Boldly Elon, the university’s 10-year strategic plan, was released on Feb. 11 and outlined plans for major changes and additions to be made at Elon by 2030. This includes building more residence halls, expanding STEM programs, extending alumni outreach in various cities in the U.S. and adding more funding for athletics programs.
At first glance, this is exciting news that will only make Elon a better learning and working environment for students, faculty and staff. However, it is clear the performing and visual arts departments are left hanging in funding and recognition by the university as a whole.
The performing and visual arts programs at Elon University serve a vital purpose in the university and local community. The lack of performing arts funding aid is very unfortunate because since Elon’s performing arts programs are among the top 30 in the country for training and education, including BFA musical theatre, acting and dance. According to the Elon Performing Arts website, there are approximately 390 students who audition in person every year. This does not include the students who were rejected. That not only enlarges Elon’s applicant pool but also increases the school’s revenue from application fees.
With programs growing and developing over the years through academic and extracurricular changes, the facilities would benefit from being updated as well. As a student who has class in the Center for the Arts, I have witnessed pieces of the ceiling fall during a normal class day. I have seen my friends get sick from spending all of their time rehearsing on the McCrary Theatre Stage, which has problems with mold and dust from its old age. I watch all of the dance and musical theatre majors sitting on the floor of the CFA because there aren’t enough seats for everyone, let alone a common space for everyone to congregate in.
The performing arts faculty also face a lack of space for offices. There are many professors who share their office with other staff members due to overcrowding. There is also a lack of both performing space and adequate-sized dressing rooms backstage in addition to a low ratio of practice rooms to students. As of now, we only have three dance classrooms in the Center for the Arts and one large one in Scott Studios. Many of the dance classes cap out at 12 to 15 people because the dance rooms are small and cannot hold more than that without becoming overcrowded.
It is very upsetting to me that all of these issues were overlooked by the university. There are many changes happening in each program that the university should be supporting in the 2030 Strategic Plan. The musical theatre program is getting three3 to -4four new faculty members for the next academic year. Our curriculum is being updated every year, adding new extracurricular classes. The musicals chosen are catered to what is being showcased on Broadway in 2020. However, we cannot further these changes without the inclusion of the arts in the plan for the next 10, 20 or 30 years.
The Department of Performing Arts puts on three plays, three musicals and three dance concerts every academic year, which attract locals and university students. Not only are the BFA programs recognized by Burlington and the town of Elon, but prestigious magazines and websites, such as Playbill.com and Backstage.com, praise them as well., along with websites that cater to high school seniors applying to college.
Some improvements that would be amazing to see would be more funding to put on Broadway-level productions, a new facility that includes a larger quantity of dance rooms, more offices for our professors who don’t have a space for themselves, a common room for students to congregate in and not interrupt classes, more practice rooms for students and larger classrooms and work rooms for students and faculty. There is a lot that goes into putting on a production, and with the right resources, we can succeed in training and educating. However, this cannot be done if the university fails to recognize these needed improvements in their strategic planning process.
Although I know there won’t be much change or improvement to the performing arts facilities in this new strategic plan, I hope to see the Center for the Arts expand in the future beyond 2030 so music, musical theatre, acting, dance and all performing arts majors have the resources they need to succeed.