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'Arts in Action on Grounds' Initiative Seeks to Raise Profile of Public Arts

September 7, 2011 — "Arts in Action on Grounds," a new public arts initiative at the University of Virginia, will bring artists who have achieved excellence in their fields and modern master works to Grounds to engage students and faculty in academic, arts-based research and to support the development of an arts-informed curriculum.

The two-year initiative, led by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, is funded by the Commission on the Future of the University.

"This money will allow us to develop the culture for the arts at U.Va. as we move to a new level of interaction and engagement with artists, both inside and outside the University," Elizabeth Hutton Turner, vice provost for the arts, said. "By providing resources for faculty research and increasing the connections with the arts University-wide, this money will highlight the arts in the teaching and research mission of U.Va.

"We are most interested in the creative practice, allowing artists to grow, develop and share their work. The initiative will be broad and deep – not staging come-and-go events, but bringing artists and activities for extended dialogue and increasing our ability to showcase the arts."

The initiative will include four main components:

•    Plan, site and present a work of world-renowned sculpture in diverse areas around Grounds each year. The Public Art Committee will work in collaboration with the University Art Museum and U.Va.'s Office of the Architect to make the final selection of the sculpture and the appropriate campus site. 
•    Enhance the visiting artist-in-residence program to bring professional artists to Grounds to work with and enrich students' experiences. Selected in consultation with the Arts Grounds Committee, a world-renowned artist or artist group will prepare performances or exhibitions that increase the visibility and influence of the arts at the University. This program will especially seek to commission new work, or to act as a partner in the development of new work.
•    Create an Arts in Action Project Grant to provide funding for an annual collaborative public art project in the new Betsy and John Casteen Arts Grounds. This grant will be open to teams of U.Va. faculty and students and could take the form of performance or exhibition. It is also meant to highlight faculty research and to encourage the creation of new work that engages a University-wide audience. The Arts Grounds Committee will make two grants each year in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. Deadline for submissions is Oct. 14. Click here for more information about the grants.
•    Launch "Arts in Action Online," an interactive website designed to encourage students to explore their relationships to works of public art. Using audio and video discussions, edited blogs, interviews, images, drawings and designs, the website will be a valuable resource and site for multi-disciplinary online participation.

These components build on collaborative initiatives coordinated through the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts. Over the past three years, students, faculty, staff and community members have worked together to enhance the University's arts community through the creation of the University Undergraduate Award for Arts Projects grants open to all student artists and coordinated through the Center for Undergraduate Excellence; and by connecting the museum's collections and offerings more closely to the University's academic mission.

Among the most successful University-wide projects are Bill T. Jones' "100 Migrations," placement of Alexander Calder's "Tripes" near Peabody Hall, renovation of the U.Va. Art Museum, and siting Henry Moore's "Seated Woman" in the renewed Art Museum Terrace.

"The Commission on the Future of the University has provided a wonderful opportunity for the Arts at U.Va.," said Richard Will, who chairs the McIntire Department of Music in the College of Arts & Sciences. "By supporting faculty-student projects alongside residencies by major artists, the initiative will allow our arts programs both to foster excellence and innovation in their own ranks and to establish productive interactions with the international arts world. The results are sure to be transformative for the entire University as well as the broader arts community in Charlottesville and beyond."

"Arts in Action on Grounds will enable U.Va. to capitalize on the increasingly dynamic interactions and collaborations being initiated in the new Arts Grounds, and will empower faculty and students to push forward the boundaries of research through public art," Turner said. "The presence of high-quality sculptures and visiting artists will add to the dialogue on Grounds and provide increased opportunities for University-wide engagement with the arts."

The University Library is also committed to this initiative and has developed new services and spaces designed to encourage the presentation and discussion of works of art, according to Judith Thomas, director of arts and media services.

"The fine arts visualization environment in the Fiske Kimball Fine Arts Library features a video art exhibition space, a multi-user collaborative presentation space and an image-enabled teaching space, all intended to engage students and faculty in cross-disciplinary conversations about works of art," she said.

"The new Arts in Action initiative will enable the University to continue to support a range of arts activities and collaborate with local and global arts communities," Craig Barton, associate professor of architecture, said. "Of particular note is the new public arts grant program which provides funding for collaborative public art projects developed by members of the University community. These projects serve to highlight the important role which the arts play on Grounds and reiterate the University's commitment to arts."

— By Jane Ford

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