Ties and Raising the Visibility of Arts and Culture at
Humanities and Society
of the five academic priorities identified in Penn's new
strategic plan, Building on Excellence, is Arts,
Humanities and Society. This area of study and practice
is identified as one in which the University can, "[b]uild
upon our special strengths to . . . differentiate Penn
among international research universities of the first
specific goal is articulated as follows:
In order to capitalize on our academic strengths in the humanities and our
unique cultural resources, Penn must build an infrastructure
that supports innovative, interdisciplinary cultural programs
and curricular development.
Penn is home to a remarkable collection of scholars dedicated to deciphering
languages, literatures, and artistic expressions of peoples
around the globe. We are also home to a number of premier
cultural institutions capable of transmitting humanistic
understandings to a broader public. In addition, Philadelphia
itself contains outstanding cultural institutions that
provide still more opportunities for research, learning,
and outreach to a broader public.
Despite these potential strengths, Penn has
not fully utilized its cultural institutions and
those of the city, as well as its arts
and humanities faculty, in enriching the education
of its students and its interactions with the public. This
is, in part, related to a lack of collaboration between
Penn's academic departments and the cultural institutions
of both Penn and the city. If implemented, the recommendations
here will not only enhance the vitality and the visibility
of our artistic and cultural institutions; but will
more importantly the intellectual and social
fabric that makes us a university.
To accomplish the goal,
the plan includes several recommendations:
- Construct a broad arts and culture curriculum to better integrate the
resources of local cultural institutions into enriched
common experiences for all undergraduate students.
- Develop graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses that will both
contribute to and draw enhancement from our cultural
institutions at Penn, as well as those of the Philadelphia
- Strengthen ties between academic departments and cultural institutions,
as well as those of the Philadelphia region.
- Make possible, through short-term institutes, greater scholarly collaboration
between arts and humanities faculty and those in the
professional schools around issues of public values and
world cultural diversity.
- Establish a fund to provide support for new initiatives in the arts and
As the plan notes, Penn has a long, if often underrecognized, tradition of
excellence in the arts. Numerous alumni and faculty are
prominent practitioners in a variety of artistic fields,
Lorene Cary: Writer, teacher and activist Lorene Cary received both
her B.A. and M.A. from Penn. Her 1995 novel, The Price
of a Child, was picked as the book in Philadelphia's
first "One Book, One Philadelphia" project, in which all
of the residents of the city are encouraged to read and
discuss the same piece of literature.
George Crumb: Born in West Virginia,
George Crumb became one of the most influential American
composers of the 20th century. He
came to Penn as an assistant professor in 1965, and retired
from teaching in 1997 as the Annenberg Professor of the
Louis Kahn: One of the most influential
architects of the 20th century, Louis Kahn taught at
Penn from 1955 until 1974. His elegant
buildings of cast concrete transformed the international
style of corporate modernism in a spiritual direction.
Harold Prince: Director-producer Harold
Prince graduated from Penn with a B.A. in 1948. Over
the next several decades, he changed
the face of Broadway by pioneering "concept musicals" such
as A Little Night Music, Cabaret, West
Side Story, The Phantom of the Opera, and Evita,
among many others. He has received 20 Tony awards and was
a 1994 Kennedy Center Honoree.
Neil Welliver: Born in rural Pennsylvania,
Neil Welliver attended the Philadelphia Museum College
of Art and ultimately founded
the Graduate School of Fine Arts (now known as the School
of Design) here at Penn in 1966. He has been called one
of the best landscape painters in America and is an emeritus
professor of fine arts at Penn.
Carlos Williams: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet William
Carlos Williams earned his medical degree from Penn and
practiced as a pediatrician in Rutherford, New Jersey.
He is perhaps best known for his multi-volume epic, Paterson,
one of the most influential long poems of the 20th century.
Side Story, one of Harold Prince's many award-winning concept-musicals.
Price of a Child, and Paterson, are examples of Penn's
Burnt Stump and
Wild Rose, oil on canvas, 1986, 60"x 60" by
Above, from Twin Suns, a typical score by George
Crumb with often-unorthodox musical notations that
create art as well as music.
Richards Medical Research Laboratories on Hamilton
Walk at Penn, designed by Louis
I. Kahn, redefined modern architecture.
Provost's Council on Arts and Culture
the past five years, the task of raising the visibility
of arts and culture at Penn has been led by the Provost's
Council on Arts and Culture, comprised of the directors
of the University's arts and culture venues and several
faculty engaged in the study of artistic and humanities
fields. The Council's mission statement reads, in
Through its museums, performance spaces, and literary and humanistic forums,
Penn has the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment
to culture and to the pleasures and responsible freedoms
art entails. We can expose our students to moving and thought-provoking
works, and at the same time describe how and why they are
being presented. We can debate the matters they raise,
and consider the value of that debate to the larger conversation
among citizens of a democracy. We can learn from and teach
the lessons of the past, allowing our students to appreciate
the great diversity of human achievements as well as the
commensurability of humankind. And we can demonstrate through
specific actions that we are genuinely committed to freedom
of expression and open to new arts and ideas.
