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Reed College Receives $1.5 Million Mellon Grant to Boost Performing Arts

A major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will enable the college to add faculty and expand academic offerings in theatre, music, and dance.

Portland, OR (September 6, 2007) – Reed College has received a $1.5 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to strengthen its performing arts departments. The grant is to be matched 3:1 by the college’s own fundraising efforts, leading to a total of $6 million in new investment in Reed’s performing arts program over the next several years.

Reed was one of 16 national liberal arts colleges invited to submit proposals to the Mellon Foundation’s “Centers of Excellence” program. Seven schools were selected to receive awards.

Dean of the Faculty Peter Steinberger said that the Mellon grant, combined with the college’s progress toward planning a new performing arts center, will add further momentum to Reed’s broader efforts to enhance performing arts education. “There’s a theory that underlies the entire project,” Steinberger said, “that by putting theatre, dance, and music under one roof, we can encourage the kind of cross-fertilization that we haven’t enjoyed hitherto.”

The college has already raised more than one third of the $4.5 million it will need to solicit from private donors by 2011 to meet the Mellon Foundation’s challenge grant, which, according to Mellon’s funding criteria, is designed to “address a major priority, leading to a long-lasting, positive educational and financial outcome” for the college.

The increased financial support for Reed’s performing arts program coincides with the establishment of a committee to select a theatre consultant and architect for a proposed new multi-million-dollar performing arts center. The facility would provide classroom, rehearsal, workshop, and performance space for all three departments; currently, the performing arts are scattered in antiquated facilities in several locations across the campus.

The academic departments will add new faculty positions, including one FTE (full-time equivalent) position in music, and one half-time FTE each in theatre and dance (specific staffing configurations have yet to be determined). The grant will also support a performing arts librarian position, as well as programmatic improvements in the dance department.

Dance professor Patricia Wong said she is “delighted” with the added staffing. “We hope this will be the beginning of establishing a true dance major at Reed,” she said. “Until now, only joint majors—for instance, in theatre and dance—have been possible because of the limited course offerings in dance.”

Music professor Virginia Hancock ’62 said the small size of the music department has so far limited the number and range of courses. “In recent years,” she said, “as the area of musicology has expanded to include the serious academic study of fields other than classical music, other colleges have begun to offer courses in these non-traditional subjects. Although we don’t yet know in which direction we want to expand, three areas we mentioned in the grant proposal—all of which we think would interest Reed students—are popular music, music and technology, and world music.”

Theatre professor Kathleen Worley said the Mellon grant “will allow the department to provide students interested in design with the level and quality of coursework now enjoyed by those interested in acting, directing, playwriting, and theatre history."

The Mellon Foundation has supported Reed College in the past with grants for faculty development and to further the use of computing in the humanities.