Vision: A Meadows Manifesto
This is not your ordinary college magazine. Because SMU Meadows School of the Arts is not your ordinary arts or communications school.
We continue to proudly offer one of the most intense and high quality conservatory experiences in the country, but hundreds of other schools in the U.S. make the same claim. Our class size (with an average of seven students per faculty member) remains among the best in the nation, and our faculty, students, ensembles and level of craft are unbeatable.
However, we will never capture the imagination of the market by trying to be the “Juilliard (or insert your favorite rival here) of the South.” Brands are built by having a value proposition that is substantially different from the competition. To that end, we have focused our energy on being both best and first in a number of ways. While maintaining our emphasis on the highest level of craft in all of our disciplines, we also want to be the most innovative arts and communications school in the country.
The best arts and communications students today present educators with a different set of demands because they’ve already been equipped with a substantially different set of tools from previous generations, and their parents recognize that. Our prospective students have three goals: they not only want to be incredible artists and communicators, they want to sustain themselves doing it and change the world in the process.
After taking a long look at our core competencies and the students that seem to do best in our degree programs, it is clear that our curriculum and programs provide distinct opportunities in all three areas of the ideal millennial pursuit. To help students refine their craft, we offer an innovative arts and communications curriculum. We go further than any other school, however, in also daring to teach our students entrepreneurial skills as well as artistic expertise. And finally, we challenge students to make a difference locally and globally by emphasizing the importance of impact and showing them the connection between art, entrepreneurship and change.
At SMU Meadows School of the Arts, we differentiate ourselves from other schools by focusing on teaching: what we teach, how we deliver it and who teaches.
In the last year, Meadows has introduced seven new interdisciplinary minors (page 16). Some of these new subjects are taught in one department at other universities, but at Meadows, one of our strengths is the multiplicity of programs under one roof and getting students to connect and adapt across departments. Fashion Media is one example. This minor is already hugely popular, but we still require that students major in journalism, communications, photography, advertising or one of the other core disciplines in Meadows. Knowing about fashion is not going to get you a job unless you also know how to write well or take beautiful photographs. We also are offering new degrees that include a hybrid of studies: visual arts and engineering (creative computation) and art and advertising (graphic design).
The process by which we teach also varies from the norm. We are serious about “teaching na- ked,” a phrase I coined to encourage professors to use technology (like podcasts and iBooks2) to prepare students for each course session and then use the classroom to focus on what will truly differentiate universities going forward: dialogue and face-to-face interaction between students and faculty. My new book (Teaching naked: How moving technology out of your class- room will improve student learning, Jossey-Bass, 2012) argues that the studio and the way we teach arts should be the model for the future of higher education.
Finally, we have increased the total number of Meadows faculty in the last six years and are extremely proud of the depth and breadth of their talent. In addition to seven new full-time, permanent faculty members brought into the fold this year, we have also added high-profile visitors to our roster like Trey Bowles, an arts entrepreneur best known for his integral role in the launch of the peer-to-peer music file-sharing application Morpheus. Be sure to meet this year’s newest additions on page 6.
The news about jobs is grim, and art schools that only emphasize the importance of craft are being unrealistic and unethical. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates there are 29,040 jobs in performing arts companies, but we have 10 times that many students in the country and the jobs are primarily filled. The deck is stacked against performers who rely on someone else to employ them. But 60 percent of artists will be self-employed, and both national and Meadows data confirm that those who work for themselves are happier, too.
We are the first to create a program to support students who envision themselves launching a gallery, creating a dance company, running a piano studio, starting an agency, doing freelance writing or kicking off an online digital media arts company. Arts entrepreneurs are different because not only are they the head of sales, the director of public relations, the general counsel and the CEO, they are also the product. Artists have to sell themselves and their work con- stantly. So teaching our students how to manage a website, create an elevator pitch, identify funding, blog and build a business plan is our way of employing more artists.
Traditional university arts brochures are full of the most famous alumni as examples of the success achievable via study in their program. However, only 48 percent of graduates from Juilliard work in the arts 10 years after graduation (this includes singing waiters). The number of names you’ve actually heard of is substantially smaller. The vast majority of working artists work locally and work for themselves. The arts are not about celebrity.
The paradigm for measuring success is different at Meadows. We have the courage to be the first arts school in the country to talk about job placement rates. More than achieving fame, we want our alumni to be making a living practicing their craft and we are committed to giving them the tools to do so, even in a volatile economic climate.
Impact is such an important part of what we teach that it is a key word in our mission statement: SMU Meadows School of the Arts educates visionary artists, scholars and arts and communications professionals prepared to create sustainable and transformative impact on both local and global society. In short, we believe that our graduates aren’t filling a position, they are answering a call.
In our new FACE class (see page 36), we are teaching our students the importance of under- standing their environment, assessing the needs and demands they see, and finding a mean- ingful way to transform their practice into a local or global contribution. We are fortunate to be able to share examples of our own work to model for our students, including the creation of the Meadows Prize.
One of our first Meadows Prize recipients was Creative Time, an arts consulting group out of New york. Their work in Dallas resulted in a report that gives us an outline for growth in the arts. Throughout the year, you will hear more from us about initiatives that respond to the challenges set forth by Creative Time and are specifically designed to emphasize impact (including the story on page 10). We are in the very early stages of working with the Cultural Data Project, operated by The Pew Charitable Trusts, and TRg Arts to conduct research and analysis that will help arts organizations across the country. We also will bring to campus several ground- breaking artists whose careers not only intersect with community outreach, but whose artistic concepts fundamentally embrace and depend on their environments.
The new triple threat isn’t singing, acting and dancing; it is being a skilled artist or communicator, knowing how to make money with your craft and having a vision for how to change the world through your work. We are excited to show you how we are helping students meet this challenge through our new magazine, our website and our social media presence and are anxious for you to join us in these spaces.
José Antonio Bowen
Algur H. Meadows Chair and Professor of Music