Council also includes representatives from Penn's Divisions
of Business Services and Facilities, units which have provided
invaluable support for the University's efforts in this
In May 2003, for the first time, Penn sponsored
Arts Day, an opportunity for members of the Boards of
Overseers of all the arts and
culture venues to meet and learn about each other's activities.
Arts Day '03 also involved extensive discussion about how
to implement the goals pertaining to arts, culture and
humanities outlined in the new strategic plan. Areas of
specific focus were: a) fostering collaboration between
arts and culture venues and academic units; b) supporting
the Urban Agenda, and c) continuing to develop mutually
beneficial arrangements between the business side of the
University and the arts and culture venues.
units of the University have made substantial progress
in moving these agenda items forward. Examples of collaborations
with academic units include:
program co-sponsored between the Film Studies program and
the Bridge Cinema called, "Film Today." Each event features
an introduction to a film, followed by a discussion, Q & A,
and a reception in the lounge of The Bridge.
The Big Picture: Mural Arts
in Philadelphia, a class offered through
the School of Design & the Urban Studies
Department, co-sponsored by the Community
Arts Partnership of the Center for Community
Partnerships, in which the students worked
with the community
to design and paint a mural and clean-up a playground.
proposed collaboration between the ICA, Center
for Programs in Contemporary Writing and the
House, will create a year-long writing seminar
for students who will learn to write about
contemporary art practices
and will produce a magazine featuring their work.
way arts and culture venues have supported the University's
Urban Agenda is through programs for children. These include:
Annenberg Center's daytime school day Student Discovery
Series, tied into their regular Penn Presents programming.
All programs are presented at 10:30 a.m.
and teachers from local schools are invited
to attend with their students.
In addition, Annenberg Center typically also
presents a number of children's shows booked
exclusively for young
audiences. This year, these shows are associated with the
26th Annual Showcase of Performing Arts for Young People,
which they hosted January 22-24, comprising roughly 18
performances. They also arrange a limited
number of outreach programs into the schools,
when artists' schedules
Annenberg Center's annual Philadelphia
International Children's Festival is being expanded to
seven days from the previous
five-day norm. This year's 20th annual
Festival will take place April 25 to May
2, comprising roughly 50 performances
indoor and outside, plus an outdoor crafts fair.
Children get into the act with the Give and Take
Jugglers at the annual Children's Festival.
University Museum has many school programs, both hosting
schoolchildren at the Museum and with Museum staff going
out to schools (the Museum on the Go program). They also
host public programs: a summer camp, Saturday Children's
workshops, exhibition openings and world culture family
days with activities geared to kids and families. They
also have the Pyramid Shop for children.
Center for Community Partnerships, under the aegis of their
Community Arts Partnership (CAP) program, funded by a grant
from the William Penn Foundation, sponsors numerous arts-related
programs for children.
for Cultural Initiatives
business side of the University continues to provide substantial
support for the arts and culture initiative. Examples
of this include:
and sponsorship of programs, such as Annenberg
Center's holiday show with Philadanco in winter 2001.
parking for patrons of arts and culture venues
that involve foregoing revenue and extending operating
hours and administrative
2000, financial investment in and marketing
support for product development, Sumerian tablets from
scarves, ties, and note cards from the Arboretum,
with the University Museum staff and further
formal recommendations to its Board of Overseers on improving
the Museum store's
revenues and profitability.
of Arts and Culture in Destination Penn literature
and hotel concierge and service desk information.
second Arts Day will take place on March 24, and will continue
the work of the many students, faculty, staff, alumni and
friends of the University who have already contributed
to this important initiative.
Conn, Deputy Provost,
Provost's Council on Arts and Culture
Arts and Culture Centers at Penn include:
Center, 3680 Walnut Street
Arthur Ross Gallery, Fisher Fine Arts Library
Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th Street
Kelly Writers House, 3805 Locust Walk
Morris Arboretum, Chestnut Hill
Music Department, Music Building
PennDesign, 102 Meyerson Hall
Penn Humanities Forum, 3619 Locust Walk
Penn Museum, 3260 South Street
Penn Press, 4200 Pine Street
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, 3420 Walnut Street
WXPN, 3905 Spruce Street
Almanac, Vol. 50, No.
March 16, 2004