New Council To Support Campus Arts Programs

By Sean Smith
Staff Writer

Boston College has established an Arts Council to support and encourage the growth and prominence of dramatic, musical, visual and other art forms on the campus.

The council's first task will be to develop a "state of the arts" report requested by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, in a memorandum to council members.

The brainchild of College of Arts and Sciences Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ, the 19-member council held its first meeting last month. Along with Fr. Barth, members include Fine Arts, English, Music and Theater faculty, and administrators representing the McMullen Museum of Art and student performance groups.

Fr. Barth said it had long "been a dream of mine to have an arts council at BC that would help build a vital arts scene." During Fr. Barth's tenure as A&S dean, the Music department has been founded, Theater has been established as a separate department (it had been coupled with Communication), and new facilities have been created for the Fine Arts Department.

"The arts are important at any university, but especially at one that places such high value on the formation of students," said Fr. Barth. "For various historical reasons, BC has been late in developing as a home for art and artists. But we have seen great and welcome change over the last years. We are ready to thrive. What we need is enthusiasm, guidance, coordination, and planning - and that is the role of the Arts Council."

"This is a great opportunity to share resources, ideas and energies," said Assoc. Prof. Jeffery Howe (Fine Arts), who will serve a two-year term as council chairman. "We hope the council can serve as a clearinghouse for arts at BC and promote the wonderful range of artistic talent and expression we have here."

In a memo to Fr. Barth distributed to members at the council's Dec. 10 meeting, Fr. Leahy said that "experiences in the arts should be an essential part of every Boston College education. I would be interested in learning from the council what opportunities we provide to foster or inhibit student engagement with the arts and appreciation for the arts."

Fr. Leahy asked that the council's report - which will be completed this spring - include material on arts-related venues, publicity, scheduling, competitions, talent development, performance opportunities, awards, mentoring, funding availability and practice facilities. He also requested that the council examine potential links between campus performances or exhibitions and academic courses, resource-sharing among performance groups, and how the University can utilize Boston's arts resources.

At the meeting, council members discussed the benefits of the arts in education - including the correlation between arts involvement and academic achievement - and its distinctive role in the Jesuit-Catholic educational tradition of Boston College.

The Arts Council can be useful to the University in highlighting the value of the arts on campus, members noted, given that many of the institutions with which BC competes have major strengths in the arts. The University should make a similar commitment to strengthening its arts resources and facilities, they said, thereby meeting the expectations of many prospective students.

Howe added that the council can foster collaborations between departments and programs. For example, he said, the University's Religion and the Arts journal could serve as a springboard for interdisciplinary courses.

The council will hold discussions with various members of the University community, Howe said, to gather information for its report and to begin building a rapport for future endeavors. He invited people wishing to make comments or ask questions relating to the council's work to contact him by e-mail at

Other members of the council are: McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer; Theater Chairman Assoc. Prof. Stuart Hecht; Fine Arts Chairman Prof. John Michalczyk; Assoc. Prof. Michael Mulhern (Fine Arts); Adj. Asst. Prof. Charles Meyer (Fine Arts); and part-time faculty member Mary Sherman (Fine Arts); Rattigan Professor of English John L. Mahoney; Prof. E. Dennis Taylor (English), editor of Religion and the Arts ; Assoc. Prof. Paul Doherty (English); Assoc. Prof. Suzanne Matson (English); Music Chairman Assoc. Prof. T. Frank Kennedy, SJ; Associate Dean for Student Development Carole Hughes; Office of Publications and Print Marketing Director Ben Birnbaum; University Chorale Director John Finney; Theater Arts Center Director Howard Enoch; Boston College Bands Director Sebastian Bonaiuto; and University Artist-in-Residence Robert VerEecke, SJ, director of the Boston Liturgical Dance Ensemble.

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