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into the limelight image

But why now? “With the cutback of arts support by governments at every level,” explains President Colin Diver, “universities and colleges are becoming increasingly the repositories of our civilization’s artistic heritage.” Inside Higher Ed recently published “A Call to Arts,” an article identifying a trend toward bolstering arts programs to make up for government shortcomings. Even MIT now boasts a reputable arts curriculum.

Public funding may be down, but nationally, interest in the visual and performing arts is waxing. The number of high school students hoping to major in these fields is up 44 percent from 1996 to 2005, according to College Board data compiled by the Art & Science Group. At Reed, even non-majors have a huge extracurricular investment in the performing arts. Dean of Admission Paul Marthers (MALS ’06) says, “I read every application and a large number of the really strong kids we’re admitting are significantly involved in music and/or theatre. If we were to run stats, music and theatre would be in the top-five most common extracurricular activities among prospective students.”

Among Reed’s peer institutions, much has been done recently to meet new demands for state-of-the-art performing and fine arts facilities. Wellesley, Pomona, and Grinnell have all updated their facilities in the past 15 years. Macalester College is currently raising funds for a $60 million renovation of the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.

And yet one can hardly describe Reed’s plan to improve its performing arts facilities as a hop on the bandwagon. The journey leading up to this leap was almost a century long.

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red burning light

Tarah Dougherty ’09 prepares for the role of Ornithoptera Paradisea I (a butterfly) in the spring production of Maria Irene Fornes’ Red Burning Light, directed by theatre professor Craig Clinton.