There’s a hub on UNLV’s campus where students studying an array of arts disciplines learn to problem solve, think big and transform the local and global community.
It’s the College of Fine Arts — the state’s only college dedicated to the instruction and research of fine arts — and it’s ready to share its story. The college will make its case to Nevada legislators March 6 as part of the first-ever Fine Arts Day at the Legislature.
“We’re a college of research and practice, service, and great teaching,” said Dean Nancy Uscher, who joined the college as its leading administrator almost three years ago.
Uscher, along with other college administrators, faculty members, and students will engage with Nevada state lawmakers as they enter the second month of the 2019 legislative session. The college will share the talents of students and faculty through a variety of music and theater performances, but it will also highlight its focus on practice-led and cross-discipline research, and collaborative relationships with community and global partners.
“The college has grown in so many ways,” Uscher said. “We now have about 3,000 students and a burgeoning list of activities in our college, and it seems to be a wonderful moment to refresh people’s knowledge about what the only College of Fine Arts in the state does.”
Uscher said she’s asking the lawmakers for only one thing: their time.
“We’re asking for the legislators to learn about what it means to be the only College of Fine Arts in Nevada, proudly situated in an R1 research university — a university that’s growing fast with large aspirations,” she said. “We feel that we’re helping the university to fulfill its Top Tier mission.”
Becoming global artist-citizens
The daylong event will feature research poster sessions, performances, visual arts, architecture and Entertainment Engineering and Design exhibitions, committee testimony, and a reception for legislators.
Two UNLV singers will open up the Assembly and state Senate sessions of the Legislature with the National Anthem and Nevada state song. In the afternoon, a panel from the College of Fine Arts will testify to a legislative committee about the college’s growing academic programs and its local, national, and international impact.
“It’s our chance to convey to a group of lawmakers aspects of our college and the ways in which we’re excited to serve the state of Nevada,” Uscher said. “We’re going to try to represent as much as we can about our college.”
Following the committee discussion, the college will host a reception at 5 p.m. where students and faculty will talk with lawmakers about their research and work. There will also be music, theater and dance performances.
The highlights include a musical performance from the Doctoral Woodwind Quintet and a modern-dance performance featuring three students from UNLV’s top-ranked department of Dance. The dance, choreographed by UNLV professor Victoria Baltimore-Dale, is performed to the recorded spoken words of activist Angela Davis.
“This is another opportunity to present their great work,” said Louis Kavouras, chair of the department of Dance. “We thought it was a perfect piece because it’s artistically such a strong dance, but it also has a bit of a political question to it — where we’re looking at a figure like Angela Davis, what she stood for, and how it resonates then and does now.”
It’s the fourth time the dance will be performed, with previous stops in Las Vegas, South Korea and also Ohio — a demonstration of the college’s local, regional, national and international reach. The college has also recently created a passport program, where students can request a small grant for their ticket to explore and learn beyond the U.S.
It’s this intersection of local and global impact that makes UNLV’s College of Fine Arts stand out.
“Much of our work with our students and faculty reaches across the globe,” Uscher said. “Our students will become global artist-citizens. But it’s just as important to share and celebrate what the arts and humanities can do for society right here at home and across the state of Nevada.”
It’s also the intersection of arts and research that brings UNLV closer to Top Tier.
Presenting the arts
At a time where the national conversation seems to focus heavily on the “science,” “technology,” “engineering,” and “math” of STEAM, Uscher, and her colleagues want the state’s lawmakers to see the value behind the “A,” or arts.
“Everything we do in the arts has research connected to it,” Uscher said. “Perhaps that’s not something that is widely understood.”
The college was first established 30 years ago, and over time it has created one-of-a-kind interdisciplinary programs. Just 10 years ago, for example, the college developed one of the world’s only Entertainment Engineering and Design programs — a program spread equally across fine arts and engineering.
“It’s a great example of how we can build knowledge together and offer an incredible opportunity to students,” Uscher said.
The School of Architecture — the only one in the state — is also part of fine arts, and has joined an interdisciplinary team of students and faculty from across campus to compete in the 2020 Solar Decathlon. The team includes representatives from architecture, engineering, business, urban affairs, and communications.
“We’re pulling in all of the different strengths we have,” Uscher said. “We need all of it. We are proud to integrate our expertise.”
Over its 30-year history, the college has also housed southern Nevada’s longest-serving performing arts venue, hosted more than 5 million performance attendees, and created eight curated gallery spaces, including the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art.
The college has a roster of alumni in all 50 states and also boasts a 100 percent job placement record for music education graduates from the School of Music.
These, and other experiences will be shared with Nevada state legislators as the 2019 legislative session ramps up.
“When you really boil it down to what artists are searching for — we’re searching for meanings and questions in life, and we search for it in expression and feeling,” Kavouras said. “I think what’s nice about our ‘Day at the Legislature,’ is that we’re given the opportunity to present the arts, which, I often say, do the most important thing for our society. The arts teach us how to be human.”