Archive for Saturday, August 17, 1991


August 17, 1991


The School of Fine Arts is 100 years old this year. But don't expect many parades or parties. There are too many things to do and too little money to do it.

"I was talking to people about it because it's coming on the heels of the 125th anniversary of the university," said Peter Thompson, the dean of the school. "And I really don't know if we'll do anything significant just because we're 100 years old. There are more important things to work on. We need to open the Lied Center properly, and we have some other problems to solve.''

Among the other problems are a tight budget, the closing of the building where glass blowing was taught and a fire at Hoch Auditorium, which was a crucial venue for concerts and rehearsals for the Concert Series and the department of music and dance.

"IT WAS devastating for us," Thompson said about the fire. "With all the problems Hoch faced, it served a tremendous number of needs on this campus.''

Some concerts scheduled in the Concert and New Directions series, a part of the School of Fine Arts, were rescheduled to the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Vespers, a production of the department of music and dance, was moved to Allen Fieldhouse.

Hoch isn't the only building that proved to be a problem this year. In May, the university closed the barn that housed the glassblowing studios for the design department as well as classes by Vernon Brejcha, one of the most well-known artists on the KU faculty. The university closed the building for saftey reasons.

THOMPSON SAID workers were putting in some basic corrections this summer to permit students who were already in the glass sequence in the design department to finish. But the school is not making commitments to new students who want to study the intricacies of blown glass. A complete renovation of the barn could cost as much as $100,000, and that money isn't immediately available. As for Brejcha, he will be working in other areas of the design department.

"There are a lot of things Vernon can do and teach at KU,'' Thompson said.

In the meantime, progress continues on the $14.3 million Lied Center for the Performing Arts, which will play host to many of the school's Concert Series and music and dance department performances. That hall should open in the fall of 1993.

ALSO WAITING in the wings is an addition to Murphy Hall, but that project still is far from construction, Thompson said.

On the personnel side of the ledger, the school hired three people to assume high-visibility jobs on the faculty. Peter McCarthy, who was on the staff of the University of South Florida, will take over the sculpture program in the art department that was vacated by the retirement of Elden Tefft. Dan Gailey, who had been working on a one-year contract as head of the jazz studies program, won the tenure-track position and will go on running the jazz programs at KU.

Julian Shew, a doctoral candidate in conducting at KU, has been hired on a one-year appointment as conductor of the University Symphony.

SHEW LED an opera orchestra in Bulgaria last summer and has conducted the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra during the leave of absence of Charles Hoag, a KU professor of music theory and composition. Thompson said a series of guest conductors will be scheduled to augment the symphony's programs.

In the meantime, Matthew Gaynor, an assistant professor of design, left to go to the University of California at San Diego.

Salaries continue to be a concern in the school, which has the lowest average compensation of any of the university's colleges and schools.

"It's been a priority as long as I've been here," Thompson said. "The fact is, for better or worse, the market has been the driving force behind faculty salaries. Fine arts programs are the lowest in most comparisions. Enough people have left the university in so that people will sit up and take notice. But we have no resources to do anything about it.''

LAST YEAR, the school had 1,113 students majoring in its programs as well as 134 graduate students including 48 in art and design and 86 in music and dance. The school's offices are at 456 Muprhy Hall, and professors have offices in Murphy Hall for music, the Art and Design Building for visual arts and the Robinson Center for dance.

The school offer a wide range of visiting artist series that brought composers, painters, musicians and dancers from across the country and from the United Kingdom, Poland and Brazil to KU last year. Its faculty and concerts in many cases form the backbone of the Lawrence visual arts and performing arts scenes, along with the department of theater and film, the Helen Foresman Spencer Museum of Art and such local organizations as the Lawrence Arts Center.

For example, the school in some cases requires scholarship recipients in music programs to play in the Lawrence Symphony or Lawrence Chamber Orchestra. Artists such as Roger Shimomura and Cima Katz have shown their work locally in the past year.

IN RECENT months, Thompson, himself a painter, has been speaking on the subject of creative freedom and arts funding in the United States, a subject of great concern to the artists, designers, musicians and dancers the School of Fine Arts produces.

In the music and dance recognition ceremony on May 19, Thompson said he lamented the position of the arts in this country.

"In Congress, Senator Jesse Helms and others launched a relentless attack on the National Endowment for the Arts that continued for more than a year," he said in the speech. "It ceased only with the occupation of Kuwait, and one can be certain that it will be renewed once world events subside and our own social agendas return to the fore. It is sobering to realize that the NEA was, in spite of the 25-year record of significant achievement, such an easy target. . . .

"THE RECENTLY announced national goals for public education . . . omit any mention of the creative arts as having a meaningful role in the education of our children. One can be fairly certain that these national goals will be effectively translated into local funding priorities soon enough. . . . This is a picture of a support structure for the arts that is entirely too fragile. We rely too heavily on the effort, generosity and commitment of too few.''

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