Innovation. The act of being “in” the arts is itself an act of innovation – the process of creating something new, or introducing something inherently differ- ent from what has come before. But at Meadows, innovation doesn’t begin with the work students produce in the classroom – it starts at the time they enroll in classes. During 2011-12, Meadows is introducing seven new interdisciplinary minors and planning an additional three. They represent the quest for curricular innovation led by José Antonio Bowen, dean of SMU Meadows School of the Arts for almost six years.
“Universities tend to move slowly, but the pace of change in the workplace and in the general economy has greatly accelerated,” says Bowen. “Innovation is a cultural attribute. My job is to stimulate innovation; that’s the most important thing in any school.” To that end, Bowen dedicated an entire school faculty meeting to conceiving new cross-disciplinary programs. According to him, the faculty did the rest. The result is the following seven new Meadows minors.
The minor in Arts Entrepreneurship exists for students who dream of running their own arts-minded business, teaching them to develop and launch new for-profit and/or nonprofit arts ventures through a six-course program. Along with Arts Management, it is also one of the most buzzed-about curriculum initiatives on SMU’s campus.
“The addition of these new Arts Entrepreneurship and Arts Management minors was critical for the future direction of Meadows,” says Zannie Voss, chair and professor of the Arts Management and Arts Entrepreneurship Division of SMU. “They open students up to the world of career possibilities in management of new and existing arts organizations, most of which had been available only to graduate students up until now.”
Courses in the Arts Entrepreneurship minor cover such topics as Arts Budgeting and Financial Management, Attracting Capital, Interactive Advertising, Social Media Marketing, Introduction to Public Relations and more.
“Most students at the undergraduate level have had exposure to the artistic process, but they’ve never thought about the organizations that produce, exhibit or present art,” Voss says. “They’ve never considered the career of the person on the other side of the negotiating table who is hiring them as an artist, or even the idea of starting a new arts-related venture on their own. These new minors greatly broaden opportunities for our undergraduates, and that’s what makes them so exciting.”
The new Arts Management minor, while frequently associated with the Arts Entrepreneurship minor detailed above, holds its own space in the spectrum of Meadows curricula. “Arts Management teaches students about management of existing arts organizations,” says Voss. “Arts Entrepreneurship, on the other hand, teaches students what they need to know in order to launch their own arts-related venture.”
The Arts Management minor is based on the idea that a successful career in arts management requires a thorough knowledge of contemporary business practices; in other words, the intersection of an understanding of the arts and the practical issues facing today’s arts manager. Courses include Arts Budgeting and Financial Management, Cultural Policy, Philanthropy and Donor Communication, Consumer Behavior, Interactive Advertising, Intro to visual Culture, Media Management, and Film Exhibition and Distribution, among others.
The new Fashion Media minor arose out of two factors: an obvious interest from the student body, and existing courses that fit easily within a fashion media curriculum. “We noticed fashion trend stories and other fashion pieces were appearing frequently in student media,” says Camille Kraeplin, associate professor of journalism and the director of the Fashion Media minor. “And students were landing internships with fashion magazines as well as the PR divisions of major fashion lines. So it was clear that interest in the subject existed.”
The minor, which provides a basic understanding of the role of media professionals in the fashion industry, debuted in the fall of 2011 to immediate success. As of press time, 30 students were enrolled as Fashion Media minors, with another 15 to 20 enrolled but not yet declared.
Coursework for the minor includes journalism, photography, video, art direction, advertising and public relations as they relate to fashion. According to Kraeplin, the curriculum is designed to give students the skills they will need to succeed in either fashion media internships or entry-level positions.
“We hope the program will provide minors with some basic knowledge of both the fashion industry and the somewhat symbiotic relationship between fashion and the media that cover it,” says Kraeplin. “It represents something new and unique–very few universities across the country offer similar programs.”
Performing and Visual Art History
The Performing and visual Art History minor is intended to provide students with a broad multi- disciplinary engagement with the arts in their historical contexts. “Art, theatre, dance and music have always overlapped in culture,” says Melissa Murray, program director and lecturer in the Music Division. “This minor allows students to study the crossroads of these disciplines.”
