With classes over and commencement quickly approaching (May 17!), I’ve been wondering how things wrapped up with the Arts & the City Year initiative. To find out, I asked Ty Furman GrE’08, director of University Life Arts Initiatives and a key player in the yearlong initiative. From the highs of the year to what happens next, here’s what he had to say:
What were some of the highlights of Arts & the City Year?
Wow, that really is hard for me to say. Some of the symposia that happened were fantastic, [and] I particularly liked the ones from Penn’s Institute for Urban Research. I really enjoyed the Fall Arts Crawl on Campus (we had 28 participants across the entire campus) and our Arts Ambassadors Program with student ambassadors in all the College Houses and representing all the major activity umbrella organizations. But there were so many fantastic things from many of the different schools: the Law School has a group [called] Penn Law in the Arts that had a speaker in April; the Center for Public Health Initiatives had some amazing programs, including Anna Deavere Smith; and Development and Alumni Relations launched Homecoming Featuring Arts & Culture at Penn.
Did you feel University accomplished what it set out to with A&TCY?
Yes — in fact, I would say we far surpassed expectations. Not only did we have a number of fantastic student-, staff- and faculty-developed programs, but the programs came from all over the University, not just the arts institutions and academic arts programs. The goal was to ‘spotlight Penn’s commitment to knowledge that crosses disciplines and boundaries, while reaffirming the essential role of arts and culture in campus and city life.’ I would say that happened in excess, including ‘reaffirming the essential role of arts and culture in campus and city life.’ Part of what thrills me is that some collaborations and initiatives that began or happened this year will have a long-lasting, positive impact on arts and culture at Penn.
What did the theme year contribute to the Penn community that wasn’t there before?
First, dozens of arts-related programs, including those from the recipients of the arts grants (nearly two dozen) to programs led by the student Arts Ambassadors in the College Houses to faculty-led initiatives like the Theatre Arts program’s production of Tina Howe’s Museum in the Arthur Ross Gallery. All of those programs [utilized] resources that were available specifically because of the theme year. The year also built new collaborations and initiatives that will last, including PennSavers — a benefit to the Penn community as a result of a new relationship Penn has developed with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance — and some new initiatives around marketing and development for the arts and culture institutions at Penn.
How will the spirit of A&TCY continue in September, after a new theme year has begun?
It will indeed continue in some visible and not-so-visible ways. Behind the scenes, the marketing and development initiatives will continue. PennSavers and our relationship with the GPCA will continue. A number of important connections will also continue, including ongoing conversations with Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, the GPCA, Campus Philly, and Temple and Drexel [universities] around developing some specific programs to encourage area college students to connect with the Philadelphia arts and culture scene and help local arts organizations build new audiences through those connections. Finally, we are in the process of determining what other specific programs can continue, and I expect a number will, including the Fall Arts Crawl, Arts Ambassadors, and more.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I am thrilled to be part of an institution that in rocky economic times still believed it was necessary not just to avoid cutting arts and culture programs as many peer institutions did, but instead chose to invest resources to celebrate, highlight, and learn from arts and culture.