The fine and performing arts are an integral part of the history and culture of the University of Saskatchewan (USask), and a revisioning project intends to build upon this strong foundation to bolster the arts in a post-pandemic future.
The project, titled “Renew a Vision for the Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Saskatchewan,” includes a review of infrastructure, an assessment of metrics related to scholarship in the fine and performing arts, and the creation of a new strong and sustainable organizational structure that integrates the current departments of music, drama, and art and art history under common leadership.
The revisioning project is being led by longtime USask senior administrator and professor emeritus Dr. Ernie Barber (PhD), who will engage in conversations with community members, both on and off campus, as the project evolves.
The implementation of the new organizational structure, including the recruitment of a new head and the alignment of faculty, staff, and students within the new academic unit, is anticipated to be completed by spring/summer 2024.
Dr. Peta Bonham-Smith (PhD), dean of the College of Arts and Science and the project’s executive sponsor, believes the time is right to forge a new path for the fine and performing arts at USask, a medical-doctoral institution and member of the U15 group of Canadian research universities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced how important art, drama, and music are to the fabric of our university and to the citizens of Saskatchewan today and for our future,” she said.
“Our College of Arts and Science students, staff, faculty, and alumni are leaders in the arts at local, provincial, national, and international levels. We want to recommit to the fine and performing arts and be forward-looking as we work together to build upon our proud history.”
The new academic unit will bring benefits to students and scholars, including enhanced opportunities for transdisciplinary collaboration in research and course delivery, Bonham-Smith said. By coming together into one academic unit, faculty, staff, and students will be positioned to foster new relationships and synergies, enabling innovative projects to be realized at USask and within the larger arts community.
The revisioning project will ensure financial stability for the fine and performing arts now and throughout the project. Bonham-Smith said the aim is to strengthen the fine and performing arts through administrative changes that will result in increased interdisciplinarity in academic programs, teaching, community engagement, and research, scholarly and artistic work.
“Working together with a view to long-term sustainability, I am confident that we can increase student enrolment and research funding and grow our connections and relationships with the arts community in Saskatchewan and beyond,” she said.
The changes required to create the new organizational structure will require approval from University Council. The approval process is expected to go forward in the 2022-23 academic year.
The first phase of the project will include the development of a renewed vision for the fine and performing arts in conversation with community. Facilities utilized by the departments of music, art and art history, and drama for teaching, research, and community engagement will be reviewed, and a plan will be developed for continual improvement of infrastructure in ways that will support disciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship. The standards and metrics employed at USask to evaluate scholarship will be reviewed in relation to the fine and performing arts.
“The college cares deeply about the fine and performing arts, and this revisioning process demonstrates its commitment to invest in these disciplines and to position them to flourish in the years ahead,” said Bonham-Smith.
A visioning team will be led by College of Arts and Science professors Dr. Jon Bath (PhD), from the Department of Art and Art History; Prof. Natasha Martina, from the Department of Drama; and Dr. Jennifer Lang (PhD), from the Department of Music. A project steering committee, which is currently under development, will include the project lead, the fine and performing arts department heads, and other members.
The “Renew a Vision for the Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Saskatchewan” project is a strategic initiative of the College of Arts and Science, supported by USask. As the project unfolds, the fine and performing arts will continue to contribute to the five aspirations outlined in the University Plan 2025: Transformative decolonization leading to reconciliation; productive collaboration; meaningful impact; distinguished learners; and global recognition.
Throughout the project’s planning, design, and implementation phases, Indigenization, decolonization, and reconciliation will continue to play meaningful roles. USask’s Indigenous Strategy, ohpahotân | oohpaahotaan, and the Indigenization Plan within the College of Arts and Science will be guiding documents as the vision for the fine and performing arts is renewed.
“Through this visionary work, the fine and performing arts at USask will be positioned to set expansive goals for attracting students and faculty, as well as research investment, alumni and donor support, and community partners and collaborators,” said USask Provost and Vice-President Academic Dr. Airini (PhD), the project’s President’s Executive Committee sponsor.
“The fine and performing arts have had a strong history at USask and they will most certainly be an important part of our shared future. The arts have a key role to play as we strive to meet the challenges and opportunities of our post-pandemic futures. Together, we will be the university the world needs,” she said.
More information about the “Renew a Vision for the Fine and Performing Arts at the University of Saskatchewan” project is available online at artsandscience.usask.ca/fine-arts.