Accessing the Arts

Boston University possesses world-class programs in the Fine Arts, with prestigious professional departments in Music Performance, Theatre, and the Visual Arts, along with nationally ranked programs on the academic side in Composition, Musicology/Ethnomusicology, and Art History. Our undergraduates’ desire for arts courses, however, particularly those in the applied fields, has been difficult to satisfy due to traditional portfolio- and audition-based programs that are restricted to majors. For the arts to play the important role in General Education that we believe they should, certain steps will have to be taken to provide accessibility. We note that some progress in this area has already been achieved through the creation of a new Minor in Music Performance.

Let us look at the arts from the other side. The contemporary explosion of information is mandating a new kind of literacy that requires a bridge between tradition and modernity, a bridge that the arts cross on a regular basis. Thus, exposure to the arts can help our students to understand the lasting value of traditional core practices while also encouraging them to become polymath explorers who can cross borders that have traditionally been the protected domains of the specialist. To do this we not only need to provide more accessibility to existing arts courses; we will need to develop new interdisciplinary streams in which the arts can be used to help students prepare research, brainstorm (and understand the brain), visualize, create simulations and prototypes, develop business and action plans, and implement action, both on campus and in the civic life of the community. In short, the arts at BU should provide undergraduates with traditional creative and interpretive opportunities. At the same time, the arts can provide a new interdisciplinary context for dynamic societal involvement with concrete outcomes.

One path in the latter direction is through a deeper commitment to what is widely known as the Creative Economy, a concept first introduced by BusinessWeek in 2000, and since then defined as the convergence of artistic creativity, skill, and talent that has a potential for economic sustainability and job creation. In 2005, the Boston Redevelopment Authority Research Division reported that Boston is uniquely resourced to provide leadership in this emerging sector, and listed the following skills and professions, almost all of which are represented at BU, as the components that make up the Creative Economy: written media, broadcasting, architecture, sound recording, film, performing arts, design, music publishing, crafts, visual arts, photography, museums, libraries, and galleries. It has been identified as one of the most significant growth sectors of the American economy comprising at least 30 million professionals. Preparing creative individuals to be players in this economy is a key method for how the arts can span—or, rather, connect—the disciplines at BU, bringing contemporary issues that affect everyone into the teaching of fine arts across the curriculum.

Recommendations for Accessing the Arts at BU

  • Through extending the concept of the Music Minor, increase the access for undergraduates of all colleges to applied courses in the Fine Arts, specifically through the creation of a Fine Arts Minor, comprising both theoretical and creative/performance/design courses from all three schools in the College of Fine Arts. Such training would be critical to students wishing to enter arts-related or creative leadership fields from other colleges (Law, Management, Communication), as well as complement many majors in the humanities.
  • Create an introductory Fine Arts course (or series of them, ideally as 2-credit or P/F courses) open to all students, exploring the creative and cultural dimensions of the arts. Such a course would be preferably team-taught, and would expose students to new faculty creations, compositions, productions, and performances.
  • Create a workshop course in CFA open to all students in which participants build interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial projects related to the Creative Economy, drawing on the relationships among, for example, creative industries, tourism, education and knowledge creation, and information technology.(15) Participants seeking a position within the arts economy would learn how to implement knowledge gained from the course and apply it in concrete terms both on campus and in the cultural life of Boston.

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15. For an instructive fine arts example of the relationship between entrepreneurship and music, see ibid., pp. 7–9.