The recent economic recession has dramatically impacted several industries. While the economy is growing in the midst of recovery, the memory of financial difficulty has left its stain on individuals, families and businesses.

One area was hit particularly hard by the 2008 recession—the arts.

James S. Russell, adjunct professor at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York, wrote in the New York Times last November that investment in the arts is on the rise again, particularly among college campuses.

“Elite campuses across the country have emerged from the recession riding a multibillion-dollar wave of architecturally ambitious arts facilities, even as community arts programs struggle against public indifference,” Russell wrote.

Elon University is no exception. In the past several years, Elon’s campus has made significant strides in promoting the arts, especially when it comes to accommodating students by providing proper facility space.

Michael Fels, associate professor of art, explained one of the most effective changes for immersing students in art has been the construction of Gallery 406 in Arts West.

Gallery 406, which opened in September 2013, was previously an ordinary hallway in the Arts West building.  Now, it is a space used for community events.

When students walk in, they see the various works of art on the wall.  Fels said this sparks intellectual conversation about art.

“Students are in here talking,” he said. “It’s been a great community. It’s changed the culture of what we do.”

The gallery was a gift from Barbara Rhoades, an adjunct assistant professor of fine arts, given in honor of her great-aunt, Katharine Nash Rhoades, and her father, John Harsen Rhoades. The conversion of the hallway to a gallery doubled the space.

This past Monday, the space was used to host printmaker Lisa Bulawsky, an associate professor of art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.  It highlighted some of Bulawsky’s mixed media work, and she spoke to audiences about her growth, development and history as an artist.

But Gallery 406 is not the most recent update for the arts at Elon.  Scott Studios, a building next to Arts West and intended for the performing arts program, opened in September 2014.  Fred Rubeck, chair of the performing arts department, described the two sister buildings as an “arts corner” in a September 2014 interview with the Pendulum. 

Scott Studios includes six practice spaces to accommodate piano and voice students, while also providing a rehearsal space with equivalent dimensions to McCrary Theatre.

“It gives them an appropriate set of spaces,” Rubeck told the Pendulum after Scott Studios first opened in September 2014.  “It will allow us to do different kinds of shows than we would have in the smaller studio.”

While the economy did not impact the arts at Elon as drastically as other college campuses, it did limit which artists were brought to campus.

“It had a definite impact on our access to artists,” Fels said.

Because many artists were struggling financially, those from the West Coast and farther did not want to spend money traveling to Elon.  However, Elon has recently scheduled artists from New York, California and Washington to visit campus.

“That geographic circle is widening,” Fels said.


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