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Dear friends and alumni of OHIO’s College of Fine Arts,

Matthew Shaftel, Dean
June 6, 2020
Matthew Shaftel

Despite this unprecedented time of uncertainty and loss, I remain in awe of the creativity, compassion, grit, and grace shown by our college’s students, faculty, and staff in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. I am reminded daily of the profound urgency of our College mission to be a catalyst for positivity and service through the power of the arts, and we are ever grateful to each and every one of you for your continued support of that mission.

I know that, like our students and faculty, many of you are feeling “interrupted,”—incomplete in many aspects of our lives. However, our work as artists continues. Yes, we’ve canceled live events and transitioned to online or virtual performances, exhibitions, classes, lessons, practicums, and so forth. But we, as artists, continue to respond to society’s need for the arts with creative ingenuity; indeed, in no time in recent history have the arts been more important. From huge releases of online arts content to surges in streaming media, music, and movies, to new telehealth options that include the arts, people are turning to the arts for comfort, distraction, and mental-health support in unprecedented ways. This is just another reminder that the arts have always been important—every crisis in history has been punctuated by spikes in artistic creation and the students, alumni, faculty, and friends of OHIO’s College of Fine Arts are prepared to play a critical role in this artistic moment. 

I am grateful to the faculty at the College of Fine Arts for continuing to provide a world-class education for our students and for showing extraordinary support to our communities in the online environment. Here are but a few examples:  

  • The College of Fine Arts transitioned all classes to online learning, sending out supplies, loaner equipment, media, and other materials to homebound students.
  • The College transitioned 148 undergraduate student workers and 219 graduate student workers to online remote work, leading the way in OHIO’s commitment—the first national institution to do so—to keeping student workers fully employed so they can sustain their livelihoods.
  • The College joined the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine’s three campuses and The Russ College of Engineering and Technology to provide three Ohio hospitals with hundreds of items of personal protective equipment. 
  • The School of Theater and the School of Art + Design lent sewing machines to the College’s students so both faculty and students could work together to produce masks for local clinics.

Furthermore, students in all six schools are continuing to not only produce their art but are also finding creative ways to show and share their work online, hosting their thesis exhibitions, performances, and defenses in the virtual environment. I’m proud and humbled to witness this display of resilience and focus in a time of uncertainty and loss. A few examples of innovative art making include the work of graduate students Belle-Pilar Fleming and Quinn Hunter, who presented their thesis work on Instagram channels; and the Marching 110’s virtual “Stand Up and Cheer” performance, featured by Governor DeWine in his daily pandemic update.

Our professional arts programming also continues in the online space, including Tantrum Theater’s production of the play Objects in the Mirror, written by Distinguished Professor Charles Smith, which will transition into a radio drama production; the Athena Cinema, which has launched virtual screenings of its line-up; and the Kennedy Museum of Art, which now features virtual exhibitions via its website and moved its family-friendly art enrichment program Art Encounters@Home, to the online space.

Experience these powerful art offerings by following our social channels and visiting our website. 

Even prior to this tragic turn of events across the globe, we had much to celebrate and share in the College of Fine Arts, which has been experiencing incredible growth and success. It is my honor to share some of the highlights with you, our stalwart alumni and friends:

Leaving our mark

The College of Fine Arts continues its tradition of wholly supporting the excellence and innovation of its faculty, staff, students, and graduates in our six schools and in our auxiliary units and programs. A recent survey beginning with the class of 1950 reveals that 88 percent of College of Fine Arts alumni say their OHIO education prepared them for success in the 21st century, and nearly 70 percent reported they are employed in the field for which they studied at the College. 

A brief listing of the College's recent accolades, earned by its outstanding faculty, staff, and students, follows: 

  • All six schools collectively claim nine top-35 nationally ranked programs. 
  • Faculty are exhibiting and performing regularly in cities like Los Angeles, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, and Accra.
  • Two School of Music faculty were inducted as Yamaha Artists in New York in early March.
  • Faculty recently have authored award-winning books in music, theater, and photography.
  • Last year alone, two members of the School of Art + Design earned Fulbright Fellowships: faculty member Audrey Shakespear and graduate student Seph Callaway III.
  • Art students are earning national recognition: J.P. Snyder and Quinn Hunter were honored with the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement Award. 
  • Graduate Nanfu Wang, MA ’12, was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature for her film One Child Nation at the 2019 Sundance Film Fest. 
  • Two School of Music students competed in the NextGen: Voice of Tomorrow national competition hosted by the American Pops Orchestra, founded and directed by School of Music graduate Luke Fraizer, MM ’09.
  • Several School of Dance graduates landed positions in New York City-based dance companies.
  • Seven School of Art + Design alumni have earned Guggenheim fellowships.

