Published: June 1, 2016

Chancellor Art Is All Around Us 

Astronauts, the Mars explorer and our top-ranked physics department instantly pop to mind when people think of CU-Boulder. Do the arts get lost?

No, CU-Boulder is a dynamic, multi-dimensional place, a major public comprehensive research university in which the arts play a powerful role. The Folger Shakespeare Library chose us as the only Colorado stop for its traveling exhibit, “First Folio! The Book That Gave Us Shakespeare.” I consider this an international recognition of the significance of the arts on our campus.

The campus is complementing First Folio! with a summer-long program of 40 exhibitions and events called Shakespeare at CU, but you can’t pin a reputation for the arts on one major exhibit. 

CU-Boulder is a cultural hub: home to three museums, six galleries and the Grammy-winning classical Takács Quartet. It’s a repository for cultural artifacts and a venue for innumerable performances and lectures. More than 380,000 citizens come to campus annually for arts and culture, and of course our students also greatly benefit. 

What are some other cultural “big hits” on campus besides First Folio? 

Here are just a few examples. The CU Museum of Natural History has a remarkable display of ancient tools used to butcher ice-age mammals 13,000 years ago in present-day Boulder. It will be there at least through the summer. 

The Conference on World Affairs in April attracted 20,000 unique attendees and featured a student-sponsored keynote by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is celebrating its 59th summer season on campus. It attracts 30,000 visitors, and its education programs reach tens of thousands of children. 

The Artist Series has been bringing in world-class music and dance performers to campus for 80 years, including cellist Yo-Yo Ma next February. We also offer numerous free performances every year by our highly accomplished faculty and students. 

How are students incorporated into this cultural hub? 

This space doesn’t allow for an exhaustive list, but let me mention that students act alongside the professional theater company in the Shakespeare Festival and student art will be displayed throughout the University Memorial Center this summer. A trio of College of Music programs — Thompson Jazz Studies, Ritter Classical Guitar and Eklund Opera — introduce audiences to the musical leaders of tomorrow and bring worldclass artists to campus for concerts, classes and collaborations. 

On a broader scale, why are the arts important? 

We talk a lot about innovation. But innovation is not just technology. The arts promote innovation by allowing us to think creatively and get outside our own experience. Performing and visual arts are powerful teachers of different cultures,  perspectives, historical interpretations and philosophical discourse. You can’t have a great public university without the arts. 

Illustration by Melinda Josie