Students must take six courses in art, art history, dance, film, music and theatre that engage histori- cal approaches to each discipline.
“Performers and directors in their respective fields benefit from a broad knowledge of the other fine arts, not simply their own,” Murray says. “It affects the way an artist approaches the task at hand if broader comprehension of the other fields exists. Thus, this minor directly affects what a performer brings to a role, a part or a work.”
Courses include The Art of Listening, Survey of Music History, Music in World Cultures, Theatre & Drama History, International Film History, American Broadcast History and more.
The new minor in Creative Computation combines theory and methodology from computer science and engineering with aesthetic principles and creative practice from the arts. Highly interdisciplinary, the minor requires students to pursue core coursework in the Lyle School of Engineering as well as in the Meadows School of the Arts. The minor explores computation as a universal creative medium, impacting many other disciplines across the humanities and sciences.
“This is one of the only programs in the country that holistically and rigorously integrates creative practice with computer science and engineering,” says center director Ira greenberg, associate professor and director of the Center of Creative Computation. “All our students not only learn how to write code, but they do so in the context of creative expression. The program prepares students to be creative leaders in today’s information economy.”
Courses include Principles of Computer Science, video Art, Art and Code, Digital Tools, Mobile Phone Application Programming and Physics of Music.
Intermedia Theory and Practice
The new minor in Intermedia Theory and Practice is intended to offer students an opportunity to maximize their creative potential in an increasingly multi-disciplinary environment. Students learn media production techniques combining photography, video, music and creative computation in order to arm them with the skills to pursue and generate new opportunities in the competitive marketplace. “The minor in Intermedia Theory and Practice validates and celebrates an academic interest in diverse media that is often separated by departmental barriers,” says Debora Hunter, associate professor of art and the program’s director.
Courses include Television Ad Production, Documentary and Reality Production, Convergent Media, video Dance Workshop, Advanced Topics in Music Technology and The Art of Acting.
At its core, graphic design embodies the same artistic principle as any other discipline: a creative process undertaken in order to convey a message to an audience. But the pen has been largely replaced with a mouse and the canvas with a comput- er screen, and the result has led many artists and communicators into the lucrative field.
“With this new minor in place, students will be able to engage with the most exciting new developments in visual communications,” says Michael Corris, chair of the Division of Art at Meadows and one of the directors for the graphic design curriculum.
“A variety of courses will introduce students to the latest thinking about designing for a host of media, from print to Internet and other digital, screen-based environments.”
Students who complete the minor will leave Meadows with a design portfolio that includes both print and online collateral material, turning an average advertising major into a triple threat, or making a journalism student stand out from the crowd. According to Corris, perhaps the most important skill of all will be designing for handheld devices like smart phones–an area in which the Meadows program seeks to differentiate itself from similar programs at other universities. “graphic design has been irrevocably altered through the introduction of digital technologies for the production of visual communication media,” Corris says. “But the most revolutionary change of all is the demand for appropriate design solutions for the myriad of handheld, smart communication devices in use today.”
In addition to Professor Corris, program direc- tors for the new minor include Patricia Alvey, Distinguished Chair and director of the Temerlin Advertising Institute, and Ira greenberg, associate professor and director of the Center of Creative Computation. Classes for the new graphic Design minor include Creative Production, Typography, Publication Design and Creative Computation.
Three additional minors are in the planning stages: Social Media and Culture; Songwriting; and Public Relations.
Social Media and Culture
Coursework has been organized into two categories: Theory and Context, and Production and Practice, with classes such as Community Technology and globalization, Technology Reporting, Social Media Marketing and New Media Platforms.
Coursework for the new minor will include Songwriting, Fundamentals of Music and Music Production.
Planned classes include Communication Theory, Consumer Behavior, Advanced Strategic Communications, and Argumentation and Advocacy.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
There is still room at Meadows for more new curriculum. “It’s important that we change and stay current, if for no other reason than that it’s stimulat- ing to everyone,” says Dean Bowen.
“We still teach craft; you won’t get hired because you are a Fashion Media minor, but you will get hired because you are a Fashion Media minor who can write, take great photos and produce videos. We don’t want any of our grads to be too narrow.”