by Marci Janas

How do we prepare for the new interdisciplinary models made possible by technology?
How do we study them? Critique them? Interpret them? What aesthetics do we apply to them?
What ethics? These are the issues the Luce scholar will need to address

A prestigious grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, providing up to $1 million in support, has been awarded to Oberlin College. The grant will fund a new professorship - the Henry R. Luce Professorship in the Emerging Arts - for six years; thereafter it is renewable for up to three years. A national search committee, convened by President Dye, will select the Luce Professor during 1999.

The scholar chosen to be the Henry R. Luce Professor in the Emerging Arts will develop and teach new interdisciplinary courses designed to provide a theoretical framework for the emerging arts; conduct seminars for faculty from the various art disciplines and the humanities, with the goal of developing a shared understanding of and curricula for the new interdisciplinary arts courses; and strengthen the arts community at Oberlin by identifying talented emerging artists and providing an intellectual context for their work.

"The Luce Professorship will enable Oberlin faculty and students to lead in the creation of a new artistic language for the 21st century," said Karen Wolff, former dean of the Conservatory. "This language will reflect the converging styles, cultures, art forms and technologies of our time. The prospects are very exciting."

The need for the "new artistic language" to which Wolff refers is a direct result of the rapidly shifting influence advancing technology has had upon the arts. Oberlin's proposal to the Luce Foundation explained that the proliferation of digital imagery, computer-generated sound, audio clips and video footage presents the public with aesthetic experiences as startlingly new to us as the introduction of photography and sound were to those living in the nineteenth century.

"Just as the camera reinvented the way we think and see, and proposed new standards for what we see as reality," said Professor of Art William Hood, "so, too, film and video have made it possible for visual artists to use modes of seeing that are simply unprecedented in the world's art because they are time-based without being captives of real time."

The Luce Grant proposal was created by a committee of College and Conservatory faculty and staff chaired by David Love, Associate Vice President for Research and Development. Committee members spanned the campus: Clayton Koppes, dean of the Arts and Sciences, Art (William Hood and Lynn Lukkas), Conservatory (Richard Povall and former dean Wolff), Philosophy (Norman Care) and Director of Foundation and Corporate Support Pamela Snyder. A visit to campus by representatives of the Luce Foundation featured discussions with students active in interdisciplinary arts creation and performances, and with faculty and staff.

Oberlin is one of only two colleges in the United States awarded the grant from the Luce Professorship Program in 1998. The program, established in 1969, encourages academic innovation and creativity through integrative and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and research in American private higher education.

Clayton Koppes said Oberlin is ideally suited for the position "because of its rich traditions of arts education. The Conservatory, the rich and diverse arts programs in the College and the more than 11,000 objects in the Allen Memorial Art Museum's superb permanent collection will provide a fertile training ground for these emerging arts. Oberlin will be an extraordinary laboratory for the scholar selected to be the Luce Professor."

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