BGSU has named the arts as the first of its “centers of excellence”—a move approved by the trustees Wednesday. The choice was self-evident, officials said, based on the University’s having strong, collaborative programs in visual arts, creative writing, music, dance, theatre and film that prepare students for careers. The arts also have an impact beyond BGSU: A 2007 study by the Center for Regional Development showed that the arts and arts-led industries contribute more than $2 billion per year to northwest Ohio.
The governor’s 10-year Strategic Plan for Higher Education calls for universities to identify areas of excellence, saying these areas “should serve as an organizing system for the best or unique programs on one campus, whenever possible be multidisciplinary and demonstrate contribution to the economy of the region and state.” The plan also says any areas identified as excellent should be of sufficient quality to attract students and faculty. Ohio's four-year public universities must submit their recommendations for their centers of excellence by December 2009.
A leader in many areas of the arts, BGSU is known equally for traditional and cutting-edge programs, as well as for its arts outreach to the community, both from main campus and BGSU Firelands. The University formally recognized the importance of the arts to a well-rounded education when it made “embracing the arts” a component of the Academic Plan in 2003 and embedded it in the BG Perspective curriculum.
The state strategic plan also calls for any proposed centers of excellence to be well supported by evidence. Factors cited by the trustees included:
• BGSU Firelands is home to the award-winning Caryl Crane Children’s Theatre, which has brought high-quality performances to the region for many years and provides opportunities for students and community members to participate. The Firelands Writing Center has an extensive list of publications featuring area writers.
• The College of Musical Arts, home of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music and one of the only places in the country to offer a doctorate in contemporary music, as well as degree programs in world music. It attracts students from around the world.
• The Creative Writing Program, one of the country’s oldest, is led by nationally known writers and poets and publishes the award-winning Mid-American Review.
• The School of Art has become a national leader in the digital arts and new media, with students finding jobs in leading studios.
• Theatre and film faculty and students maintain an active schedule of productions and studies, and have been involved in a number of innovative collaborations across the country. The department also oversees the Huron Playhouse summer theatre, in operation for a record 60 years.
The synergy among the arts and academics on campus, epitomized by the campus Arts Roundtable, is a notable characteristic of BGSU, University officials noted. The Arts Village Residential Community and the arts management minor are but two concrete examples of student opportunities to integrate the two.
Wolfe Center to be focal point for campus arts community
The trustees also authorized construction to proceed on the Wolfe Center for the Arts, which will further enhance BGSU’s stature as a center of excellence in the arts.
The facility, to be located on the site of the former Saddlemire Student Services Building, will bridge the College of Musical Arts and the Fine Arts Center and will also be the new home of the Department of Theatre and Film. It will encompass performance, design and instructional spaces.
Construction is projected to begin in April 2009, with completion in January 2011. The cost for the facility is estimated at $40,750,000, including the roadway and parking ($2,500,000). Leadership for the project was provided by Frederic and Mary Wolfe of Perrysburg, along with state capital appropriations in the amount of $38,250,000.
Clean, sweeping lines and light-filled spaces characterize the design of the new arts center, the roughly 93,000 square foot facility that will complete the campus arts neighborhood. Its soaring “fly tower” will create an iconic identity for the arts.
The proposed building has been designed by the Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta and will be its first American project to be completed. Snøhetta has projects from Europe to the Middle East, among them a new opera house that has just opened in Oslo. The firm has recently been chosen to design a new cultural center for the king of Saudi Arabia. To learn more about the award-winning company and view its designs, visit http://www.snoarc.no/#/.
The Collaborative, a Toledo-based firm, is the local partner on the project, and Ryan Miller of the campus design and construction office is the project manager.
The ground-floor “front of house” will include a 400-seat main theater, a 200-seat Actors Theater and a choral rehearsal room. The main theater, with its steeply raked seats and only 48 feet from the front of the stage to the last row on the ground floor, will provide an intimate performance setting. The “fly tower” will permit the raising and lowering of scenery and allow for more elaborate productions than in existing campus spaces.
The “back of house” is designed to be a “true teaching space,” according to the architects, comprising scene and costume shops, with plenty of room for instruction to take place while production work is going on—a great improvement over the current situation.
A key feature of the Wolfe Center design is a glassed-in walkway that bisects the front and back halves, connecting the Fine Arts Center and the Moore Musical Arts Center and allowing pedestrians to view the action in the workshops and classrooms.
The second floor will house academic offices for theatre and film faculty, along with instructional classrooms, digital design and post-production film labs, computer labs and student workstations.
In addition, a number of green initiatives have been included in the building design to reduce energy costs and make use of environmentally friendly paints and finishes.
BGSU sponsors Toledo School for the Arts
June also marks the beginning of BGSU’s sponsorship of the Toledo School for the Arts (TSA). Last November, the board authorized the president and provost to negotiate a contract between the University and the TSA for Bowling Green to become a sponsor of the public community school in downtown Toledo, effective this month.
The collaboration is expected to be mutually beneficial. It will allow the TSA to serve as a host site for practical demonstration of BGSU teaching methods, educational technology and other aspects of teacher preparation while giving BGSU faculty and students access to a talented group of students and teachers with whom to collaborate.