An integral part of Fairfield University’s mission is to promote the development of the whole person as encapsulated in the Jesuit principle cura personalis. Ensuring that the student is holistically educated in the liberal Jesuit tradition is a foundational underpinning of the Fairfield academic experience.
Beginning on July 1, 2023, at the appointment of Dean Richard Greenwald, Ph.D., Art History Professor Katherine Schwab Ph.D. founded the Arts Institute Steering Committee with the goal of harnessing input from faculty, staff and students to promote Fairfield University’s efforts to further expose students to the arts.
Within the College of Arts and Sciences, there are five institutes, each of which focuses on supporting a distinct area of academia through the provision of grants, the expansion of academic opportunities and the cultivation of an increased interest in learning. The Arts Institute Steering Committee is the fifth of these institutes housed within the College of Arts and Sciences.
The structure of the steering committee includes an executive committee composed of permanent faculty members, two-year memberships extended to faculty in a variety of artistic fields who work alongside the executive branch, and one-year memberships for students passionate about extending the influence of the arts on campus.
As the chair of the Institute, Dr. Schwab expresses the distinct desire to cultivate within students an appreciation for the arts that will remain with them after graduation.
She states, “We want students at Fairfield to look at the arts as essential to them no matter their major or desired career.”
Art, Dr. Schwab expresses, has been an essential part of the human experience since the beginning of humanity. It has been a way to communicate for thousands of years prior to the invention of writing. The importance of art cannot be understated, yet Dr. Schwab recognizes that the greatest hurdle to overcome is helping students understand that art ought to be a part of their college experience.
She recognizes that “students are so busy managing their college workload, but if we can carve out a designated hour every couple of weeks to give students a new artistic experience, that would be so exciting.”
Dr. Schwab hopes that this semester will see the finalization and approval of bylaws that will expand grant-making opportunities for faculty seeking to further integrate the arts into their curriculum. These arts fall under three broad categories: visual arts, performing arts and literary arts including screenwriting, prose and film.
To ensure that the Institute’s vision is aligned with student interests, the committee is structured in a way that gives students, who are passionate about the arts, the opportunity to contribute to the voting process on a rotational basis.
When Dr. Schwab began her research to establish the Arts Institute Steering Committee, she realized that no current institutes included opportunities for regular student mentorship.
“If we are to engage students more, why should we not include them in the decision-making process?” Dr. Schwab considered.
This provides a unique opportunity for students to make meaningful contributions to the promotion of arts on campus and better engage the broader Fairfield community.
Dr. Schwab emphasizes three core mantras that have helped to frame the Arts Institute Steering Committee. Most importantly, she wants students to know that Fairfield offers events of the highest artistic quality right here on campus.
For those looking to explore the arts outside of the classroom, there exists a wide breadth of opportunities to do so.
Additionally, curiosity is the perfect place to start. The variety of events centered around the arts allows students to engage at their own pace. Events are offered regularly, and students may choose to engage in whatever topics pique their interest.
Lastly, the more that faculty can help provide information about the arts to students in class, the more they will grow. Oftentimes, students are unaware of events being held until it is advertised by a professor. Through the development of grants and research opportunities for faculty, Fairfield staff will be better equipped to disseminate information to students about events that may be of interest.
The Fairfield University Art Museum is free and always open to the student body. A new exhibition will be open on Sept. 28, and it features work from Polish-American artist and advocate for human rights, Arthur Szyk. For students looking to get involved with the culture of art on campus, this exhibit is the perfect place to start.