The Fine Art of the Liberal Arts
The Tenth Annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts
February 25 - 26, 2011
Given the frequency with which the liberal arts are identified with the fine arts--"You work at a liberal arts college? Is that for art?"--the two can have an uneasy relationship. For one thing, it's a fairly new relationship, at least given the long histories of each. It stretches back just over a century, with the two living quite separate lives for many centuries until then. (For more on this history, click here.) Even after the fine arts came to be seen as part of the liberal arts, separatist pressures continued. Stand-alone institutions for the visual and performing arts, and conservatory-style arrangements within larger institutions continue to be common. Clearly there are challenges to integrating the fine arts into a wider liberal arts context.
That said, the rewards of that integration can be tremendous--for fine arts students themselves as much as for those in the larger liberal arts community. Opportunities for cross-fertilization abound. Fine arts students' specialized skills are rooted in a broader world of ideas. And the interpretive, problem-solving, and creative skills of all students--not to mention their opportunities for enjoyment--are strengthened by their engagement with the fine arts. Clearly this is a relationship worth having.
Faculty members, administrators and artists from around the country gathered at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, February 25 - 26, 2011 for "The Fine Art of the Liberal Arts," the Gaede Institute's tenth annual Conversation on the Liberal Arts. We wrestled with the challenges, and celebrated the promise of integrating the fine arts into a liberal arts education, as we learned how others make this relationship flourish on their campuses.