Higher Education in Focus – Discover the Arts at Penn State

Higher Education in Focus – Discover the Arts at Penn State

September 29, 2019 0 By Ronny Jaskolski


>>Support for Higher
Education in Focus comes from the Penn State Alumni
Association, serving alumni and alma mater for
more than 145 years. On the Web at alumni.psu.edu. Penn State Bookstore — now in an expanded location
in the HUB-Robeson Center. Improving the student
experience at Penn State with philanthropic support of student causes
throughout the university. PSECU, a credit union
providing financial services to its members throughout
Pennsylvania since 1934. More at PSECU.com. And from viewers like you. Thank you. [ Music ]>>Welcome to Higher
Education in Focus. I’m Patty Satalia. If you’re looking for a
creative fix, look no further. Penn State’s College of Arts
and Architecture offers hundreds of musical and theater
performances, visual arts exhibitions, and
related events each year. In this edition of
Higher Education in Focus, Penn State President Eric
Barron takes a closer look at how people encounter,
engage with, and participate in
art at Penn State. Here to talk about that
with him is Barbara Korner, Dean of the College of Arts
and Architecture; Brian Alfred, a Penn State graduate
and working artist, and now an Assistant Professor
in Penn State’s School of Visual Arts; and
Natalia Pilato, who is also a working
artist and educator. She’s currently pursuing
her Doctorate in Art Education
from Penn State. Now, here’s Penn State
President Eric Barron.>>So thank you so much. It’s great to have the three
of you on this program. You know, why don’t
we just get started? Bobby, I walk around
town and I see “artsUP” and T-shirts and what is it? What’s the objective?>>Well, “Arts Up” is, the
tagline for “artsUP” is to discover the arts at Penn
State, and it’s to remind people that we have a bustling
arts community here and it is designed,
actually it’s a part of our strategic
plan in the college to help make the arts a
design central to Penn State, for people to realize the
importance of the arts in our community both at
the university, but as well, including in the local
community as well. So we’re going to be featuring
the programs that we have in the Arts District
where all of our, most of our buildings are
located in the College of Arts and Architecture, but
also we’re going to have, feature co-curricular
activities for students to realize there’s
something every student can do at Penn State. One of our big goals
is for every student to have a meaningful experience
in the arts while they’re at Penn State regardless
of their major.>>So one event, a full day?>>It is from noon to five,
or was from noon to five on Sunday, September 20th. And we had events in front of
the plaza at the Eisenhower, in front of the plaza in front
of the Palmer Museum of Art, and people could go
into the buildings. They could have all kinds
of different experiences. Play themselves with arts — do some painting,
put on some costumes.>>Sounds like a lot of fun. So Natalia, I want to make
sure I get this right. You’re Co-Creator and Director
of the Community Arts Collective at State College, so you
created two community murals?>>Yes.>>And you did this for
fun, it’s a natural place to do your art, or
what were you thinking? What was the purpose? Is it part of this
community engagement?>>Yeah, so I grew up here. I’m local to the community,
so when I decided I was going to come back here and go back to
school and get my master’s here, I thought, well, I
should bring some of these skills back
to my own community. And I had done a community mural
in Williamsport and I had worked with Elody Gyekis, who had
done several murals as well. And we said, “Well, why
don’t we do one here? It’s our town,” it’s
my hometown, and it was very grassroots. It started over dinner. Bunch of people,
we said, “You know, what kind of wall can we find? What can we do?” And I was also looking at that
kind of work in my own studies, and so I wanted to see
how to connect, you know, the university to the community and also how we build
relationships with people through
creating art. And that really interests me and I’m still working
towards that in my own work.>>So we have a, we got a
theme going here in a lot of different ways in
terms of connectivity. And so Brian, I should
tell you that when my wife and I were first here, we
went and bought a piece of art produced by
a grad student. Now, I understand you organized
an exhibit that was really from and of the students?>>Yeah. I was, I worked with a gallery downtown
called Fraser St. Gallery and the director asked me to
curate a show of students’ work, so I, over the course
of the summer, basically during the summer,
I chose a bunch of students and we put together a show
to focus on student work in downtown, which
is really great because it gives
them a venue to work and to share their work
outside of, you know, just the university and to share with people downtown
in local community.>>So, and if you say Penn State
student art, what would we see?>>Really diverse, really
amazing artwork that’s, the title of the show is
called “New Directions,” and I called it that
because the good thing about student work
