Arts reach out online

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September 6, 2011

1:22 AM

A new website will soon join the ongoing effort to promote construction of an Arts Complex at the College of William and Mary.

Matt Reese ’13, an intern at the Muscarelle Museum of Art, created a website in order to increase knowledge of and support for the project among the administration, faculty and student body. The Board of Visitors approved the inclusion of the Arts Complex on the next three biennium requests it sent to the governor in April.

“The idea of the website is to start informing students and faculty who wouldn’t otherwise know what we are hoping to see in the new William and Mary arts facility, and what students can do to get more involved,” Reese said.

The site will supplement a letter of support for the Arts Complex written by Left/Right Producer Jimmy Finn ’00 and the William and Mary Alumni Arts Council that has been circulating since May. The letter currently has 556 signatures.

“This is the first step,” Aaron DeGroft Ph.D. ’88, director of the Muscarelle, said. “What made it real is when the Board of Visitors voted to put it in the next biennium request to the governor.”

A feasibility study completed in 2009 for the new Arts Complex was presented to the Board of Visitors in April. After the presentation, the board voted to include the project in a request to the governor in three phases over the next six years. The first phase is to fund a design for the Arts Complex, the second is to complete the design and begin construction on the project, and the third phase, slated for 2016 through 2018, is to complete construction.

“The thing that we want to make clear is that there are a lot of priorities that the College has, and this is one of them,” DeGroft said. “We have great faculty that are trying to teach great students, and the quality of the facilities aren’t matching up.”

The project would house the music, art, art history, theater, dance, speech, and film studies departments and the Muscarelle Museum of Art.

“The concept was to make a place where music people, dance people, theater people could be in one central area where they can all interact with each other,” DeGroft said. “The museum would kind of be the portal to this, and it would be the new public entrance to the College.”

Finn said that the performing arts alumni of the College had never been organized before, so he began the William and Mary Alumni Arts Council, which consists of four other prominent arts alumni members including Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long, producer Nancy Gunn, Vice President for the Bank of America-Merrill Lynch Parker Wertz and author and novelist Sheri Holman.

“We put together the council, and then we had an event in May or June in New York where Aaron came and spoke with a much larger group of alumni,” Finn said. “We put together the letter to the administration on the website. It’s always important to start a social media push because that is how you can get alumni who are spread all over the world to get excited about it and support the performing arts center.”

According to Reese, both the website and the circulating letter of support are designed to increase participation.

“The administration is on our side, but what we are trying to do with this is to show our faculty the breadth of our student involvement and how much the students and alumni care about the program,” Reese said. “The idea is just to get a broader base of student interest and support.”

While the letter of support was started by an alumni organization, Reese encourages students to sign the letter.
“We want students to sign it because the kids who are at William and Mary right now have the best understanding of what they need, what their facilities are lacking, and what would make their experience better here,” Reese said.
Reese and DeGroft stressed the importance of this project for the entire student body, noting that most people who attend the College participate in the arts in some way.
“People are saying we are doctors, lawyers and Indian chiefs. We majored in business, we majored in science, but we sang in the choir, we played in the band, we were in an ensemble, we took art history and dance,” DeGroft said. “The overwhelming response that we get is that William and Mary is all about the arts and that students that come here all take part in this and take away amazing experiences.”
Over the next year, Reese, DeGroft and the alumni council in New York plan to continue their efforts with the arts facility.
“We want to get everyone in the student body and in our faculty on board with this,” Reese said. “It’s got to happen sometime, so it’s a matter of us helping to expedite the process.”

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