Higher education and the performing arts
When I became President of DCU in 2000, I was immediately drawn into the world of Ireland’s performing arts in various unexpected ways. Construction for the Helix, which was to be North Dublin’s main cultural centre, had begun in earnest, but we were all perhaps a little unprepared for the task of running it and making it pay (or at least not siphon off money from the rest of the system). I was also asked to join the board of the National Chamber Choir; and almost at once I was also having to grapple with the government’s then plans to establish an Irish Academy for the Performing Arts based in (but not integrated into) DCU.
At that time my experience of the performing arts was as a member of the audience. What struck me early on, however, was that the performing arts (like sport) should be playing a huge role in the university’s life; but what also struck me was that we were all fairly ignorant about how the arts work.
In Ireland there are performing arts programmes in at least four higher education institutions, whole others (including DCU) have been playing a leading role in supporting performers and performing groups in practice. In DCU, apart from the National Chamber Choir, this includes Classic Stage Ireland and all the things that go on in the Helix. Quite apart from the inherent intrinsic merit of drama, music and dance, the performing arts use techniques and encourage attitudes that are eminently transferable to other contexts including management.
Right now provision and support for the performing arts in higher education is scattered around the country and is uncoordinated. This slightly chaotic scene has produced significant uncertainty about future funding, about higher education infrastructure for the arts, and about the future of performing arts-focused institutions such the Royal Irish Academy of Music (RIAM, with degrees validated by DCU) or the Gaiety School of Acting.
The arts are also part of what makes a country attractive to investors. To maximise their impact, the current higher education providers of arts programmes or activities should at their own initiative coordinate their efforts much more and offer shared programmes. It is an area that needs to be taken much more seriously.Explore posts in the same categories: culture, higher education, university comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.