The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the College of the Holy Cross a grant of $600,000 for a new initiative at the College designed to “re-center” the fine and performing arts in students’ academic lives and create new opportunities to infuse the arts throughout the curriculum.
“The Mellon Foundation’s generous support will build excitement and enrich our resources as we look toward the construction of a new performance space on campus,” says Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College. “We are committed to enhancing the role played by the arts – and by those engaged in their creation – in the development of a liberal arts education that will produce global citizens and creative leaders.”
The grant will be used to fund a new visiting artists program. Centered in the departments of music, theatre, and visual arts, the program will forge new collaborations across disciplines and introduce artists and performers into every facet of the liberal arts experience that Holy Cross offers students. The College plans to invite artists to campus for an extended period of time – from two months to an entire semester – to examine a selected theme through a series of workshops, master classes, public lectures, performances, and other opportunities for interaction and learning. For example, a visual artist whose work addresses social, political, and psychological dimensions of women’s experiences in contemporary Islamic societies could present her work in conjunction with the departments of history, political science, psychology, religious studies, and any number of other disciplines.
In addition to enriching the curriculum, the initiative—titled “Re-Centering the Arts”— is also designed to further strengthen the College’s ties to cultural institutions in Worcester and beyond. Worcester is home to numerous outstanding arts institutions including Mechanics Hall, the Worcester Art Museum, and the Hanover Theatre, all which are revitalizing the art and cultural opportunities in the City. Re-Centering the Arts will connect the artists invited to campus with the residents of the city and the region, creating fresh relationships, and allowing Holy Cross to play a vigorous role in the renewal of the arts landscape in central New England.
“The arts have been a key component of Jesuit education throughout history and Holy Cross has long had a solid record of producing students with a passion for the arts,” says Margaret Freije, interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “Now, in addition to exposing our students to world-class artists, the collaborations among the arts departments and between the arts departments and other departments on campus will highlight the importance of creativity in responding to challenges from a variety of disciplines. With the support of the Mellon grant, we expect that the new curricular opportunities will foster a depth of imagination in our students, allowing them to become creative and innovative leaders of the future.”
The first visiting artists are expected to arrive at Holy Cross in the fall of 2014 and will be drawn from diverse fields, ranging from photography to dance, painting, and music. The visiting artists may be actors or directors, a string quartet or filmmakers. Each year, the College will select a theme to be addressed through the residency of the visiting artist and the works created or produced in collaboration with students and faculty while on campus. This theme will then guide faculty as they arrange a slate of master classes, talks, invited speakers, and other events that complement the contributions of the resident artist.
The news of the grant has come as the College begins the early phases of planning new construction devoted to the arts. On Feb. 13, Cornelius B. Prior, Jr., ’56, donated $25 million—the largest single gift in the College’s history—to build a performing arts facility on campus. Prior, chair of the board of the telecommunications services company Atlantic Tele-Network, Inc., has long been a champion of the arts in communities ranging from Maine to the Caribbean. This facility is one of a number of strategic initiatives that the College will undertake as part of a comprehensive fundraising campaign.
The College has received approximately $4 million from the Mellon Foundation over the last 20 years in a variety of different areas including student/faculty summer research in the humanities and recruiting young scholars for teaching positions.