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Calvin Invests in the Arts

March 20, 2024
In fall 2023 the Calvin Theatre Company, now in its 90th season, presented <em>Rumors</em> by Neil Simon.
In fall 2023 the Calvin Theatre Company, now in its 90th season, presented Rumors by Neil Simon.

Driving around Calvin University’s campus, one can clearly see investments being made, from the new soccer stadium to the track, from upgrades to the science building to a major renovation of the library.

But there are also investments being made at Calvin that aren’t as clearly visible—at least from outdoors.

“The investments that Calvin is making in the arts reflect the growth and vibrancy of the arts at Calvin,” said Brent Williams, cochair of visual and performing arts and director of exhibitions at Calvin. “In recent years there have been intentional improvements to our arts facilities, curricula, and student opportunities. These investments have resulted in growing programs and strong communities of arts students.”

One example of this investment is in the theater program, which Noah Toly, provost at Calvin University, says includes an investment in people, places, and programming. The university recently increased the hours of two current faculty and staff members, made a significant technology upgrade to the Lab Theater and the Gezon Auditorium, and made the decision to bring back the theater minor.

Another investment in the arts that Calvin is making is bringing back a reimagined music education program, which was discontinued in 2018.

“Since that time, the music department has received several direct inquiries from high school students and parents looking for a music ed program at a Christian college, particularly at Calvin,” said Brian Bolt, dean of education, who noted that high school choral and band teachers in both public and private schools in the region were asking for the same. 

“This interest comes by way of visits and inquiries but also from faculty who travel to band/orchestra/choral festivals, conduct private lessons, and interact with middle and high school band and choral directors and music teachers.”

But the decision to invest in the arts at Calvin runs deeper than demand.

“The arts are getting a massive investment at Calvin because we treasure them, and they are core to our identity. We not only want them to thrive, but we know we won’t thrive without them,” said Toly.

Toly explained that he knows a vibrant arts program is essential to Calvin’s thriving as a liberal arts university.

“An investment in the arts is a float-all-boats investment,” said Toly. “We rely on the full range of the arts: visual arts, performing arts, and especially ensembles to help us build community and build webs of relationships across the university, including between students who might not have any major classes together. Participants in our arts programming come from all of our majors– – from engineering to English, from philosophy to finance. That’s just one reason I look at an investment in the arts as an investment in the whole community.”

Take the Calvin Theatre Company, for example, where 19 major areas of study are represented by its members. When considering membership in music ensembles, 58 major areas of study are represented.

“The arts at Calvin have only been strengthened from students’ intentionally combining their arts interests with other academic focuses,” said Williams. “The varied interests of students and the creative problem-solving that is cultivated through arts study is strengthening our arts programs and enhancing academic study throughout all of campus.”

“If we are to get ‘liberal arts university’ right, it won't be by doing everything well in its own silo. We have to connect vibrant liberal arts to robust professional and graduate programs and to other aspects of the student experience,” said Toly. “I think these new and revitalized programs reflect that ideal.”