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Arts on Campus: There, but Not There


by Jerome Weeks 6 Oct 2008

Marjorie Garber, author of the superb Vested Interests:Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety as well as Patronizing the Arts,  writes in the Boston Globe: This is an era of what could be called the “visual intellectual.” Students on college campuses and members of the general public flock to hear – and see – addresses by filmmakers, artists, […]

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Marjorie Garber, author of the superb Vested Interests:Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety as well as Patronizing the Arts,  writes in the Boston Globe:

This is an era of what could be called the “visual intellectual.” Students on college campuses and members of the general public flock to hear – and see – addresses by filmmakers, artists, and performers. Cultural attention, and cultural primacy, have shifted to encompass art installations, the moving image, technology, and performance. Phrases like “visual literacy,” “aural literacy,” “digital literacy,” and “media literacy” are increasingly common.

But although artists and performers are highly prized as visitors to colleges and universities, the kind of work they do has not reached a comparable importance in the curriculum.

Art and higher education might seem a natural fit in many ways, but they have a long and uneasy relationship. The arts are often still consigned to a secondary role within universities, sometimes viewed as not intrinsically intellectual, or not intrinsically academic. Even when a university invests significantly in the creative arts, and offers an array of courses in painting, sculpture, creative writing, and performance, many scholars and academic administrators remain unconvinced: Arts do not seem to lend themselves easily to the “tenurable” standards of other university subjects.

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