In an era otherwise plagued by budget cuts and deficits, the Center for the Arts will have the good fortune to expand and develop its programming, thanks to a $750,000 performing arts grant awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation over the summer. The grant will be dispensed over the course of four years to foster the CFA’s innovative ventures in the performing arts.

According to the Mellon Foundation’s website, its performing arts grants are awarded to performing arts companies based in the United States that show exceptional leadership in the field. Wesleyan has the additional honor of becoming the first university to be supported by the Mellon Foundation’s Performing Arts program, as generally these grants are awarded to individual companies.

Pam Tatge, the CFA director, suggested that the foundation was particularly drawn to Wesleyan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary education.

“They were really impressed with the notion of integrating artists across the campus,” she said.

For the past five years, the CFA has been partnered with the Center for Creative Research, a program dedicated to uniting artists with the scholastic development of universities.

Wesleyan has a history of giving visiting artists cross-disciplinary opportunities, showing the CFA’s commitment to spreading its wealth of artistic talent across campus. In 2006, the CFA and Wesleyan Faculty partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. The collaboration resulted in a dance production called Ferocious Beauty: Genome, which explored the ethical and social repercussions of genetic research. Eiko Otake, a visiting dance professor, participated in a similarly cross-disciplinary undertaking in 2006 when she co-taught a history course entitled “Japan and the Atomic Bomb.”

One such class being taught this semester is Ecology of Eating: Reporting from the Fields of Science and Art, which is cross-listed between Environmental Studies and Dance.

Other cross-curricular projects on campus include the Feet to the Fire programs during Freshman Orientation, which examine environmental issues from a variety of perspectives. Art is particularly influential during the Common Moment as incoming freshmen learn dances that relate to the environmental theme of the year.

“Feet to the Fire really showed [the Foundation] that this was a campus that was working with artists in interesting ways and could model these ways for other institutions,” said Tatge.

Additionally, Tatge suggested that the Mellon Foundation was impressed by the CFA’s plans for future projects, including the upcoming Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP), which will educate artists, scholars, and performing arts professionals in the methods of curatorial presentation and plans to begin offering a certificate program in the summer of 2011.

The CFA’s press release regarding the Mellon grant stated that the grant money will be used to foster the CFA’s commitment to developing its interdisciplinary programs as well as partially funding the ICPP.

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