The last seven weeks at Lehigh have been… weird. With no assignments other than, “pack up your office,” my days have been filled with focusing on the benchmarking research of other arts integration programs in higher ed, as I’ve done throughout my time at Lehigh. I’ve also been tossing old files and taking note of so many accomplishments.
Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and citizens have been a part of making and witnessing art. Pictures, mementos, books (OMG, so many books) and reference materials on creative placemaking, educational policy, student engagement in the arts, and audience development are too valuable to toss. Making space in my tiny home office has offered even more challenges.
Another focus has been preparing for an exit interview with a high level administrator; someone who was actually curious about what I’ve learned through my work at Lehigh. I was able to lean on a few trusted advisors to help me prepare for this moment. I could write a separate blog about how to own your emotions in an exit interview.
For this post, I’m going to share the key points of what I shared in the meeting. Why? Because I’m damned proud of what I did at Lehigh, and I hope that readers gain a little bit of institutional history.
Lehigh University – 2002 Preliminary Report from the Dean’s Committee on Re-visioning the Arts at Lehigh
In the 2001 spring semester, the College of Arts and Sciences Dean [at the time, that was Bobb Carson; three deans ago] asked a group of faculty and administrators to participate in a group first known as the Arts Conception Committee. The charge to the committee grew out of the 2000 Strategic Plan for the College of Arts and Sciences which stated that “a fundamental challenge for the College is to establish the importance of perspective, values, and creativity intrinsic to the Arts and the Humanities, in a culture absorbed with material possession and entertainment rather than self-development.”
The committee decided to focus on ways to promote and institutionalize some of the excitement and energy associated with a more fully integral approach to the arts, education, and the larger community. The committee formulated a working mission statement:
“Lehigh University must make apparent to all its members – but especially to its students – the importance of the perspective, the values, the creativity, and the intellectual discipline of the Arts and the Humanities. To foster such experiences, the University must communicate more effectively the excellence of many exciting programs, develop new institutional structures that allow for a more integral approach to the arts and education, and also promote the development of new and innovative curricular and non-curricular activities which serve to connect Lehigh with the community at large.” In general, the committee sought ways to make the arts more present and vital with the Lehigh academy, campus environment and in the South Bethlehem arts district.
The recommendations for implementing a vision of an arts integration initiative were organized into three broad categories. Short and long term actions were specified within each of the categories:
Enhance communication and promotion regarding existing programs and activities:
- Increase efforts to involve more students in Zoellner activities (reduce ticket prices, special incentives to instructors, promotion arts/ academic integration, create a fund to allow faculty to take students to arts/cultural events at reduced prices
- Develop and online calendar of arts events that includes all arts activities on campus (curricular, presenter series, and student affairs programming), and in the South Bethlehem arts district, and the larger Lehigh Valley, as well as indicating arts related academic offerings (lectures, symposia, workshops, etc.)
- Develop online and portable maps of arts locations on and off campus. Develop on and off campus tours of arts centers
- Develop more outreach programs for area children and make an effort to partner with south side organizations
- Identify alumni who have some specific and significant interest in the arts; increase involvement with the Lehigh Board of Trustees with arts related development
- Include a special PreLUsion program for incoming first year students interested in an arts introduction to campus and community.
- Build increased awareness of arts and arts/academic issues into admissions office activities
- Official Lehigh marketing and branding material that highlight aspects of the arts at Lehigh.
- Create a new position of Arts Coordinator to serve as catalyst for more intra-faculty/student collaboration in the integration of the arts with various academic disciplines.
- The Arts Coordinator would report to the Provost and work in consultation with a steering committee which included the head of the Humanities center, Zoellner and LUAG administrators, arts faculty, and a representative from the engineering and business colleges
- Join the Imagining America consortium
- Create and arts integration fund to support travel, expenses or possibly new courses
- Create and artist in residence fund
- Create a community partnership fund
- Work toward a week-long Arts Experience Festival
- Develop and off campus Cooperative Artists in Residence Facility
- Explore Teaching Museum/Gallery
- Work toward making a Lehigh campus sculptural park
Programmatic and Curricular
[In the model of the Humanities Center and Women’s Studies program]
- Develop signature “integration” courses specifically designed as arts/academic cross-disciplinary/ cross-college integration courses.
