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The Arts at Davidson: Task Force Takes a Closer Look

Davidson College Symphony Orchestra, led by director Tara Villa Keith, prepares for a performance.

Visual, performing and literary arts play a vital role in the life of Davidson–on and off campus. In fact, one-fifth of students participate at the "varsity" level by majoring in the arts, receiving arts-related scholarships or participating in departmental productions or ensembles.

In 2012, President Carol Quillen appointed the Davidson College Arts Task Force, presenting members with a vision for elevating and integrating the arts more fully into the lives of students, staff and faculty on campus. The discussion, centered on how the arts fit into the Davidson experience, was both timely and necessary at a time when collaboration and transdisciplinary work are part of the daily campus conversation.

The task force reviewed programming and policy at peer institutions and conducted surveys, interviews and focus groups among constituents. Anonymous surveys and open meetings provided the opportunity to gather honest and candid feedback. This work led to several broad conclusions: that the college must improve and unify internal and external perceptions of current arts tracks (curricular, cocurricular and extra-curricular), target top arts students in admission strategy, expand artist residencies, and strengthen programming and partnerships.

The group's final report of recommendations and suggested timelines for implementation is currently being shared with faculty and staff leadership. As the report is more broadly shared and feedback is received, adjustments will be made to ensure next steps are effective and properly aligned with college priorities. Implementation of several recommendations is currently underway, including the creation of a comprehensive branding campaign, incorporation of the arts more fully in the college's admission processes, consideration of staff restructuring to better serve arts programs at Davidson, and the development of a fall arts festival to further engage the campus community and off-campus constituencies.

Arts Task Force
The Davidson College Theatre Department kicked off the season with a production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

"Art-encountering it, creating it and interpreting it-is foundational to the Davidson experience," said Quillen. "Our programs are thriving. To realize our highest aspirations, we will work collaboratively, on campus and with community partners, to develop a comprehensive plan for nurturing and showcasing the arts at Davidson. The task force has made huge strides in accomplishing this urgent work. I look forward to working with our faculty and community on next steps."

The Davidson College Arts Task Force includes the following members: Sherry Malushizky, chair, director of Friends of the Arts and Artist Residency Programs; Christopher Gilliam, director of chorale activities and artist associate; Leslie Marsicano, associate dean for academic administration; Ashley Owen, assistant director of Union programs; Alan Michael Parker, Douglas C. Houchens Professor of English; Shaw Smith, professor of art history and humanities and art department chair; Danielle Strickland, director of advancement communications; and Annie Wadman '05, production manager and theatre lecturer.

"It is my pleasure to serve as chair of the Arts Task Force," said Malushizky. "This group is passionate about the arts, passionate about Davidson and committed to steering the way for the future. It will be rewarding to watch the ways in which our work affects the lives of students, staff, faculty and the community as a whole. I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to participate in this process so far."

To learn more about the Davidson College Arts Task Force, contact Malushizky at 704-894-2101.