Art for Art’s sake?

“In an Era of Campus Cutbacks, Performing-Arts Centers Keep Going Up”

A hugely encouraging story in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the fact that institutions are still building arts centres, depsite the financial climate:

Wonkhe Drama masksIt’s an irony Shakespeare could write a play around: Officials of California State University at Northridge spent 10 years planning a $125-million performing-arts center and figuring out how to pay for it—securing more than $60-million in capital-projects money from the state and raising millions more from gifts and grants. They pleaded with donors and local politicians to make up shortfalls and promised anxious students that none of the money would come from their pockets. It wouldn’t be a surprise to hear that the project’s biggest backer, President Jolene M. Koester, had checked between the sofa cushions in her office for loose change.

Finally Northridge scheduled the opening gala for late January, only to have it take place just two weeks after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed slashing $1.4-billion from state support for higher education. This month Joan Rivers, Kiri Te Kanawa, Ed Asner, and Roseanne Cash are performing in the 1,700-seat main hall, and a student production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running in the black-box theater—while across the campus, students stage protests against fee increases and program cuts that the university says will be necessary because of the state’s revenue shortfall.

It might be argued that perhaps the example quoted here represented a slightly unwise investment at a time of significant cuts. On the other hand the value of the venue to campus and community life will be significant and it represents a long term benefit to the institution. Let’s hope everyone sees it that way.

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