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Year of the Arts to inspire, engage, celebrate

September 2, 2010 By Gwen Evans

In any year, the arts scene on campus is vibrant and rich, with hundreds of performances, exhibits and events from students, faculty and visiting world-famous artists.

Year of the Arts logo


In the visual arts, the work of faculty, students and visiting artists is displayed in galleries in the Chazen Museum of Art, the Wisconsin Union, the Mosse Humanities Building, the Design Gallery, many campus libraries and the Art Lofts.

On the performance side, on nearly every day, stages in the Mosse Humanities Building, the Memorial Union, the Wisconsin Union Theater, and Vilas, Music and Lathrop halls are alive with theater, film, music, dance and spoken word. Performers range from students and faculty to the brightest stars and leading names in their fields

This year, though, a special initiative, “Illuminate: UW–Madison Year of the Arts,” kicks up the campus arts scene with additional programming to spotlight and celebrate the breadth, depth, power and purpose of the arts on campus. All the visual and performing arts departments are getting into the act — and most of the events are free.

In addition to more than 30 featured events, some 300 performances, exhibits, symposia, public events, publications and distinguished visiting speakers will take place throughout the year.

Highlights this fall alone include campus visits from Rocco Landesman, alumnus and chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, and Errol Morris, Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker (also an alumnus); and the national tour of the Broadway show “Spring Awakening.”

A robust arts environment is really not new here; the arts have had a presence on campus almost since the university’s founding. Science Hall, which opened in 1877, included an art museum. And more than a century ago, UW President Charles K. Adams is purported to have said, “A great university is a singing university.”

The truth is that we all benefit from a robust arts environment. The arts help us find new ways of looking at the world (and ourselves) by seeing differently and experiencing more. They shape communities and create connections between people.

Planning for the Year of the Arts began years ago. The original idea was to take a year to bring attention to the arts and humanities on campus. It didn’t take long for the planners to realize one year would not be enough time to cover both broad disciplines, and two years were designated. Last year was the Year of Humanities; now it is time for the Year of the Arts.

For Norma Saldivar, professor in the Department of Theatre and Drama, director of the Arts Institute and co-chair of the Year of the Arts along with Andrew Taylor, director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, the year was designed to extend awareness of the arts and hopefully blur the boundary between campus and the Madison community.

“I would love for the campus and city to understand the arts resources on campus and appreciate the day-to-day impact they have on life,” says Saldivar. “Many of the featured artists are returning alumni and accomplished artists that are making an impact above and beyond their disciplines.”

That alumni above and beyond is certainly evident. Landesman, an internationally respected theater producer, is also a leader in arts administration who is shaping arts policy on a national level. Morris’s film work challenges our ideas on history, social science, justice and human rights. And next spring, Carl Djerassi, award-winning chemist, poet, playwright, art collector and 1945 graduate of UW, will return to Madison for a staged reading of his latest theater work, “Foreplay.”

The opportunity for students to learn from, and be inspired by these alumni is important to Saldivar. By spending time with professionals, students can see possibilities and realize that one day they could become part of the university’s arts legacy.

The opening event at noon on Thursday, Sept. 16, on the Memorial Union Terrace will feature Landesman and Chancellor Biddy Martin. The two will share why they believe the arts are central and integral to the larger mission of the university and its community, from expression and learning to scholarship and insight. Their brief remarks will also tie to the NEA’s larger message about the many ways “Art Works” for communities.

The chancellor is a passionate advocate for the arts and humanities and is a strong supporter of the Year of the Arts. “Throughout the university’s history, the arts have provided richness, depth, diversity and insight to the entire campus community,” says Martin of the coming celebration. “It is fitting that we take time to reflect on the importance of the arts and their impact on us as individuals and as a community.”

From 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Sept. 16, people are invited to Walk the Corridor to the Arts. Student musicians, dancers, actors and visual artists will perform on East Campus Mall, the many terraces at Vilas Hall, the bridge from Vilas to the Mosse Humanities Building, the steps of Lathrop Hall and around Library Mall.

At 11:30 a.m., arts students and faculty and campus and community members will assemble on the East Campus Mall for a masquerade parade to the Memorial Union Terrace to hear the chancellor and Landesman.

Immediately following the talk, student groups will host an all-campus arts fair with performances and demonstrations.

Looking ahead to October, the second marquee event of the semester is a symposium, “Elusive Truths: The Cinema of Errol Morris.” The symposium will celebrate the work and ideas of Morris. Events include a retrospective of his work in film and television.

“I am so excited by the collaborative spirit of the Year of the Arts; everyone is getting involved, including student groups from all the arts. It’s joyous and inspirational,” says Saldivar. “The Year of the Arts has something for everyone, safe or adventurous. And because most events are free, people can take the plunge if they are unfamiliar with something. The arts take a multitude of forms, from marching band, opera and student a cappella groups to dance and sculpture. That’s art.”

The Year of the Arts initiative is led by the Arts Institute, an intercollege unit of the College of Letters & Science, the School of Education and the School of Human Ecology. Sponsors of Year of the Arts include the Office of the Chancellor, the Anonymous Fund, the Arts Institute, the Center for the Humanities, University Communications, the UW Foundation, Visitor & Information Programs and the Wisconsin Alumni Association.

For a complete calendar of Year of the Arts events, more information, and ticket details (when needed) visit

The following featured events are just a few available during Illuminate: Year of the Arts. Events with an asterisk are marquee events.


16: Year of the Arts Opening Event, Memorial Union Terrace*

17-19, 23-25: University Theatre and School of Music: “Across a Distance”

25: Pro Arte Quartet Concert


4-14: Art Department Alumni Exhibition

8: Wind Ensemble Collage Concert

20-24: American Society of Architectural Illustrators Conference

21-23: Symposium: The Cinema of Errol Morris*

22-Nov. 6: University Theatre: “Valparaiso”

23-24: “Spring Awakening” National Tour


19-21: Dancing…All Weekend Long!

20-21: Choral Union and Chamber Orchestra: “Israel in Egypt”


1: UW Jazz Orchestra: Mary Lou Williams

9-12: Paris and Hill Residency: “Inside Story: Performance, Biography and Biology”

18-Feb. 27, 2011: Chazen Museum of Art exhibit: “Hidden Treasures: Illuminated Manuscripts from Midwestern Collections”


26-30: Chazen Museum of Art: Demonstrations of Manuscript Illumination


17: Hilary Hahn Recital

24-26: Student Dance Concert

25: UW Symphony Concerto and Composition Competition Winners

25-26: Tad Gloeckler residency: “Rethinking the Everyday”


3-5: University Theatre: “The Rocky Horror Show”

12-June 5: Chazen Museum of Art Exhibit: “Holy Image, Sacred Presence: Russian Icons 1500-1900”

24: Chazen Museum of Art lecture: “Eastern Orthodox Icons: Venerable Paintings and Their Makers”

24-26: Dance Premiere and Symposium: “They Marched Into Sunlight”

24-26: The Combat Paper Workshop

26-30: Science in Theater: Stage Reading of “Foreplay” by Carl Djerassi*


1-28: Annual Student Art Show

3: Abbie Furmansky and Daniel Sutton Concert

14-16: Dance Concert: “Dance and Community”

15, 17, 19: University Opera: “The Consul”

27: Art Lofts Demo Extravaganza

30: Tad Gloecker residency: Public Performances and Installations

30: Campus Arts Homecoming and Open House