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Boise State Announces Formation of New School of the Arts

By: Cienna Madrid   Published 10:31 am / August 16, 2017

Boise State University will be home to a new School of the Arts, President Bob Kustra announced on Aug. 16 during his annual campus-wide State of the University address to faculty and staff. The new School of the Arts, which debuts in fall 2017, encompasses the departments of music, art and the newly combined department of creative writing and theatre.

“I’m incredibly excited about the development of the School of the Arts because it will provide our students and faculty with new opportunities, visibility and connectivity,” said Tony Roark, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “We already have some really innovative ideas for programming that draws on the talent and expertise of our faculty, and I know that other ideas will emerge as the school is more fully defined.  The campus community and our external partners will be pleased and impressed by where the School of the Arts takes Boise State over the next few years.”

The idea for a School of the Arts was first broached by a diverse group of arts faculty in 2016 in response to a rapidly changing culture for working artists in the Treasure Valley and beyond. The new school will strengthen arts education, thus better preparing students who aspire to be professional artists by allowing them to take transdisciplinary classes to fit their major’s core requirements. It also will act as a dedicated entity to support, facilitate, publicize and provide diverse arts opportunities for students and the greater Treasure Valley.

“Data shows that students’ chances of sustaining an artistic career are better if they can cross disciplines and economic sectors. We are giving our students opportunities to develop a broad set of artistic skills that can fuel creativity throughout their lives,” explained Leslie Durham, who will act as director of the new school, while continuing to serve as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We view it as an incubator for new programs, for new collaborative efforts, for establishing common networks of communication, scheduling, classes and events,” said Richard Klautsch, chair of the creative writing and theatre department. “Theatre majors who want to someday write plays can take creative writing classes; musicians who are interested in theatre can take acting classes.”

“What we’ve learned is that it’s important for students to feel like they have a cohort of creative peers across campus,” said Linda Kline, chair of the music department.

“Performative aspects of the visual arts discipline have great ties to theatre and theatre history; we have ideas circulating about classes in digital and electronic arts that could incorporate both the music department and our art department, different possibilities we haven’t had the chance to delve into without this kind of support,” said Kathleen Keys, chair of the art department.

“I wish I would’ve had that kind of artistic training as an undergrad,” said Mitch Wieland, director of Boise State’s MFA in creative writing program, which merged this summer with the theatre arts department. “Today, fiction writers are working as screenwriters in Hollywood – to have a background in that, training in that, exposure to film and theatre as an undergrad, it gives our students a professional edge and makes for stronger writers.”

The new school also will be home to a future bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in creative writing, and could one day boast classes in subjects like musical theatre, digital and electronic arts, and even an arts entrepreneurship program.

“Boise State has never had an actual creative writing major, and we’re stoked about it,” Wieland added. “There are only 30 BFAs in creative writing in the entire country. We’ll be the thirty-first.”

The School of the Arts follows a university-wide trend at Boise State of rethinking how education is packaged to students, from the College of Innovation and Design’s push to be an incubator of ideas to the School of Public Service’s dissolution of traditional college departments in favor of a broad structure that allows faculty and students to easily move between subjects within the school.

However, some aspects of the School of the Arts will conform to the traditional frameworks found on campus: the school will remain in the College of Arts and Sciences, departments will remain intact, and each department will retain a department chair to oversee its day-to-day functions, as well as help orchestrate collaborations with other departments. But many possibilities about the school’s future have yet to be defined, noted Durham.

“Over the next year, there will be a lot of heavy lifting done by faculty in all departments to find out where new opportunities are for collaboration and how we capitalize on them,” Durham said. “We’re committed to building this into something that works well for students, and makes them better prepared for the arts world they’re going to enter into.”