Mercyhurst College introduces new Institute for Arts & Culture

Mercyhurst College today announced the formation of the Institute for Arts and Culture (MIAC) that will assume the arts programming accomplished by the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center while integrating a new academic component.

“Like any successful organization, Mercyhurst is always looking to improve and to create opportunities to enhance the student experience,” said Dr. Phil Belfiore, vice president for academic affairs. “As an institution committed to hands-on learning, we saw an opportunity to maintain the same excellent programming that the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center is known for and, at the same time, establish a teaching venue – you could say a laboratory – for those students interested in arts management or theatre tech careers.”

To accommodate those plans, which are still under development, the college created the new Mercyhurst Institute for Arts and Culture. The MIAC director will be required to oversee the planning and execution of artistic and cultural events on campus in coordination with selected faculty and students while teaching and helping to develop a new academic program in arts management, theatre tech or both.

Michael Fuhrman, director of the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center, was asked to apply for the new position but has declined to pursue other opportunities.

“Certainly we are grateful to Michael for his years of service to the college,” said Dr. David Livingston, vice president for advancement. “Michael created the successful cultural series that Mercyhurst has become famous for and he is an excellent professional who knows his industry well. We wish him all the best.”

Belfiore and Livingston agree that the decision to create an arts and culture institute is consistent with the operation of other institutes on campus with which Mercyhurst has enjoyed enormous success. The archaeological institute, the intelligence studies institute, and, new this year, the public health institute – all are focused on providing optimum student learning experiences, which have as their centerpiece a strong experiential learning component.

The new institute will allow students who are interested in careers in the industry to earn credits for their work at venues like the Performing Arts Center, Walker Recital Hall and Taylor Little Theatre.

Another goal, Livingston said, is to create future “patrons of the arts” among Mercyhurst students.

“We are committed to having an increasing number of our students attend cultural series performances,” Livingston said. “We want to work more closely with faculty to engage students in the performances that occur on campus.”

Belfiore gave as an example a faculty member who may teach a course on African-American arts and literature and how bringing famous Blues artist Buddy Guy to campus would afford students the chance to experience firsthand a prominent aspect of African-American culture such as the Blues.

Currently a national search is under way for a new director. Although the college would like to have that individual on staff by Jan. 1, 2012, Livingston said that is unlikely, especially due to teaching obligations that candidates may be under contract to fulfill. Still, he noted, the PAC schedule is set for this year and will continue without interruption.

Fuhrman’s last day, meanwhile, is Dec. 31. He asked to make the following statement:

“It is never easy to leave the place that you love, especially when you have invested 26 years of your life in the same setting. I have greatly benefitted as a student, staff, and administrator at Mercyhurst and I am grateful for all that I have learned and for the opportunity to continually grow and develop. But change and renewal is also part of life and I have come to the conclusion that it is time for me to leave Mercyhurst. I do so with genuine difficultly and with the understanding that the college administration has the right to take any direction it wishes to adopt for the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. But after careful review of this change, I have concluded that I am simply not the right person for the college’s new approach for the D’Angelo Center, which has played a significant role in the cultural life of the Erie community and in many of the lives of Mercyhurst students, faculty and administrators. I wish the college well in their new initiative and look forward to whatever new professional challenges that will emerge in my future.”
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