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Letter: Carolina is actively working to advance the arts

To the Editor:

As senior associate dean for fine arts and humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences, I am in the fortunate position of seeing daily how the university, under the leadership of Chancellor Carol Folt and Dean Kevin Guskiewicz, is investing in advancing the arts and the humanities at Carolina.

I would like to address some of the issues raised in an article published April 6 in the Daily Tar Heel that suggested that these disciplines are being neglected at UNC.

Yes, on this historic, 225-year-old campus, we have aging buildings. Their maintenance is systematically being addressed. With regard to the Hanes Art Center roof issue referenced in the article, funds have been allocated to replace the roof, and construction was scheduled to begin this past fall. However, the work was necessarily delayed until the Porthole Alley project, which limited access to the site, was completed. With that project recently wrapped up, the Hanes roof work is scheduled to begin next month. 

We will be welcoming a new faculty member (specializing in photography) to the Department of Art and Art History this fall, funded in part through philanthropy; we’ve just received a $500,000 gift to fund programmatic aspects of the Art program that will enrich the student experience; and an Art Ph.D. student was recently named a Kenan Graduate Fellow, also thanks to a private gift. 

Beyond the Department of Art and Art History, the fine arts at UNC-Chapel Hill have benefited from two transformative gifts that are part of the Campaign for Carolina: the $15 million renovation of Hill Hall, home to the Department of Music, that was completed last year, and the $12 million gift to Dramatic Art and PlayMakers from philanthropist Joan Gillings. (And although the Ackland Art Museum is not part of the College, I would be remiss if I did not note the more than $66 million in gifts it has received.) 

The broader point is that the arts are an essential part of the conversation as university leadership sets the course for the campus over the next decade based on the chancellor’s Blueprint for Next strategic framework. The arts are an important element in our campus makerspaces. The arts and humanities are represented in the “Creativity Hubs” announced by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. Through the Humanities for the Public Good initiative, we are funding our faculty’s and students’ publicly engaged scholarly activity and cultural programming.

Befitting the College’s tag line, Synergy Unleashed, the sum is greater than its parts as we all work together to advance the arts at Carolina.  

Terry Ellen Rhodes

Senior Associate Dean, Fine Arts and Humanities

College of Arts & Sciences

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