The creation of UFV’s new School of Creative Arts, effective May 2019, was approved and passed by UFV Senate this January with little discussion and no opposition. The school is a merger of the recently relocated theatre department and the department of visual arts.
Discussion around forming the school began several years ago from conversations among the creative arts departments, and in 2017 the College of Creative Arts council voted to officially begin plans to create the school.
In June of 2018, the visual arts and theatre departments voted and approved the school nearly unanimously.
The main departments in the merger are visual arts and theatre, but will encompass the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) with its visual arts major and all its minors and extended minors, the Bachelor of Media Arts, and the theatre major.
“The programs that they represent are all the BFA majors and minors, and the disciplines, which range from painting to sculpture to new media, photography, and printmaking,” Dr. Jacqueline Nolte, dean of arts, said. “Other areas include art history, which is its own extended minor, and film, which is small but has an interesting interface with the new media arts degree.”
Heather Davis-Fisch, associate professor of English and theatre, and theatre department head, was part of the team who developed the structure of the school before it was presented to Senate.
After consulting with stakeholders in the two departments and researching the way other interdisciplinary schools in fine arts were structured, the team decided to base the school’s structure on five main areas of consideration: creative practice; critical studies; digital media technologies; equity, human rights, and inclusion; and external engagement.
“It was very important to us that the school provided enhanced opportunities for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary practices, for students, faculty, staff, and the community,” Nolte said.
They also worked to preserve and enhance the unique cultural identity each department and program had, while still creating a structure that would help students within the school have a more flexible study path.
“I’d love to see a foundation creative arts, where they are getting students getting their core competencies and then they move up into the specialized areas, and even as they move into those specialized areas, curriculum committees are sensitive to each other’s requirements, and are not constantly working to try and accommodate certain requirements moving across into other programs,” Nolte said.
With the creation of the school will come the creation of a new director position and the potential for additional class creation, particularly ones that offer students opportunities for cross disciplinary work.
In terms of the theatre department, although the creation of the new school has not resulted in any confirmed plans for a proper stage facilities, as the program had out in Chilliwack, Nolte is optimistic room will be found.
“We made a concerted decision to consolidate an arts presence here in Abbotsford and it was difficult and it is still taking time to recover from that decision,” Nolte said. “It’s going to take a few years for theatre to find its footing again and to grow students’ demand.”
“There is certainly a lot of discussion going on at all levels amongst departments, faculty, campus planning, and administration about how to resolve this.”
Image: UFV Flickr