Building on an historical commitment to the arts, Wheaton launched a bold new arts venture in the spring of 2003, aiming to enhance every student’s education—and life—by broadening opportunities for exposure to the wide world of the arts. Through the Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program & Arts in the City, leading artists of all kinds—musicians and dancers, painters and sculptors, photographers and printmakers, writers and directors—come to campus for intensive, short-term engagements to work with students and faculty on a variety of projects, including:
- teaching master classes in studio art, music, dance, theatre and creative writing.
- delivering public lectures that involve the entire campus community and area residents.
- creating art works, installations and performances during community residencies.
- guest lecturing in related courses taught in the humanities and the social and natural sciences.
- collaborating with faculty and students on performances, artworks and installations.
- exhibiting in the college’s art galleries or performing on the stage.
- An Obie Award-winning playwright. An accomplished New York City theatre director. A leading fine arts photographer. An established novelist. A widely recorded world music artist. These were among the 33 artists who visited in the program’s first semester alone.
Building the foundation
The Evelyn Danzig Haas ’39 Visiting Artists Program & Arts in the City has dramatically expanded arts opportunities for Wheaton students. The program also underscores the importance of the visual and performing arts as a central element of a rigorous liberal education by raising the profile of the arts on campus. Visiting artists offer students the chance to learn more about living and working in the arts, and can model multiple approaches to careers in the field. Finally, the effort enhances Wheaton’s reputation as the region’s premier home of the arts through programs that are open to area residents.
This exciting program began with a $1 million gift from Evelyn Danzig Haas to complete the college’s $20 million arts building project, which significantly expanded and updated space for the study, practice and performance of the arts. The college also received a $45,000 gift in May 2000 to plan arts program enhancements for the new facilities.
The promise of the visiting artists initiative to transform the arts at Wheaton inspired the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund to award a $600,000 grant and to offer an additional $1 million challenge grant to encourage completion of a campaign for an endowment of at least $4 million. Through additional support from alumni and friends, the college created an endowed fund that will sustain an exciting array of arts and cultural opportunities to enhance arts education at Wheaton.
A source for inspiration
The visiting artists program effectively expands the size of the college’s arts faculty. Artists are chosen not only for the quality of their work and their ability to engage with students, but also for their ability to complement the interests and skills of the college’s arts faculty members, all of whom are distinguished artists as well as excellent educators.
“Inspiring students to reach beyond what they know and to explore new ideas and possibilities is what this program is all about,” said Professor of Fine Arts Andrew Howard, who was the first director of the program.
Most visiting artists engage the campus community during on-site residencies ranging from one day to weeks or months. During their stay on campus, they teach master classes, hold afternoon workshops, give public lectures, exhibit or perform their work, and otherwise immerse themselves in the task of mentoring our students.
In many instances, the artists’ expertise also connects to topics in other disciplines, such as the humanities or social sciences, further broadening the impact of the program.
Extending the reach of the arts
The vibrant art communities in Boston and other nearby cities play important supporting roles in Wheaton’s new arts initiative. Arts in the City helps the college’s students take advantage of the region’s resources by arranging transportation and tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Providence’s Trinity Repertory Theatre, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the dozens of other world-class cultural offerings near the Wheaton campus.