Provost endorses a revised Cornell Council for the Arts

October 22, 2010

Cornell University Provost Kent Fuchs endorsed a committee report Oct. 20 recommending significant changes to the Cornell Council for the Arts (CCA). The provost's decision caps a lengthy review of the university's centrally funded arts organization that involved two committees and took more than two years. The most recent committee was chaired by Kent Kleinman, dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, and included representatives of the arts from the contract and endowed colleges and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art.

In his endorsement, Fuchs embraced the arts "as a principal mode of inquiry and knowledge production, and therefore ... a full partner in the core mission of Cornell University."

The committee recommended broad changes to the CCA's mission, organization, and focus. The report notes that the goal of the CCA should be to "position Cornell as a significant locus of art discourse at a high level of excellence" and to "provide a highly visible profile for the arts on campus." A central recommendation of the report is for the CCA to organize a "thematically unified, annual art event of significant ambition and scale" which would be accompanied by "multiple academic programs to enable broad student and faculty participation ... to galvanize, challenge and engage the Cornell campus with regular, intense recurring events." The report calls for a simplified administrative structure, replacing the existing four committees comprising several dozen faculty members with one coordination committee.

According to the report, the CCA's current operations have a high degree of complexity and high overhead costs. For example, the CCA small-grants program, perhaps the organization's best-known activity, currently allots slightly more than one-third of its funds to faculty and students, amounts that could be distributed in more effective ways.

In embracing the report, Fuchs has decided that two important university-wide honors currently administered by the CCA — the Undergraduate Artist of the Year and the Eissner Artist of the Year — will continue to be awarded. The small-grants program will also continue with central funding for two years, after which the academic units will be expected to support student and faculty projects in the arts.

To facilitate the report's recommendations, Fuchs announced a 28 percent increase in the CCA base budget, from $175,000 to $225,000, and $68,000 per year for two years to support the small-grants program. He has asked Kleinman to serve as lead dean for the CCA, and Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs John Siliciano to provide oversight from the Office of the Provost.

"In four years the Office of the Provost will review the CCA to see how this new model is working. In the interim, I look forward to experiencing an increased presence for the arts on campus," said Fuchs.

By Susan Kelley

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