Arts broaden engagement on campus

As much about interdisciplinary learning as performances and visual arts programs, Virginia Tech Arts represents the university’s strategic commitment to increase the presence and practice of the arts on campus.

An alumni group tours the new Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech. An alumni group tours the new Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, a key component of the university's strategic plan for the arts.

Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger made his commitment to the arts clear with his 2000 inauguration address. In 2005, Steger tapped Minnis Ridenour, Senior Fellow for resource development, to lead the initiative by developing strategies to enhance the arts and guiding the effort to construct a new arts center. Additionally, the university renovated Henderson Hall to support academic programs in visual and performing arts and built Theatre 101, a state-of-the-art black box performance laboratory, both of which opened in 2009.

That same year the university established an arts policy board chaired by Senior Vice President and Provost Mark McNamee. The board oversees the university’s Arts Strategic Plan and provides resources and support to other arts programs and issues on campus.

“Virginia Tech Arts, led by the arts policy board, encompasses all efforts within departments and colleges, interdisciplinary initiatives, and university-level programs to expand creative practice and support interdisciplinary learning, engagement, and discovery through the arts,” said Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts and executive director of the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech.

Waalkes joined Virginia Tech in 2009 to lead the center, the cornerstone project of the arts initiative set to open in fall 2013. She now is responsible for setting strategic direction and creating programmatic priorities for the university’s arts initiatives, as well as leading the overall development, artistic programming, and operations of the center. She handpicked programs and engagement activities for the 2013-14 inaugural season of the center with the goal of increasing participation in the arts across diverse forms, cultures, and ideas.

“Virginia Tech is a premier research university, and research is a major component of Virginia Tech Arts,” McNamee said. “We recognize the transformative power of the arts, particularly when we explore the intersections between creativity and learning. While this is embedded in everything we do, the university now has in the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology, a research institute dedicated to merging transdisciplinary research, art, educational innovation, and scientific discovery.”


The Center for the Arts performance hall Virginia Tech named the performance hall in honor of two couples, Nicholas and Fay Street and William C. "Jack" and Sandra Davis, in recognition of their philanthropic support of the center's construction.

The Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology is Virginia Tech’s newest university-level research institute and is partnered with the Center for the Arts. Its goal is to blend the arts, design, engineering, and sciences to foster the creative process and create new possibilities for exploration and expression.

Virginia Tech’s academic programs are part of Virginia Tech Arts, too. The School of Performing Arts in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences brings together the Department of Music and the Department of Theatre and Cinema and offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in music, theatre arts, and communication while encouraging students to seek out and develop interdisciplinary performing arts pursuits.

The College of Architecture and Urban Studies is home to the School of Visual Arts, which offers programs in art history and studio arts, with concentrations in visual communication design and graphic design, creative technologies, 3-D animation, modeling, painting, ceramics, animation, and sculpture.

“All of our programs are working collaboratively to expand creative practice across disciplines,” Waalkes said. “With the formalization of Virginia Tech Arts and the arts policy board, the creation of an associate provost for the arts position, the launching of a major arts facility and presenting program, and the founding of a university-level research institute focused on creativity, President Steger has achieved the goal of leading Virginia Tech into a new era, becoming a multidimensional, comprehensive university.”

  • For more information on this topic, contact Susan Bland at 540-231-1986.

Video: Center for the Arts nears completion

    Center for the Arts construction

Ruth Waalkes, executive director of the Center for the Arts, gives a behind-the-scenes tour of the new facility in April 2013.

Center unveils 2013-14 performances

    Ballet Hispanico

The 2013-14 inaugural season in the Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech includes performers such as the Philip Glass Ensemble, Ballet Hispanico, the Crooked Road Festival, and violinist Joshua Bell, just to name a few.

For information on other performances planned on campus, visit the following links:

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    Spotlight on achievement

This picture of the exterior of the Center for the Arts by Mike Diersing was created using high-dynamic range (HDR) imaging. The technique exaggerates a picture's contrast for artistic effect. See a slideshow of other HDR images from the building at the Center for the Arts' blog.

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