College students experienced the arts for the first time in America at William & Mary in 1779, and we are still at it. Among our graduates, to mention just a few, are actors Glenn Close ’74, D.A. ’89, Scott Glenn ’63 and Linda Lavin ’59, D.A. ’09, news satirist and comedian Jon Stewart ’84, D.A. ’04, comedian Patton Oswalt ’91, fashion designer Perry Ellis ’61 and Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long ’69, L.H.D. ’04.
William & Mary people also do great deeds behind the scenes. They work on TV shows, movies, comedy series, romance novels, web series, video games, podcasts, audiobooks and news broadcasts. They win creative awards — Emmys, Pulitzers, MacArthur Genius Awards, Tonys and more.
Tribe professors and students practice their crafts far and wide. This past summer, theatre professor Matthew Allar went to Alaska as a scenic designer, where he found a recent graduate working as an intern with the theatre company and a W&M alumna serving as the show’s sound designer. When the local paper sent a photographer to take promotional shots of the production, she was a W&M alumna.
Often arts alumni bring their expertise back home, performing and working with students in master classes. Last fall, Homecoming benefited from the wisdom of Bill Schermerhorn ’82, an Emmy-winning songwriter who spent more than 30 years working with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, most recently as vice president and creative director.
Then of course there are William & Mary’s extraordinary programs in art and art history, music, theatre, speech and dance, our choir, chamber singers and orchestra, 15 music ensembles, as well as dozens of student-organized groups and premier events, such as the annual Global Film Festival and Sinfonicron’s light opera performance. Students engage the arts as well in modern languages and literatures, English, American studies, film and media studies, classical studies and more.
Now art photography has joined the Department of Art and Art History for the first time. Photography assistant professor Eliot Dudik cut the ribbon on the program’s first darkroom and dedicated classroom space this fall and plans to add a photography computer lab — a digital darkroom — in the future. Dudik recently shot powerful photographs of Medal of Honor recipient Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter for Vanity Fair. His quest to photograph every “Paradise Road” in the nation resulted in an exhibition that American Photo this winter declared one of the top 10 in the United States.
In November, we announced that William & Mary’s Muscarelle Museum of Art will expand to become part of The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, a locus for teaching and learning about art on campus, featuring exhibition, classroom, auditorium and community space. The center will honor art historian and writer Martha Wren Briggs ’55, an indefatigable patron. Last spring, Matoaka Amphitheatre was renamed in recognition of the great good she has done for the arts at William & Mary.
In spring 2015, Swem Library celebrated its new, state-of-the-art Charles W. Reeder Media Center. The center offers students hardware and software for specialized multimedia work, along with training and equipment.
And, at long last, our threadbare, grossly inadequate facilities for music, theatre, speech, dance, art and art history will come into their own in a three-phase project known as the Arts Quarter. Together with The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, the Arts Quarter will represent nearly $212 million in public and private investment.
The first phase will construct a new music facility, including a 450-seat concert hall, soundproof practice rooms, teaching studios and a 125-seat recital hall.
The second phase will expand and renovate battered Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall, home to our mainstage theatre. A dance rehearsal studio and support and teaching spaces will unify dance under the same roof as theatre and speech. PBK will also get a new foyer and box office. For the first two phases, we have hired the architect and expect to break ground in 2018.
The third phase will breathe new life into Andrews Hall, home to art and art history. There will be improvements to Andrews’ gallery, classrooms, studios and lecture hall, as well as new space to house all of W&M’s 3D art studios — ceramics, sculpture and architecture. Design should begin in 2018.
The arts are vibrantly alive at William & Mary, and they are approaching a time when their facilities will reflect their excellence.