is it’s developing. It’s in, as it usually
continues outside of school, but it’s in the state of flux where they’re challenging
themself, creating new pieces, new directions, and that’s kind of I think what you see is you
see this artwork that’s being done in the environment
of development and creative process and change.>>So, you know, maybe any of
the three of you could jump in on this, but, you know, here
we’ve got Pittsburgh over here and we’ve got Philadelphia
over here and we have State
College in the middle. What is the significance
of the arts at Penn State for Central Pennsylvania?>>Well, I think what’s really
important is that we do provide that context in Central
Pennsylvania. You won’t find quite the
collection of art, for instance, in the Palmer Museum of Art. You won’t find that
any place else between Philadelphia
and Pittsburgh. You won’t find some of the, we provide in this community
really a professional means for students as they’re working. So, for instance, one of the things we say that’s
comparable whether we’re using it in the performing arts or
the visual arts or the designers that we get, “Come see the stars
of tomorrow on the stage today.” Because many of our
students then go to work in professional galleries, as
Brian did as a former student, make their way in the
professional field of arts, whatever their field is. And so we’re providing
a cultural destination for people here in the
heart of Pennsylvania. We have more, about 18% of
our audiences for the Center for Performing Arts come
from outside Centre County, so it’s a place for people to
come and experience the richness of the arts in their lives.>>So, you know,
example being here today, you can see a Penn
State alum starring in “Wicked” on Broadway.>>Exactly.>>But we would have had
to see her on her way up and know she was really talented
right from the beginning.>>Exactly.>>That’s a good [inaudible]. How about for the two of you?>>Well, I think it’s
really exciting to, exactly what you’re saying, to
be able to see, and speaking of developing work, being
able to get an insight into work that’s being
done before they go out into the world. I mean, we have in our specific
School of Visual Arts, I mean, a lot of graduates have gone
on to do some amazing things. And it’s not always
just in visual arts. It’s outside of that, you know,
whether it’s working in fashion, advertisement — there’s a bunch
of different outcomes that come out of it, but you get to
see these students really in their developing time
and they’re from, you know, all over Pennsylvania and
all over the tri-state area, internationally, and you’re
getting this diversity within sort of the middle of
the state and then people go on and do some great
things outside of that.>>And I also see that our
town itself is filled with art. There’s public art everywhere. We have lots of sculptures,
paint–>>It’d be nice to
have more, wouldn’t it? It would. [ Laughter ]>>Well, and I also
think it’s, we, we’re a research institution,
and so we can look at the arts and we can look at research in
the field and we can look at — I’m in art education,
personally — and so it becomes this
idea of how we theorize about those things, how
we research those things, and then how we put it
back out into the world. And so when I look at my murals,
for instance, I think, “Well, that’s a published work.” People engage with it. It’s very rigorous. There’s people, you know,
people who see it every day. We get comments on
it all the time. It creates a story. It creates a narrative. And so it allows me to look at
things in a different way, too, by being part of the
university and being part of this conversation
that the university has, so I think that makes
it interesting because it adds this sort of academic part
to the art as well.>>It does. You know, and you bring up
an interesting question. You expect your faculty
not just to be teaching, but to be practicing artists.>>That’s true.>>And in fact, when you
do promotion and tenure and promote someone, this is
a published work, isn’t it? You really expect
people to be practicing, and that’s how they’re
evaluated, not just their teaching. Is that true?>>That’s very true.>>Is that critical in,
across the nation in terms of the success of art?>>It is. I mean, that, it’s
important that you have faculty, just as if publication
is the standard by which you’re assessed,
obviously that’s very important, but it’s equally important that
you have somebody who’s active in the exhibitions,
in performance work, in their own design
field, in competitions and that sort of thing. And we’re very fortunate
at Penn State because Penn State
understands that.>>Yeah.>>There are some
research institutions that don’t quite understand it,
and so sometimes you really have to argue on why that’s
important and why it ranks. And in many cases, it’s harder to accomplish sometimes
in publication. But it’s very important.>>So Brian, you were
here in the ’90s, right?>>Yes.>>And so now you get to come
back as a faculty member. That must be, feel really good.>>It feels good and it
feels for, in my, you know, experience, it’s just really
comfortable because here’s where I got my start and I had
