The UW is kicking off its Year of the Arts. Some 300 performances, exhibits, symposia and visits by distinguished speakers will take place throughout the school year.
In other words, it's business as usual.
"Many or most of those 300 events would have happened anyway. The real name should be 'the year we focus attention on the arts,' but that wouldn't fit on a bumper sticker," says Andrew Taylor, co-chair of the celebration with theater professor Norma Saldivar. Taylor is director of the UW Bolz Center for Arts Administration.
"We're trying to spotlight what is already happening every year on campus, and find a way for more people to be aware," he says.
Illuminate: UW-Madison Year of the Arts officially begins Thursday, Sept. 16, with a noon event at the Memorial Union, presided over by Chancellor Biddy Martin and UW alumnus Rocco Landesman, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts.
Art at the UW arguably had its peak during the 1930s heyday of the American regionalist movement. Artists at the UW had a "long rope and wide field," promised Glenn Frank, UW president from 1925 to 1937. Under Frank's administration, dance became a department, and its Orchesis company annually toured the state. School of Music faculty taught statewide over WHA radio. Internationally famous painter John Steuart Curry joined the university as the country's first resident artist.
So unusual was all the campus arts activity back then that Time magazine did a story on it in 1939.
"There's a long history here of the arts being integral to outreach and community building," says Taylor.
More recently, money-making departments such as sports, business and biotech get most of the press. But the arts have always been here, says Taylor, and this is the year to appreciate them.
"We often feel like we're apologizing for that," he says. "'The arts are this lovely thing, and why don't you pay attention to us?'" But art has muscle, too.
"If we as a community and as a university value human expression, human history, being global citizens, understanding the world around us, engaging that world with integrity and curiosity, there are many ways we do that. And the arts are among the more powerful ways."