Friday, October 9, 2015

Investing in the Arts

As the state’s public land-grant research university, the University of Rhode Island’s mission includes economic development as a central, and critical, priority.         Consequently, we have worked closely with Governors, the General Assembly, and the people of Rhode Island to secure substantial investments in new buildings and facilities that have provided, and will provide, new opportunities for economic growth and the creation of jobs. These include the Center for Biotechnology and Life Sciences, the College of Pharmacy building, the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, and the $125 million College of Engineering facility.  There is more in the pipeline of our capital improvement plan, including the second phase for Engineering and much needed new facilities for the Graduate School of Oceanography.
As important as science and engineering are to URI, the university has a much broader and equally important mission that encompasses the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts.  The University of Rhode Island is concerned with educating our students to become the well-informed, thoughtful citizens they need to be amidst the substantial challenges of the 21st century.  We strive to be a positive force for social development and cultural understanding – improving lives not only financially, but also by strengthening families and communities, building mutual understanding and respect, and providing for the common good.
The arts – music, theater, art, film, design – are an important, even essential, element in achieving this broader mission.  They offer a medium of communication that spans time and space, connecting us to each other, to our past, and projecting our vision and our lives into the future.  The arts can foster understanding and appreciation across cultures, can reinforce our mutual humanity, and help us discover our shared values and common ground.  Concurrently, the arts can provide profound and moving critiques of our cultures, politics, and societies – critiques from which we may learn and benefit. 
For all of these reasons, the University of Rhode Island has long offered a wide variety of programs and degrees in the arts, including the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Fine Arts, and the Bachelor of Music.  Hundreds of shows, performances, exhibits, and recitals take place every year.  Over 50,000 people from all across the state attend arts events at the University of Rhode Island each year – yes, over 50,000. Enrollments in arts classes exceeded 8500 last academic year.  In short, the arts are a vibrant, engaging, and inspiring part of URI’s teaching, scholarship and creative work. The many contributions from our faculty, students, and distinguished visitors constitute substantial service to the state, which is also intrinsic to our land-grant mission.  And we should certainly note that many have pointed out that the arts can have a significant and positive economic impact in their own right.
To sustain and enhance our efforts in the arts, it is time to invest.  The Fine Arts building, which dates from the 1960s, is in urgent need of replacement and/or renovation.  New technologies for teaching and learning are now available that need to be incorporated, and new kinds of spaces created, which will permit the arts to thrive well into the future.  This project will be one of our top priorities for consideration and approval by the Governor, the General Assembly, and the people of Rhode Island. I hope that the entire URI community, all those who enjoy and benefit from URI’s commitment to the arts, and all those who agree that the arts epitomize much of what is best in the human spirit, will join us in this endeavor.