those faculty who were going to New York and showing and
that was really important to me. And it’s not as though they were
giving me some sort of roadmap on how to be successful or to do
that, but just the inspiration of seeing them, knowing that
they’re actively engaged in making work and
exhibiting and being involved. That to me was a real
inspiration, so coming–>>How different is it? Did the dean back then
talk about an art district?>>I don’t, I’m not sure I know. I think I was so
busy in my studio–>>Well, that’s not
a bad answer.>>You know–>>You know, for a student
to say, “Hey, I was focused on accomplishing, not
the, those elements.”>>Yeah. Although I do
remember a lot of great lectures in other departments
that I would go to. One of the great things about here is there’s
so much going on. There’s so many different
genres. And you can just
go experience that. Like seeing a lecture
in science. I remember going to see
someone who was talking about astrophysics and,
you know, all that you have at your fingertips, and
sometimes you just bump into it. Sometimes your teachers
are telling you about certain things. But it’s a real diverse
kind of group of stuff that you can do while you’re
here and you have access to.>>You know, that also brings
up another interesting topic, and that is this
whole notion of, do the arts just benefit the
arts and society and well-being? I frequently think about that. What is the impact of the
arts on the other disciplines? And I know that’s part of your
business and I have to tell you that when I was a geology
undergraduate major, I was told whatever
I saw to draw. And the professor said, “You
will see it more clearly if you have to draw it
and you will change your observation skills.” So I know as a young geologist,
art had an impact on me in a completely different
field, but this is one of the things you
try to accomplish. Is it true?>>Yeah, and I’m actually
teaching a 303, a class that is for educators right now. And it’s not for artists. And it’s to bring art into the
classrooms, into their practice, and it’s part of a block
they do with the educators where they have to go through
this program in the arts with us, and it’s really
nice to see these students who aren’t artists embracing
the arts, seeing the benefit of the arts, becoming advocates
through the arts by, you know, us introducing them to art,
artists, how to create art in their classrooms, and
understanding that art, it can also be a tool to
learn so many other things.>>So since, you know, there
are so many different facets of this, it makes it
really exciting for me. A whole nother facet is this
notion of engaging students and artists as entrepreneurs. And your college
was one of the first to hire an
entrepreneur-in-resident. And when I tell people, at first
they’re kind of taken aback. What is that?>>Well, I–>>Why should you be
more entrepreneurial?>>Well, among other things, and
when Brian referred to the fact of roadmap as a student, it’s
important if students are going to make their living as
artists once they leave, they need to understand that’s
an entrepreneurial enterprise.>>Yeah.>>To make your way
as an artist. And so it’s very important
that you understand some about that role, and
it is actually, again, that’s something we’re
seeing across the nation in many art schools because it’s
becoming increasingly important so that students can
make a living as artists, that they also can think
about what else they can do, and understand that entrepreneurial spirit
is creativity at the root. [laughs] And so we bring
something to the table as artists in the way we process
information and the way we focus on process as much as product
becomes very important. That’s the other thing
I think that’s nice about this community. I think it helps encourage
entrepreneurship in the arts and doing different things and
is, with the Fraser St. Gallery and we’re having very good
conversations right now with the downtown area about
how we can work with students to create businesses, to
run galleries, to do things. I picked up the Daily
Collegian today. I’m, I wear with great
pride this brooch because a student made this
for me my first year here. An art student made this for me. And I picked up the Daily
Collegian today and one of our architecture students
has started a jewelry making business in town, opened
up her own business.>>And there it is.>>There it is. That’s [laughs] what
it’s all about.>>You know, I hate to sound
like I’m pushing this, the arts, and intersecting with all
our, all parts of society, but I was very fortunate as a
graduate student to be a guest of the Soviet Academy
of Sciences in the ’70s. And so I got to see the
art [inaudible] and I got to the see art at the Pushkin, which picked a particular time
period, and then the Tretchikoff that goes all the way
back to religious icons. And I convinced myself that art
and politics go hand in hand and that you could see
what that country went through based on the art. And I understand
you’ve done some work in Czechoslovakia very much
on this topic about whether or not the revolution that occurred there actually
art had a role to play. What was that role?>>Well, it was a major role. I just returned from Prague