- Initiate a multi-disciplinary/cross-college design course which involves students and faculty in overall public arts planning for the campus and community.
- Work to make new arts/academic related courses permanent in the curriculum.
- Develop new and financially self-supporting “in the field” courses that take advantage of south side arts institutions and Lehigh’s proximity to world arts centers
- Develop viable arts related degree programs such as an “arts management/administration” BA program.
- Bolster institutional commitment to the visual arts/ graphic design/ photography.
With these goals, and later with Lehigh’s 2009 strategic plan (note component 4: Partnering in the Renaissance of the Local Community) I worked on many activities, initiatives and partnerships. Since I was not assigned a faculty title with this position, I worked in administrative-appropriate structures and encouraged faculty consideration where possible. I also responded to and supported other campus and curricular initiatives where they aligned with the short and long term goals set by this committee. Perhaps the “spaghetti approach to find what worked, what didn’t” was the best way to describe the investigations. During the years of the 20/20 ArtsLehigh initiative, annual reports were offered. When ArtsLehigh ended, the only annual report I offered was in my annual GPS review, as my reporting structure shifted. Even though my reporting line changed, my job description didn’t. I was still accountable for many campus-wide student engagement goals and in community relations.
Where budget wasn’t a factor of sustainability, I was able to meet many of the goals. Since social media wasn’t a known entity in 2002, I became an early adopter in developing social media strategies to not only reach the objectives, but also to track engagement and to listen to student and community interests. I also invested a significant amount of time participating in student affairs programs to meet the student engagement objectives, especially in new student orientation programs. In order to support faculty teaching and research goals, I read faculty CVs and became familiar with regularly offered courses in multiple area studies that aligned with the presenting and visual arts activities on campus. I became a living rolodex of potential course-, campus program-, and community partners for various guest artists, theatrical works, musical programs, and exhibits.
When I began adjunct faculty teaching in the Baker Institute in 2010, much of my field work as an arts administrator became the syllabus in two courses; Entrepreneurial Communications for Creative Industries (ENTP 040) and Art Entrepreneurship Community (ENTP 123). I brought my research of communication strategies and creative placemaking into the each course. Students were also given many hands-on activities to apply concepts to their own investigations.
As a cohort of the Leadership Lehigh Valley program in 2012, I was motivated to earn an Educational Leadership degree. It wasn’t that I sought a 3rd masters degree, I already have a doctorate. I wanted to retool my awareness of educational policy and further investigate the needs of our local schools in order to better serve them through the arts in partnership with our local arts resources. Through the program, I met local and state-wide school administrators and educational policy makers that provided deep insight into the budgetary challenges our local schools face. I also developed relationships with many area educators by attending their programs and learning about the disparity in our local school systems.
I attended many Lehigh reunion activities to listen to alumni. I served on cultural arts boards. I volunteered for many local festivals. I attended hundreds of local arts and cultural events both on campus and in the South Bethlehem Arts District. I learned a great deal of campus-community arts scene B.Z. (Before Zoellner). I witnessed the social and economic changes brought by the Steelstacks, the Sands Event Center, and PPL in Allentown. I listened to local artists; working with them on arts-in school initiatives.
To illustrate the various institutional areas of my work, I offer two images. The first image is my reporting structure. The second image is the six areas of the institution in which I regularly engaged.
Since this post is already extensive, I will be offering six separate posts for each of the institutional areas in which the work I did will be articulated with more program/activity description and learning outcomes. Please note, the organizational reporting line only named one of five subcategories within one of six institutional structures: College of Arts & Sciences, College of Business & Economics, College of Education, Student Affairs, Communications, and Community Relations.
The next posts are offered to share insights I gained in eleven years of service to Lehigh University. My final report and the following 6 posts will include examples and links to previous posts on multiple blogs. These posts will also serve the next steps of my career; which will extend more than 20 years of field work in arts integration in secondary schools, higher ed, community relations, and creative placemaking. My expertise as an artist, an educator, and arts administrator doesn’t condense neatly into a one-page resume.
#1/7 #HigherEdArtsIntegration, #CommunityEngagement, #StudentEngagement #CreativePlacemaking