School Of Performance, Visualization And Fine Arts Celebrates First Anniversary
The School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts opened its doors a year ago, aiming to provide a new emphasis on the intersection of arts and technology at Texas A&M University. By bringing together three programs — Dance Science, Performance Studies and Visualization — the school has created a foundation in which the arts can flourish on campus like never before.
As the school celebrates its first anniversary this month, the spirit of innovation and expansion is strong, according to Tim McLaughlin, interim dean.
“The range of accomplishments in this first year, setting the stage for our future growth, has been incredible to see,” he said. “I’ve been involved in many big projects in my career, both in industry and at this university, but I’ve never been a part of such sustained commitment to a vision over such a wide range of initiatives. The level of enthusiasm and support on campus, from our alumni and our community, has sent a clear message that this school is doing things A&M needs, and we’re doing it at the right time.”
Growth has been a constant within the new school. Plans for a new building to house the school are in the works, in addition to discussions about an official home for Texas A&M esports. The Texas Legislature appropriated $25 million to launch the Virtual Production Institute, housed in the new school with facilities and programs both on the main campus in Bryan-College Station and at Texas A&M-Fort Worth. The school is developing extensions of its academic, research and creative works programs for the Fort Worth campus as well.
Student enrollment is up in Year Two, according to early fall numbers, as is staffing. Sixty-three faculty members were on board in fall 2022. That has increased to 76 a year later. Eleven staff members were present at the start, and that number has jumped to 23. The number of support staff members from other university divisions has increased from four to 14.
McLaughlin recently brought new faculty and staff members hired in the past year onstage during an all-school meeting at Geren Auditorium to illustrate the school’s swift growth.
“It felt like there were as many new faculty and staff onstage as there were original members from a year ago still seated,” he said. “I think everyone, new and old, was surprised at the scale of growth and the energy that’s come with it.”
The curriculum has expanded as well. Additional undergraduate and graduate degrees are being developed. A Bachelor of Science degree in Dance Science was recently approved, providing more focus on dance education and wellness, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Six new minors — choreography, dance performance, devised theatre, graphic design, music technology and studio art — have been introduced, joining film and media studies, game design and development, and performance studies.
The school brought numerous events to campus and the Bryan-College Station community in Year One, including Venture, a week of performances in the Rudder complex in April.
From Dance Science came performances at Lights On! in Downtown Bryan, along with the Brazos Contemporary Dance Festival, a senior capstone event and the annual Perpetual Motion concert, which was held at Rudder Auditorium for the first time.
Performance Studies events included “Rhinoceros,” a theatrical production that was a collaboration with Blinn-Bryan Theatre Troupe. The program worked with Aggie ACHIEVE on two improvisational workshops and events. Students in music composition classes starred in an electronic showcase at Rudder Theatre. And a weeklong residency by electronic musician Zoë Nowak culminated in an interdisciplinary performance that included dance and creative visualization elements.
The Visualization program showcased students’ art, animation, game development and virtual reality projects through its Viz Fall Show at Geren Auditorium and the annual Viz-a-GoGo spring event at Rudder Theatre. The annual Chillennium game jam brought more than 200 students from 24 schools around the country. And a new addition — an Igloo Cylinder, donated by ExxonMobil — created the opportunity for the school’s programs to collaborate on innovative visual performances with its 360-degree screen.
Events are plentiful for Year Two, including the Brazos Contemporary Dance Festival Sept. 8-9. Concerts, screenings and festivals round out the fall schedule. Get more information at the school’s event calendar.
“While the progress made in Year One is amazing to see, it’s just a start,” McLaughlin said. “The school has a six-year growth plan for faculty, staff and academic programs, along with an eight-year enrollment growth plan. The students in elementary and middle school right now, and our industry and arts practice partners in emerging fields, are the luckiest around as they’ll get to take full advantage in a few years of what we’re building today.”