actually the night before last at about midnight.>>Really?>>Yes, and I was there
interviewing several different, I was there with a
political science colleague from the University of
Florida and we were talking about this very juncture. We interviewed many faculty
both in political science at Charles University at the leading academy
there of fine arts. We were at several
contemporary museums. But I also had the
great privilege of interviewing Michael
Zantovsky, who was Vaclav Havel’s
spokesperson and then became the
Czech Ambassador to the US and Israel and UK. He now runs the Vaclav
Havel Library in Prague. And all of them talked
about the important role that the arts played in the dissident movement
during the ’60s and, of course, during the period of
normalization in the ’70s, and in the ’70s, when
everything really shut down and the Czechoslovakian
Communist Party was one of the strictest. Eased up a little bit in the
’80s and the artists moved in. And one of the things that
Vaclav Havel was so strong on was that he, of
course, was a playwright, a dissident playwright, but he
talked about, “We have to stand up for the rock musicians who
were being persecuted and put in jail because we have to stand
up for everybody’s rights.” And that he became
the key leader. All of these different
factions that say, “We’re moving through the Velvet Revolution,”
everybody saw how he was able to relate to all
the diverse groups which could have splintered
and Czechoslovakia became one of the few that went through
that revolution or evolution without bloodshed
that happened in many of the Communist countries. So it was central and it’s still
there you find artists today are still focused on using
art to make social change. And it’s such a rich arts
community because of that.>>So we put arts into
action and it crosses all of these different elements. And one of the examples of arts in action is blood
in, Blood at the Root. Maybe we could just look
at a quick video clip. [ Music & Singing ]>>Blood at the Root
makes a difference by starting conversation,
a conversation about race, about gender, about class, challenging people
to think differently. [ Music & Singing ]>>Please welcome the recipient of the Kennedy Center American
College Theater Festival Hip Hop Theatre Creator Award,
Blood at the Root. [ Music & Rapping ]>>Do you believe all
that happened yesterday?>>About that tree.>>Police going to come up and
tell us to get out of there like we was criminals
or something.>>I saw it. It was like ten of y’all. Looked like something out of
Civil Rights or something.>>Felt like it, too. Only thing missing was
the dogs chasing us.>>It seemed unnecessary,
you ask me. They ain’t got to do all that. Just let folk be what they want
to be, do what they want to do. Ain’t got to be all that
police and DA and none of that.>>You come to the
school at a crazy time or maybe you’re right on time. I ain’t sure yet.>>I heard they got in a fight
at practice the other day.>>I heard coach find
out one of them boys in that team was a faggot.>>You ain’t supposed
to call them that. It’s racist.>>It ain’t racist
to say “faggot.”>>Well, it’s something. You ain’t supposed to say it.>>I heard coach had to shut down practice the other
day to deal with it.>>Homosexual?>>You ain’t supposed
to say that either!>>You ain’t supposed
to say “homosexual”?>>Still sound offensive.>>Everything’s offensive now.>>Then the black boy–>>You ain’t supposed
to say that neither!>>What am I supposed
to call him?>>African black.>>African American. [ Laughter ]>>Just call me black.>>So then the black boy ended
up bumping into the white boy.>>Can you still say “white”?>>What else you going to say?>>Just American?>>We all American! [ Applause ]>>I always try to remind them
that it doesn’t get much better than what they’re
doing right now. No matter what level they get
to, it doesn’t get much better than doing something that you
care about and you believe in and that you are creating
out of, on your own.>>It’s, this is living
proof of what’s, what happens if you really truly believe
in yourself and your dreams. And I know that’s
cliché, but I’m, like I said, I’m a country boy. I’m [laughs], I come
from nothing, you know. I’m living my dream.>>Today can’t be
like no other day. Today got to count
for something.>>Something that went just from
a, “Let’s try some workshops,” to now winning awards at the
Kennedy Center, you know. Traveling the world with a show
that I can fully stand behind and that I feel fulfilled as
an artist doing and finding it at 21 is unreal and also
scary because I don’t know when I’m going to have an
opportunity like this again. You know, it’s not every day
that you come across a project that you believe
in wholeheartedly and will take you
across the world.>>So just in a couple
of words, what, from each of your perspectives,
what did you just see?>>I saw research in
the arts in action.>>Inspiring creativity.>>Definitely outreach
into the community and Penn State students going
further with their education. Dreams taking flight.>>Great story. Thank you so much
for being with us.>>Thank you.>>Thank you.>>Thank you. [ Music ]>>Next up on Higher
Education in Focus, student reporter Lauren
Doyle, a double major in Broadcast Journalism
