Message from the Chair
To the Loyola University Chicago Department of Fine and Performing Arts:
Thirteen years ago, I was lucky enough to join the faculty of this university at a pivotal moment for the arts at Loyola— when the individual subject areas of Dance, Music, Theatre and Fine Arts were combined to create the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. Through these years, we’ve been led by an inspired department chair in Dr. Sarah Gabel, who has led us through the extensive building renovation of the Mundelein Center for the Fine and Performing Arts, numerous changes in Loyola University administration, and ongoing curricular and operational revisions for each discipline. Dr. Gabel’s tireless work towards the aspirational goal of developing each major, minor and interdisciplinary program within the DFPA into a pre-eminent, liberal arts-based training program in the highly competitive Chicagoland area can definitely be considered a job well done, and our community is immeasurably the richer for it. That she was able to accomplish so much (including the development of four new minors or concentrations, the supervision of production of hundreds of public performances, exhibitions, concerts) with kindness, fairness, enthusiasm and joy is to be celebrated. That she did so while maintaining a strong artistic presence of her own, and a growing industry-wide appreciation for her administrative skill as manifest in growing requests for consultancy is to be congratulated. Let me lead our community of students, faculty and staff in offering Dr. Gabel congratulations and best wishes on her retirement. May this next chapter bring her as much fulfillment and satisfaction as have the previous thirty years with LUC. Along with this goes our profound and heartiest thanks. I don’t know what I’ll do without her guidance, and I hope I never have to truly find out.
Prior to March 2020, I was just beginning to adjust to the prospect of stepping from Director of Theatre to the DFPA chair. With the appointment of longtime faculty member Lee Keenan as Director of Theatre and the ongoing support of Managing Director of the Arts April Browning, I looked forward to a daunting but somewhat smooth transition.
The one-two punch of a national health emergency and the economic impact that places on our nation, followed by another all too common incident of criminal racist behavior shining a harsh light on the institutional racism embedded in our country and our culture will mark 2020 as an historic year of trauma and transformation. But what I find reassuring/inspiring/comforting is our department’s deftness and commitment to our work that allows us to accept and mourn that which we have lost at this time of crisis, and immediately turn towards the future. We are ready to reflect, to adjust and to adapt to changes in our pedagogy required by the pandemic. As we confront our racist past and enter a potentially cleansing, rejuvenating period of anti-racist behavior and rhetoric, many of the changes we commit to will cause discomfort, will force harsh self-reflection, and even changes to a system that no longer reflects the desires of the people it’s designed to educate.
I am inspired by our community’s willingness to roll with the punches, to investigate new and engaging ways to move our art forms into digital formats, to push the boundaries of pedagogy into the ether, and to realize that the relationship between teacher and student or mentor and prodigy isn’t based solely on proximity. I am excited by the prospect of aggressively and enthusiastically venturing into the unfamiliar to discover how this pivotal moment might change the very nature of our art forms. I am proud of our community’s willingness to accept the charge of maintaining, upholding and improving the precepts of the Loyola mission in the face of these extreme challenges. I am gratified that this institution upholds the foundation of Cura Personalis, which treats all members of the community with respect, individuality and support as a primary objective of our work.
Art is a necessary element of the human condition. The Liberal Arts in general are our template for understanding that chaos and making sense of our world, but through art we are able to integrate the physiological with the psychological and thus support the health of the individual through understanding and appreciation, through comfort, and through inspiration. It is also a tool for advocacy, and an opportunity to improve the world through aesthetic appreciation. To be able to work with collaborators who share these goals is a gift.
While the past three months have thrown numerous obstacles to any plans we might have made for our next chapter (“…man plans, God laughs…”—Yiddish proverb and Public Enemy album) I do feel that there are a number of initiatives we can hang on to while re-envisioning and crafting our trajectory into the future. First and foremost is the formal accreditation of all four of our programs by the National Associations of Dance, Fine Arts, Music and Theatre. Theatre is already NAST accredited, and wheels have been set in motion initiating the process through NASD and NASAD for Dance and Fine Arts. Before Music can apply for accreditation, there are substantial alterations that must be made to our physical campus (including a dedicated concert hall) before it would be considered eligible for accreditation. Having been through this process with Theatre, we learned that the accreditation process can serve as impetus for upper campus administration to improve operations through both facility improvement and staff hires. That this identification of a departmental priority occurs roughly at the same time as our departmental review in CAS is opportune, and I look forward to working with the whole of our community in describing and characterizing the valuable work we do.
In the last months, we’ve been speaking candidly about trauma and loss and the unprecedented changes we’ve faced, some so profound that they threaten our very well-being. Now, as we continue to do so, it’s time to view them as the transition to the future, and learn from these frightening and painful elements how to move forward, to be better, and to take advantage of our perspectives as artists to embrace the passage of time and change. I look forward to working with all of you in the upcoming year.
Whether we are online or face to face, I am confident in our community’s ability not only to adapt but to thrive.
Mark E. Lococo, PhD
Department of Fine and Performing Arts
Loyola University Chicago