A new chapter in the history of fine arts education at Hardin-Simmons University began on October 12, 2012, when the HSU Board of Trustees voted to elevate the fine arts division of the university from the School of Music and Fine Arts to the College of Fine Arts. The new College of Fine Arts will still encompass the School of Music, the Department of Art, and the Department of Theatre. Dr. Lanny Hall, president of the university states, “The new College of Fine Arts provides an improved organizational platform for HSU programs in the fine arts. Hardin-Simmons has a long and rich heritage in music, art, and theatre. With this change in structure, it is positioned for unprecedented achievement.”
The HSU College of Fine Arts prepares students with professional degrees, which include the Bachelor of Fine Arts and the Bachelor of Music at the undergraduate level, and the Master of Music degree offered in the graduate division of the School of Music.
The HSU School of Music includes departments of church music, performance, music education, music history, and theory/composition. Emphases in the HSU Department of Art include painting and drawing, 3-D art (ceramics/sculpture), photography, printmaking, and graphic design. The HSU Department of Theatre includes emphases in acting, musical theatre, stage management, theatre design, and theatre education.
The mission of the HSU College of Fine Arts is to prepare aspiring artists and educators for purposeful careers in the contemporary worlds of art, music, and theatre through an education enlightened by Christian faith and values. Dr. Jaynne Middleton, professor of voice, associate dean of fine arts, says, “Since my coming to HSU, I have been involved in cooperative productions that involve art, music, and theatre. For over 30 years as the director of opera, I relied on Larry Wheeler in the Theatre Department to construct the sets and often build costumes. Many collaborative posters came from artwork in the Art Department. It is so easy to see us as a College of Fine Arts, we work together anyway, and we are just changing our name to reflect who we really are. I’m thrilled we have a new title—it gives us a new vision.”
Mike Jones, Art Department head and professor of art, says, “The name ‘College of Fine Arts’ suggests a greater depth and breadth to the program, which I feel has been true of our areas for quite some time now with our Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in art and theatre, and with our national accreditation in the School of Music.” Linda Fawcett, HSU professor of art, adds, “In my 31 years as an art professor at HSU, I have had the privilege to observe an enlightened dedication to the arts evidenced by excellent, specialized facilities for each fine arts area, the professional Bachelor of Music degree and national accreditation in music, and the professional Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees added to Art and Theatre. This to me powerfully demonstrates serious commitment.”
“Theatre has long been present on the HSU campus,” says Larry Wheeler, Theatre Department chair, associate professor of theatre, and technical director. “In 1985, theatre became an individual department. The Department of Theatre has been in Van Ellis Theatre since it was constructed in 1962—a facility that boasts three separate performing spaces for theatre works of different requirements and audiences of varying sizes. The university has always shown great support for theatre and all the arts by providing facilities and resources to educate and grow our students. This new chapter in our history confirms that continued support.” Dean Nolen, artistic director and assistant professor of theatre, says, “The exceptional work being produced by HSU’s young theatre artists is inspiring—the growth, tremendous. And now, with the creation of the College of Fine Arts, a new era of training for young artists from myriad artistic disciplines has stirred an excitement that is at once palpable and contagious. It’s a great time to train in the arts at HSU.”
Higher education in the visual and performing arts has been a keystone since the founding of Simmons College in 1891. In his book Music at Simmons: The First Fifty Years 1892-1942 Thurman Lee Morrison states, “It is remarkable that school founders envisioned not only a school of higher education, but immediately insisted that education with Christian direction must include the arts.” The level of commitment to the arts has flourished and grown at Hardin-Simmons University over the past 120 years. As an added result, all students attending HSU can engage in the arts during their time of study, no matter what their chosen major, they can audition for a play, perform in an ensemble, or take a studio art class. The fine arts are an important part of the liberal arts education.
“The goal of the integration of art, music, and theatre into this college division will be to train student-artists to successfully pursue their vocational passions in the visual and performing arts as they transform from a university community of scholars into artist-entrepreneurs realizing the social responsibilities of citizens of the arts,” says Dr. Robert Rankin Brooks, dean, College of Fine Arts.