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For the Love of The Arts

USF Dean James Moy is on a mission to help the world discover the hidden gem that is the College of The Arts.

By Barbara Melendez
      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Dec. 17, 2014) – With every step he takes, Dean James Moy is focused on bringing broader national and international visibility to USF’s College of The Arts. And his steps are plentiful of late. He has travelled to London, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Italy, Hong Kong and China.

In each case, he shares his message, that CoTA is something of a hidden gem with its award-winning faculty and students, groundbreaking art exhibitions and theatre productions, concerts, architecture lectures series, dance performances, state-of-the art courses and ongoing research and innovation. He’s on hand to check in on most events on each semester’s full and engaging calendar of more than 300 events annually, even as he crisscrosses the globe.

Moy’s mission to get the word out is being played out in the best of times and the worst of times.

Education budgets are getting smaller everywhere with states contributing smaller percentages to colleges and universities. Yet at the same time arts education is finally getting its due recognition for its value in the marketplace.

Arts education contributed $104 billion in economic output to the U.S. economy, right behind advertising’s creative services at $199 billion, and added $7.6 billion to the nation’s GDP, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts in 2011.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an article titled “Who Knew? Arts Education Fuels the Economy,” reported a noteworthy finding: “For every dollar consumers spend on arts education, an additional 56 cents is generated elsewhere in the U.S. economy,” and that “arts education as an industry employed 17,900 workers whose salaries and wages totaled $5.9-billion.”

Moy is prepared to tackle both sides of this equation – the public’s desire to learn and the university’s need to be able to provide the courses.

The Arts as Profession and Passion

“It’s time to move more rapidly to a variety of ways to deliver learning, including online learning in order to realize tuition from larger sectors in ways that we can do that no one else can do,” Moy says. He points to workshop facilities that can be used to provide certificate courses that teach hands-on skill sets needed by employers. He spearheaded a successful project formulated with a company in Canada that taught metal and welding skills with the machinery used by sculptors which benefitted all concerned.

“We are looking around for ways to prepare students for jobs,” Moy said. Acknowledging that not everyone who receives arts training pursues arts careers, he added, “If this country wants an innovative workforce, it can look to the creative problem-solving and communication skills that come from studying the arts.

“Costume design and art history have roles beyond the museum and the stage. The aesthetic, technical and industrial applications of an arts education provide dramatically different perspectives to enhance a variety of work environments.”

Moy points out that students of all ages want to explore their artistic sides whether or not they ultimately make their livings as artists. The financial and career outcomes of people who have received formal arts education is being investigated by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, which is starting to compile survey data. Rather than limit the study to working artists, the project will look at all the other fields they have entered.

With this in mind, Moy is encouraging everyone to think “entrepreneurial” to supplement and augment shrinking budgets.

“A lot has to do with Responsibility Centered Management budgeting (RCM) – finding sources other than state allocations, which are shrinking everywhere, not just in Florida,” he said.

And with an eye toward diversifying the faculty, Moy is looking for ways to promote interdisciplinary studies (see side bar).

Discovery of the Artistic Side of Life

How did Moy, a former pre-med student, end up in the arts, as a leader?

The shapes he discovered through an electron microscope at the University of Illinois where he worked for a developmental geneticist opened his eyes to something unexpected.

“I saw the beauty in single beams of electrons,” he said. “I loved the images and got up the nerve to change my major. I considered art a great calling.”

Then after considering becoming a fine artist, he “broadened” his palette to become a performance artist. This journey took him to the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s in theater. He expanded his horizons further by earning a doctorate in cultural studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Travel broadened him still further. Moy has lived and worked in Toronto, Halifax, New Mexico, Oregon and Hong Kong.

Since joining USF more than two years ago, what has impressed him most about CoTA is “the strong units all across the school, nationally prominent programs” that he seeks to fortify. So it’s easy for him to talk up and introduce what he describes as this “well-kept secret” every chance he gets. One place he gets to do that is in the United Kingdom every six years.

Valuable Experience with Research

Moy serves as an assessment panelist in the Research Excellence Framework (formerly RAE) project. Used across the United Kingdom and Asia and former Commonwealth countries, this body analyzes the impact of research invested in various sectors every six years. There are almost 100 panels. He serves on the panel that reviews the visual arts, performing arts and communication arts. Future research funding for the institutions reviewed depends on the assessment of the quality of past outcomes institution-wide.

The process “becomes a way of thinking,” he said, as a “way of marking the strength of the impact of the allocation of billions in research money.” The panelists look at functionality and whether or not the research produces results “worthy of global exposure” as well as providing “accountability for public investment in research and produces evidence of the benefits of this investment.

As we’ve all become aware, rapid advances in technology, shifts in geopolitical power and radical repositioning of finanacial markets contribute to the reordering of global imperatives. In this context, how do we find a successful trajectory for the arts? I believe these international panelists and others like them around the world are charged with the responsibility for determining the future of our profession and the future of the arts in education overall.”

Having reviewed thousands of projects over the years, Moy makes himself available to serve as an invaluable resource to his colleagues at USF as they develop research projects in search of funding. With his artistic and practical experience, Moy is always looking for ways for artists of all disciplines to “find dynamic synergies – not just making pretty things – but rather helping to solve problems in the world – to foster and push creativity” toward ends that will ensure their works’ “continued relevance to life,” he said.

New ways interest him.

“Orthodoxy and intolerance together constitute a sure road to obsolescence and irrelevance,” Moy asserts. “Imagination is more important than knowledge as it helps us access innovative ideas. The advantage the College of The Arts has to offer is that it forces everyone to think larger and differently.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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