“What excites me most about the new School of the Arts is the opportunity for collaboration among a diverse array of artistic disciplines,” explained Ben Wieland, a senior creative writing major. “As a student of creative writing, I have found the combination of the theatre, film and creative writing departments allows for a wider focus on the art of narrative storytelling. Having a larger group of creative peers with a bigger variety of artistic influences can only make us better as striving storytellers.”
The idea for a School of the Arts was first broached by a diverse group of arts faculty in 2016 in response to a rapidly changing culture for working artists in the Treasure Valley and beyond. The new school will strengthen arts education, thus better preparing students who aspire to be professional artists by allowing them to take trans-disciplinary classes to fit their major’s core requirements. It also will act as a dedicated entity to support, facilitate, publicize and provide diverse arts opportunities for students and the greater Treasure Valley.
“Data shows that students’ chances of sustaining an artistic career are better if they can cross disciplines and economic sectors,” explained Leslie Durham, who will act as director of the new school while continuing to serve as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“We are giving our students opportunities to develop a broad set of artistic skills that can fuel creativity throughout their lives.”
– Leslie Durham
“We view it as an incubator for new programs, for new collaborative efforts, for establishing common networks of communication, scheduling, classes and events,” said Richard Klautsch, chair of the creative writing and theatre department. “Theatre majors who want to someday write plays can take creative writing classes; musicians who are interested in theatre can take acting classes.”
A good example of this incubator model is the Narrative TV Initiative, a multi-semester undergraduate project that combined classes in television writing with acting and producing.
“Because of this project I have gotten film acting experience, I have met several writers and directors, all of which I have grown from as an actor,” said junior theatre arts major Kelly Barker. “Acting wouldn’t be a sustainable career without writers, and writers of television, movies and plays would not be able to see their creativity realized without actors. It is truly a symbiotic relationship. I would have never met these amazing artists without this merge, and after all without collaboration art might not exist!”
“Witnessing such a rigorous and ambitious project take form through the work of multiple departments has been probably the most educational experience for me at Boise State,” said Wieland, who also participated in the project. “From the writers’ room class last fall and the preproduction course in the spring, to the three-week summer session of principal photography and the editing class this current semester, there has simply been no substitute to being a part of the production process itself.”
“What we’ve learned is that it’s important for students to feel like they have a cohort of creative peers across campus,” said Linda Kline, chair of the music department.
“Performative aspects of the visual arts discipline have great ties to theatre and theatre history; we have ideas circulating about classes in digital and electronic arts that could incorporate both the music department and our art department, different possibilities we haven’t had the chance to delve into without this kind of support,” said Kathleen Keys, chair of the art department.
The new school also will be home to a future bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of fine arts (BFA) degree in creative writing, and could one day boast classes in subjects like musical theatre, digital and electronic arts, and even an arts entrepreneurship program.
“Boise State has never had an actual creative writing bachelor’s degree, and we’re stoked about it. There are only thirty BFAs in creative writing in the entire country. We’ll be the thirty-first.”
– Mitch Wieland, director of the creative writing program
The School of the Arts follows a university-wide trend at Boise State of rethinking how education is packaged to students, from the College of Innovation and Design’s push to be an incubator of ideas to the School of Public Service’s dissolution of traditional college departments in favor of a broad structure that allows faculty and students to easily move between subjects within the school.
However, some aspects of the School of the Arts will conform to the traditional frameworks found on campus: the school will remain in the College of Arts and Sciences, departments will remain intact, and each department will retain a chair to oversee its day-to-day functions, as well as help orchestrate collaborations with other departments. But many possibilities about the school’s future have yet to be defined, noted Durham.
“Over the next year, there will be a lot of heavy lifting done by faculty in all departments to find out where new opportunities are for collaboration and how we capitalize on them,” Durham said. “We’re committed to building this into something that works well for students, and makes them better prepared for the arts world they’re going to enter into.”