Ohio University works to bring a wide variety of cultural events to campus throughout the year for students and community members to enjoy. These events are one of the many perks of living in the Athens area, but many may not get the opportunity to attend.
The University recognizes that experiencing the performing arts should not be a luxury but, instead, a fundamental part of living on and near a college campus. As a response to barriers such as access to transportation or lack of opportunities in academic programming, OHIO’s Performing Arts and Concert Series developed a number of initiatives to increase access to the arts throughout the community. A boost to these programs came during the 2017-2018 Academic Year, when OHIO began using funds available from the newly endowed Performing Arts in Education Fund.
Part of the programming brings artists to students in various departments across the University through opportunities such as master classes, lectures and visits to student organizations. Opportunities for critique by visiting artists, lectures on the business aspect of the arts and events, such as the recently held Music Industry Summit, are all results of this cross-disciplinary programming. Other initiatives provide regional K-12 students the opportunity to experience the performing arts by bussing students to performances, outreach efforts in the schools and even bringing the performances to the regional schools to avoid interrupting regular curriculum.
The Performing Arts in Education Fund was made possible through a generous gift from an anonymous donor and alumnus of Ohio University. “The gift brings the arts on to our campus and into the community. And as part of the mission of Ohio University is service to our community, the Fund certainly spoke to that,” said Executive Director of Development, University-wide Initiatives Ellen Fultz. It indeed contributes to one of Dr. Nellis’ Strategic Pathways to “Build a University Engagement Ecosystem.”
When meeting with the alumnus, Fultz had “a sense that [the donor] had a passion for music and particularly loved jazz.” As their discussion continued about where Athens is located, the community around Ohio University and the obstacles many students and families face here, the idea for the Performing Arts in Education Fund began to develop.
Last year, OHIO Performing Arts and Concert Series organized 47 outreach activities, and through this programming, they served 7,100 people from K-12 students to university students and community members. Participating regional K-12 schools include Meigs, Athens, Logan, Nelsonville York and Alexander school districts, with more set to take part in the program soon.
As for the community outside of campus, “we don’t want transportation to ever be a barrier for a school or a reason not to attend a cultural arts performance,” said Senior Associate Director for Student Activities Andrew Holzaepfel. “We’re already providing the performances for free, so we don’t want a student not to be able to experience a performance because their school can’t pay the $100 to get them there.” However, sometimes, “bussing is not always the best way to serve a school in the community. When we took project Trio into Meigs and did four different performances in their middle school, more kids could participate by us taking the artists to the school. Each of those kids were out of the curriculum for 40 minutes, as opposed to five hours.”
Lindsay Van Winkle, a music instructor at Alexander Local Schools, recalled an in-school performance by Third Coast Percussion where performers stood at the marimba and played together unlike anything she had seen before, “and the look on [the students’] faces that something that cool could be played on a mallet instrument, it turned the corner for some of them. I think some of them are wanting to explore that more.”
“For me, band is for everybody. I think there’s so many things you learn in band and the arts that are not just musical things. Band is where I learned how to be responsible, how to be organized and that it’s okay to fail at something sometimes and to pick yourself back up,” said Van Winkle. “I talk about those things with parents all the time. I’m not expecting all of my students to go into music as a major. That would be foolish, but there’s definitely things they can learn from being in band just about life.” The Performing Arts in Education programming has an incredible impact on students’ opportunities to strengthen this learning experience as it opens their eyes to opportunities that lie beyond the aspects of music they are already familiar with.
As the Endowment will continue in perpetuity, the University and the surrounding community can expect to see continuing opportunities for access to the arts. Of this lasting impact and far reach, Fultz reflected that “it is one of my favorite gifts I’ve worked on; it just really enriches us all.”
If patrons are interested in contributing to the program, they can do so when purchasing tickets to events through the online ticketing system, just look for the option to add “2018-2019 Yellow Bus Initiative” to the shopping cart to donate $2 or more. The Templeton Blackburn Memorial Auditorium will also accept donations during events and will market the programming in the lobby area to educate all patrons in attendance. Donations can also be made through the Advancement Office in the form of a single donation or through monthly gifts, as well as through specifying the programming when donating through . A few dollars may not seem like much, but 50 donating patrons might equal a bus and, even more valuable, an opportunity to expand the horizons of students of all ages.