Serving our community

  • The work and programming that emerges from the College impacts our campus and our region. A few examples follow: 
  • We offer more than 300 events annually, and many continue to be shared virtually online.
  • Arts for OHIO provides OHIO students with nearly 40,000 free admissions to arts events annually.
  • Several of our public-facing units—the Athena Cinema, the Athens International Film + Video Festival, the Athens Community Music School, the Kennedy Museum of Art, the Marching 110, and our professional theater, Tantrum Theater—provide an artistic lens for the University and in our region. 
  • The College’s new Center for Collaborative Arts leveraged additional opportunities for grant funding and built 101 community and interdisciplinary partnerships. Through the Center, 48 percent of our students participate in meaningful community work that serves 14 counties in the Appalachian region.
  • An Americans for the Arts study cited $24.3 million in economic impact of arts/cultural programming from Athens County, much of which is driven by the College of Fine Arts. 

New curriculum and partnerships

As the College prepares students to become creative problem solvers and agents of positive transformation in the world, we’ve focused on growing our program offerings and partnerships across campus and the region. Examples of new programs and partnerships follow: 

  • We have invested in 12 new academic programs, which has sparked record enrollments for the College of Fine Arts. We are on track to maintain our enrollments this year, despite the nation-wide reduction in higher-education enrollment due to the Coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Our nationally acclaimed Musical Theater program and our undergraduate BFA degree in the School of Film have been rolled out with a great deal of fanfare, with admissions to these programs remaining highly selective.
  • By fall 2020, we will have launched five new one-year master’s degree programs in areas like arts administration, theater education, and community dance, and three new bachelor’s degree programs in art therapy, interior architecture (fully online), and interdisciplinary arts.
  • We’ve built robust partnerships with OHIO’s College of Health Sciences and Professions, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and others in collaborations that demonstrate the power the arts have in addressing and helping to solve persistent societal problems. Projects include efforts in communication and medicine, fine arts in medicine, interdisciplinary design, and addiction recovery. These new partnerships are creating a national model grounded in the important lens that the arts provide. 


The College remains seriously challenged by deferred maintenance costs for our buildings, with nearly 93 percent of undergraduate students studying and creating in spaces that have not seen renovations in at least 40 years. Our significant growth in enrollment due to our new programming is also driving a space shortage. Yet, with a historic $32 million gift from Dr. Violet Patton, BSED ’38, LHD ’11, and a newly created capital and renovations fund, we are building additional partnerships that will financially support the creation of facilities that match the quality of our programming while  meeting the needs of tomorrow’s students.

How you can help

The College of Fine Arts has realized a significant growth in support over the past two years, and for that, and for your support of OHIO’s students through the University’s Bobcats Take Care initiative, I thank you. 

Our challenge is this: We lag far behind our peer institutions and other colleges at OHIO in total financial support. Regarding scholarship dollars, the typical OHIO College of Fine Arts student receives a yearly award between $1,500 and $3,000 to access a College of Fine Arts degree. Your support in scholarship funding truly changes the lives of our students, and your continued support is needed. The College also has a significant need to renew the facilities where our students rehearse, paint, sculpt, print, and develop who they are as artists. We welcome the opportunity to connect with you so that we can share the vision of how reshaped facilities will serve the College’s students, faculty, and staff for generations to come. 

In closing, I thank you for being an advocate for the arts and a supporter of the College of Fine Arts in both calm and stormy waters. Together, we are making a transformational OHIO arts education possible for so many people while creating positive impact in and for our communities through the power of the arts.

We all seek to connect, now more than ever. I welcome the opportunity to learn how you’re doing, what art you are creating in the midst of these times, and, so importantly, how you’re sharing your art with our world in this moment, when it’s most needed. Please reach out and share your art, the work you are doing in the communities where you live, and how the power of that art and that work has transformed lives. I welcome an email, a phone call, or a video chat from you until we can meet again—or for the first time!—in person. 

Please stay healthy, safe, and creative!

Matthew Shaftel, Dean 

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