School of the Arts is looking over the fence for collaboration


Forrest Wills

Students take part in Donna Grisez-Weber’s Ballet 1 class.

Lizzie Kibler, Arts and Life Editor

From departments to programs, now 900 majors strong and more collaboration opportunities,  the School of the Arts (SOTA) is starting their new legacy at NKU.

SOTA is what the original fine arts departments have become and has been planned since January. Instead of having the departments, they are now programs within SOTA. The programs are music, theater and dance, and visual arts. Each program is specialized on different floors of the Fine Arts building.

Despite each program being separate on different floors, Ken Jones, director of the School of the Arts said that brings the programs closer.

“Before, we were departments, kinda functioning independently,” Jones said. “But now we are one.”

Jones said they were noticing that each program overlapped each other.

“What we found out is that before we were in our own areas,” Jones said. “We started to notice over time that we were doing some things that criss-cross over each other.”

This form of criss-crossing became evident early on and encouraged the formation of SOTA.

“An example is three dimensional sculpture started to have some people do independent studies on puppetry,” Jones said. “But at the same time in theater, we were studying puppetry… so we have the actors here and we have people creating these three dimensional units and we could put those people together.”

There will be an opera collaboration in the spring. The opera had been scheduled before the official School of the Arts was made, but it will demonstrate that collaboration by pulling a music director from theater and using the costumes and scenery. Jones plans to produce a bigger production the following year and bring it to the Corbett Theater while building it into the season.

Other faculty and students are excited for the collaborations.

“We are bringing in a nationally known scenic designer and we’re gonna be performing an opera on her set,” program head of theater and dance, Michael Hatton said.

Outside of the collaborations, Jones also said that the new school will benefit as a whole in other aspects.

“Another reason is to just pull our resources together,” Jones said. “Separately we have small budgets, together we have a larger budget… Separately we have audience attendance… Theater had 22,000 people last year who saw the plays on campus, music had 10,000, and art had about 3,000 in the gallery. Individually, those are good, but together we’re now close to 33-34,000 who came to the NKU for the arts total. Once you put it together, you start to see the benefits of it.”

These collaborations help the students directly and individually as well.

“My statement is that at the School of the Arts at NKU we are training students to be professionals in their art or to use their art in their profession,” Jones said. “If we train somebody who is great at musical theater and goes to broadway, great we did our job… But there’s also those people… Those we are training to use art in their profession may study theater, they may be the best actor in the world, but we’ve had this–they became famous in advertising or they became a pilot or a nurse… And they used theater… Music or used visual arts in that new occupation. That’s just as important to me as the one who wants to become a star.”

The degree will be specific and some students find that to be more helpful.

“It’s going to be more of a specific degree, especially on a resume it’s going to look a little more impressive,” senior BA theater major Anne Schneider said. “So I think it’ll help people in the long run.”

Jones is also interested in the transdisciplinary aspect while reaching out to the rest of the campus. A student learning game design can use digital music and use voice acting for the video, Jones said.

“I’m excited for the collaborations,” junior theater major Courtney Helterbridle said. “It’s kind of nice having all the theater people together… It’s very supportive.”

Another example is that there are plans to work with the planetarium’s shows in the science building. They would utilize actors, live music, and other visual arts. Around Halloween is when the first show should be planned.

Jones also noted that they hope to have dance therapy in the future and other transdisciplinary aspects.

“I think the president has opened that door,” Jones said. “Students and faculty… Now that the walls have fallen and they’re starting to mingle, they’re starting to have ideas together.”

Even more than that, Hatton mentioned how this school has gone outside and into the community more.

“It is imperative that we continue to take our dance troupe and theater troupe… All of these different troupes that we have into the communities,” Hatton said. “And show students that you can go to school for that. Even though they may have their art class taken away from them… They can at least see that people work towards that and can be inspired by that.”

Jones encourages NKU to grow and become that great collaboration school.

“My goal is from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Shores, I want to be the best in the middle of the country,” Jones said. “We’ll leave New York alone and we’ll leave L.A. alone, but in the middle, I want to be the best for a liberal arts college.”