Arts Revival at UMass Lowell

10/20/2009
By From the Lowell Sun

By Nancye Tuttle

LOWELL -- It has a new name, new co-directors and a new mission. And its bright, new publication, Arts & Ideas, offers a well-organized cultural calendar that brings the fine arts, music, theater, film, lectures, student activities and other key events on the UMass Lowell campus and wider community under an all-encompassing umbrella.

It's called the Center for the Arts and Ideas at UMass Lowell. And, says co-director Paul Marion, "It's a fresh take on cultural affairs on campus that is very timely in terms of the cultural vitality in the city."

Located in Durgin Hall, it replaces the old Center for the Arts, which offered youth and family enrichment through STARTS, an outreach arts and theater enrichment program for kindergarten through high- school students and teachers, and the Discovery Series, a program of weekend family performances.

The new center was shaped by an advisory committee of faculty and staff as part of the UMass Lowell 2020 Strategic Plan Project, augmented recently by Chancellor Marty Meehan. It grew from the decision a year ago to re-evaluate the way arts, cultural and intellectual programs were promoted and marketed at the university.

"We've all been working in our individual departments, but this is a way to connect all the arts and humanities with visual ideas and include intellectual facets. It's very exciting and we are inventing it as we go along," said Jehanne-Marie Gavarini, the Center's other co-director and a UML art professor for seven years.
Neither Gavarini nor Marion, UML's executive director of community and cultural affairs, is being paid additional salaries for taking on directorship roles at the new center.

They will work with an advisory committee made up of faculty in the music, art, philosophy and English departments, as well as staff in Student Activities, Multicultural Affairs, Regional Economic and Social Development, Special Events and the Division of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Services.

"It is a work in progress and the committee is helping us with strategic planning this fall and offering recommendations for long-term practices at the center," said Marion.

The STARTS program is being run by Barbara Nolan, the former associate director.

"They are offering half the amount of performances this year as they did last year, 12 acts with two shows each. We have sold 10,000 tickets and it is doing well financially," said Marion.

Christine Brown, the former director, has started her own student-performance series, Chris Brown Presents, and will present shows in Chelmsford.

The competition is good, said Marion.

"Since we are offering half the number of programs, it is good that she has launched her own program to provide the same level of service to the schools and communities," he said.

The cultural publication will be issued twice a year, at the beginning of each semester, and offer a full calendar of activities on campus as well as selected programs within the community. It will be available on campus and at Lowell's museums, coffee shops and other cultural institutions.

"We needed a new way to interact with the community and to fully present the cultural and intellectual energy on campus and beyond," said Marion.

Most events are free and open to the community.

"They haven't been marketed well in the past, so audience development is one of our goals. We want to encourage students and the wider community to take advantage of all there is available here," said Marion. Visit www.uml.edu/arts&ideas for details.