence Jenkens, head of UNCG’s Department of Art, has been a part of the faculty-led conversations about configuring the arts units at the school for more than a year. “A college or unit that encompasses the creative arts departments on campus has been discussed on and off for years, most recently when the School of Music, Theater and Dance was created,” said Jenkens. He went on to further explain that the new college will not have an immediate impact on any student in UNCG’s arts programs as the curricula will remain the same.
“The effect of this consolidation will strengthen our arts programs over time, offering students and faculty the opportunity for curricular and extracurricular cooperation and collaboration and interdisciplinary opportunities,” Jenkens said. “The new college will also strengthen the position of the arts at UNCG, which has been an integral part of the campus throughout its history, as well as raise their profile on campus and in the community.”
Jenkens is in full support of the reorganization of the arts programs on campus into a single college. “I am really excited about the possibilities this college will offer its students, faculty, the university and community in so many different ways,” Jenkens said.The new college will have about 1,500 students and 90-full time faculty members. According to Provost Dunn, the new college has not yet been named. However, several proposals such as “College of Creative Arts” and “College of Performing and Visual Arts” are being considered.