and Theater with a dance concentration,
talks one-on-one with President Barron about
the arts at Penn State.>>There’s so much
going on with the arts at Penn State right now. The question is funding. How do we get it? It can be very difficult
coming from the state, and I’m wondering if
there are other programs such as Thespian Society or
National Endowment for the Arts that help Penn State fund
their academic programs.>>So there are. You think about some support
academically from the state, some support from tuition,
some from ticket sales. Arts and architecture also
attracts about a million to a million and a half
from different sources of, through grants and other
efforts and also a number of foundations, extremely
valuable, contribute on the order of
20 different foundations. Not a large amount of money. This last year, about
$100,000 so far. But every single penny of it you
really want to put to good use and it’s incredibly valuable.>>Oh, absolutely. Another question I have
is, how does Penn State, how would you compare
Penn State’s investment in their arts programs
compared to that of the other Big Ten schools?>>You know, I tend to
think about the outcomes for the investment
that you make, and Penn State ranks
highly in the Big Ten. You always look at it
that in some areas, you’re really strong, and
in other areas, you’re good, and in other areas, you’re good
and aspiring to be even better. Maybe in all areas,
you’re doing that way. So the programs have
different strengths, but this is a very fine
program in the arts here.>>And one of Penn State’s
strongest art programs is musical theater program. We have a lot of alumni
on Broadway right now and national tours, and my question goes
into their athletics. A lot of the competitive
athletes here — football, basketball players —
get a lot of free consultations from nutritionists, team
doctors, all of those things, but the musical theater majors
and the dance majors don’t seem to receive any of that. Why does the university not
provide similar supports for these artists who
are also athletic?>>Yeah, you probably
would step back and say, “I’m not sure society
has all their priorities in the right order,”
but the simple fact of the matter is
athletics pays for itself. The big tickets item, sports,
even cover the other sports, so when you look at all of those
scholarships and nutritionists and all those different
elements, and the mentoring, that actually comes
from ticket sales and endowments, not
from the state. At Penn State, we’re one
of those few institutions where money from the
university doesn’t cross over to support athletics. And so this is quite
an advantage when you can fill a stadium
with 100,000 people and collect that amount per ticket
and help reinvest it in that particular activity. Be nice to have that same desire
and love across this country for the arts to be able to
provide that level of support.>>Absolutely. And another question
is in terms of students and their individual studies,
they can be very expensive for art supplies, for showcases. I know the graphic design majors
have print bills due at the end of the semester, but their
programs don’t reimburse them for it. What of anything could
the administration do to help students afford
these costly necessary things for their majors?>>Yeah. It’s a big challenge. If you look, the state support for Pennsylvania
per student is lower than any other top 30
publics in the country. It’s a tuition-driven
university. It’s why it’s a little bit more
expensive tuition in-state. That means you pay for
everything, essentially, that the state doesn’t provide. And so it’s really
hard and we end up with having all these
fees that support majors because it’s not coming
out of the tuition bill. I wish it was different.>>Could be really tough. We don’t have that much time,
but in a few sentences or less, the arts can be very competitive
and can be very difficult to maintain friendships. And I know you talk a
lot about, you know, building that community
at Penn State, so how could you help continue
that where the competition for athletics, I’m sorry, for
academics, can be so personal?>>Yeah. You know, sometimes
that’s true in medicine. Sometimes it’s true
in law and in the arts and you really just have to
have an institutional culture where we support each other,
but also celebrate excellence.>>Wonderful. Thank you so much.>>My pleasure.>>On behalf of Penn State
President Dr. Eric Barron and student reporter
Lauren Doyle, we’d like to thank our
guests Barbara Korner, Brian Alfred, and
Natalia Pilato. I’m Patty Satalia. From all of us here at
WPSU, thanks for joining us for this edition of
Higher Education in Focus.>>Support for Higher
Education in Focus comes from the Penn State Alumni
Association, serving alumni and alma mater for
more than 145 years. On the Web at alumni.psu.edu. Penn State Bookstore — now in an expanded location
in the HUB-Robeson Center. Improving the student
experience at Penn State with philanthropic support of student causes
throughout the university. PSECU, a credit union
providing financial services to its members throughout
Pennsylvania since 1934. More at PSECU.com. And from viewers like you. Thank you.