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Strategic Planning Recommendations
Addendum 4: Center for Communication and the Arts
A. Introduction and Rationale.
Eckerd College is already recognized for its strength in Creative Writing and in the Visual Arts through the achievements of its faculty, alumni, and even trustees. In the Visual Arts, the photographs, paintings, sculptures, and ceramics of our visual artists have been shown in juried exhibits nationally and around the world and the New York Studio School Exhibit on campus in Spring 2003 featured paintings by Board Chairman Miles Collier. In Creative Writing, the director of our program has published five highly acclaimed novels; and several of our alumni are highly successful writers, including most recently Dennis Lehane, whose novel Mystic River has been made into a movie by Clint Eastwood. Our strengths in these areas are worth protecting and enhancing.
The committee believes that the most promising way to enhance these two successful programs would be to link them together in a Center along with other burgeoning programs that also tackle issues of self-expression, representation, and communication with an audience. The Center will thus also include our programs in Communications, Writing Excellence, Theater, Film and Music.
Our theatre faculty are well known for their expertise in acting and directing and have mounted productions with students in the United Kingdom and in France. Recently the College established a major in Communications which has grown exponentially since its inception: Over 50 majors in less than two years. Student interest in Communications and Film is very high.
In creating this kind of broad interdisciplinary Center, Eckerd will be joining in national and global trends that are already blurring existing disciplinary boundaries in the arts. This past summer, the famed MacDowell Colony - the oldest artists' retreat in America, founded in 1907 - for the first time in its history gave its coveted Medal of Distinction to an interdisciplinary artist, thereby both acknowledging and celebrating interdisciplinary approaches in the arts. Recent theater productions at Eckerd demonstrate we are already moving in this direction, as shows like "Smoke on the Mountain" and "Godspell," have been interdisciplinary in nature, bringing music and visual arts faculty together with theatre faculty.
We are proposing a Center that builds on our existing strengths in writing excellence and the visual arts and develops our burgeoning strengths in communication, theatre, and film studies. We envision an interdisciplinary Center in which writing and the visual and performing arts share common ground with new programs in film, video and media studies that emphasize both theory and production. Such a Center will benefit the College by balancing existing high profile programs in the natural and behavioral sciences and accommodating students who are now turned away from high demand courses in the arts and humanities.
B. Internal Strengths.
- We have a nationally recognized creative writing program with distinguished faculty and many outstanding alumni.
- We have talented and nationally and internationally known faculty in music, theatre, and the visual arts.
- The innovative quality of our portfolio-based Writing Excellence Program is being mirrored in our new oral communication competency-based program.
- Our new program in Communications is rapidly growing.
- Faculty in communication and the arts have expressed a strong desire for interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Our president understands and supports the arts and humanities and has the enthusiasm and savvy to explore ways to grow in these areas and to secure funding for that growth.
C. External Opportunities.
The Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota triplex is becoming increasingly known for the arts, and these communities want to attract visitors and permanent residents to an arts-friendly climate. At present we have little competition from USF and SPC, especially in creative writing. The potential exists to establish consortial relationships with nearby museums, art galleries, colleges and universities, and theatres (such as Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Mahaffey and Asolo). Moreover, The St. Petersburg Times and the Poynter Institute provide exceptional collaborative opportunities for our communications, writing, and film programs.
D. Ideas for Implementation.
To create the intellectual substance of this Center, we propose to unite Creative Writing, Writing Excellence, and Communications with the Visual and Performing Arts. We suggest that we begin the development of this Center by focusing on our strengths in Creative Writing and the Visual Arts. In support of the development of these two "depth" areas, we put forward two possible models:
- "Famous for Famous" Model. We propose a Distinguished Artists and Fellows Series that recruits a "big name" or Pulitzer prize writer (e.g., a Toni Morrison) or a Visual Artist (e.g., a James Rosenquist or a Robert Rauschenberg) on a rotating basis for stays of one semester or for shorter visits that will excite student, parental, and community interest and give us prestige and recognition in the arts, education, and media communities locally and nationally and enhance our capacity to secure external funding. Our experience with the late James Michener is instructive. Mr. Michener was the perfect model of a big name writer around whom to build an innovative new program. He did not teach courses but frequently attended classes and regularly interacted with students in many enriching ways. Mr. Michener once did an evening program in Fox Hall for off-campus visitors (at $ 10.00 a head) that was a raving success, cost him no preparation, made money for the College, and was a great p.r. event - and he enjoyed doing it. This is one of the many ways a famous name might work for us. It is also worth mentioning that Mr. Michener gave the College $ 1,000,000 of his own money.
- Consortia Model. Many fine writers and artists with medium-to-big reputations live and teach within easy driving distance of our campus. If we pay competitive salaries, we might recruit teachers who would put time and attention into our programs and help us to create expanded, high-profile programs in communication and the arts with significantly enhanced appeal. This model presumes that our increase in appeal would not have as much to do with the name recognition of any individual as with a broadening of our course offerings and a variety of personalities and approaches we could advertise.
We also believe that Communications, and film in particular, will grow into "flagship" programs in this center. We envision, for example, the development of a new program in film, video, television, data graphics, and computer mediated communication. This will require the hiring of more faculty and a significant investment in facilities. Prospective students envision an undergraduate communications program to include state-of-the-art studios and faculty with expertise in television production, industrial and business media, public relations and advertising, and journalism and media ethics. Potential new hires thus might include: an art historian; a media ethicist; an expert in film studies and one in film production; additional faculty in communication, creative writing, music, theatre, and visual arts; and a dance instructor.