The arts play an important role in the enhancement of good health in a community. When the University draws in deep draughts of artistic talent from around the world and then shares those experiences with the public, it is like a breath of fresh air.
The University creates experiential learning opportunities with celebrated musicians, renowned lecturers and acclaimed artists. The Department of Music is accomplishing this by giving students a chance to practice and perform with top international talent. The University hosts over 100 cultural engagements each year, many of which are free and open to the greater community. The Faculty Artist Concert Series sponsored by Katz, Sapper & Miller features compelling presentations of solo repertoire, dynamic readings of great chamber literature, provocative premieres of new works and distinctive approaches to both classic and contemporary jazz. From performances by the Indianapolis Quartet and the annual Jazz Week events (both of which also feature UIndy faculty) to exhibits at the Christel DeHaan Fine Art Center Gallery, student theatre productions and literary events, the University of Indianapolis is a beacon for the arts in the region.
American Pianists Association
The University’s partnership with the American Pianists Association (APA) brought Drew Petersen, the APA’s 2017 Awards winner, to campus for an artist-in-residence program that offered students and the broader community the chance to experience his world-class musical talent. Petersen, who held master classes for students, is also a Christel DeHaan fellow. Petersen collaborated with the UIndy Chamber Orchestra conducted by Ariel Rudiakov for a February performance. The concert and master classes, which were free and open to the public, were well attended by UIndy music students and attracted educators and students from around the state.
And from breathtaking piano conciertos to bombastic horn blasts, UIndy hosted the Second Annual Trumpet Conference in March. The brass extravaganza featured a full day of clinics that concluded with a packed house in Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center that “blew the roof off!” according to Larry Powell, adjunct faculty member and chair of the conference planning committee.
This joint effort with the International Trumpet Guild was headlined by legendary trumpeter from “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson,” Doc Severinsen and international soloist Rex Richardson. Hands-on master classes conducted by these jazz icons offered incredible mentoring opportunities for UIndy students and conference attendees alike. Experiences like this do much more than amaze and delight the audience. “They serve to inspire our students as they pursue successful careers in music,” explained Brenda Clark, Department of Music chair.
Tuskegee University Choir
The University’s partnerships go even deeper to nurture connections that faculty and staff have already established in their lives before UIndy. Stephen Kolison, executive vice president and provost, took full advantage of such an opportunity when the legendary Tuskegee University Choir performed on campus in April during an international tour. Kolison himself spent many years at Tuskegee in his first professional role after obtaining his PhD. He welcomed the choir with heartfelt comments about how an institution can have a profoundly transformative influence on one’s life for years, and the choir reciprocated by delivering a truly inspiring performance.
Reaching Out with Social Practice Art
As well as hosting outstanding artistic talent, the University connects with the greater community. UIndy’s social practice art program, which was developed by two faculty members–Jim Walker, CEO of Big Car Collaborative and adjunct UIndy professor, and Kevin McKelvey, director of the program and associate professor of English–is doing just that. This multidisciplinary program connects students with degrees in art & design, theatre, dance, music and writing with community stakeholders to engage in social practice and creative placemaking. Artists who practice placemaking step outside the studio and venture off campus to actively pursue ways to engage people in surrounding neighborhoods. The result is a participatory art form that empowers and transforms communities. Social practice art is a catalyst for positive change and challenges students to incorporate questions of ethics and accountability in their work.
The Department of Theatre provides real-life experiences for students while reinforcing alumni and community connections, from the 200th anniversary of “Frankenstein” to contemporary works such as Lauren Gunderson’s “I and You.” Providing both onstage and behind-the-scenes hands-on learning is a critical component of the program.
Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Gallery
The Art Gallery in the Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center annually hosts six to seven curated exhibitions. Spanning a wide range of genres and featuring local, regional and international artists, recent exhibitions included patriotic posters from World War II and the impact of female artists in the field of illustration. True to the gallery’s teaching mission, featured art explores history and current issues through a cultural lens.
Béla Fleck and the UIndy Experience
Just as art can evoke remarkable change in unexpected places, UIndy’s partnerships with acclaimed artists also reveal surprisingly meaningful connections to our mission. When Béla Fleck was bestowed an honorary degree from the University during the 2018 commencement ceremony, some may have wondered, ‘Why choose a banjo player from New York for this honor? What is the relevance to the University of Indianapolis?’ It turns out, the connections are wonderfully appropriate.
Fleck is a 16-time Grammy Award winner who has been nominated in more categories than any other musician. This is clear testimony to his passion for music, along with an ambition to always challenge convention by fusing and reimagining African, Celtic, bluegrass, jazz and many other musical styles with remarkable mastery. You cannot neatly categorize his work, and that quality is what makes him such a champion of true artistic expression. As an institution that takes great pride in collaboration, individuality and its own cultural impact in the city and the region, this is something that is truly valued at the University of Indianapolis. It was in that spirit that Fleck was invited to perform for thousands of students, family and friends so that they could pause and reflect on what the UIndy experience is all about.