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CALL TO ACTION: Higher role for the arts

Higher education administrators, educators, business leaders, journalists, and artists from around the country traveled to the University of Michigan Wednesday, May 4-Friday, May 6 for a symposium exploring an expanded role for the arts and creativity in research-oriented universities.

The symposium, “The Role of Art-Making and the Arts in a Research University,” is an innovative and unprecedented exploration of a new frontier in the unfolding digital age, whereby the marketplace of ideas and technology continue to transform culture and the ongoing national discussion about values, knowledge and the role of higher education.

More than 40 universities from across the country attended the conference, including schools from the Ivy League, Big Ten, Atlantic coast, southeast, south and Pacific conferences. The symposium is held at a time when most universities are facing difficult financial circumstances, and funding to arts programs and arts education is declining.

“We need to recognize creativity is the gateway to innovation in all disciplines – from the visual arts to business, engineering, law, medicine to the natural and physical sciences,” said Theresa Reid, (photo below) executive director of ArtsEngine, a consortium of U-M’s arts and engineeringunits that  integrates “art-making” into the traditional curriculum, and produces courses, student groups, competitions, symposiums,  and events to foster collaboration among faculty and students in different academic disciplines.

The conference featured addresses by:

Shirley Tilghman, President of Princeton University, who will deliver Wednesday’s keynote, “Universities in the Service of the Imagination.” The address will discuss the institutional and societal value of bringing the creative and performing arts into the mainstream of university life.

Don Randel, President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, who will open Thursday’s session with an address that explores how art-making and the arts add value to the research university.

Nancy Cantor, Chancellor of Syracuse University, who will open Friday’s session with an address that investigates different models and metrics for incorporating the arts.

Participants drafted an  action plan, and proposed specific ways to advance the role of art-making and the arts at U.S. universities. The findings will be available in the next several weeks.

“This isn’t merely a higher education conversation, but an emerging national discourse about how the United States can compete more effectively in the global economy, and cultivate a deeper and more meaningful culture,” said U-M’s Reid.

“The Role of Art-Making and the Arts in a Research University” is organized by U-M’s ArtsEngine, which includes U-M’s Taubman College of Architecture + Urban Planning; School of Art & Design; U-M Libraries; School of Music, Theatre & Dance; and, College of Engineering.

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