Assessing the arts at Quinnipiac

Students and professors agree, arts programs are strong but need more resources

By on November 12, 2015

The Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Quinnipiac may be small, but the opportunities to learn are not, according to Professor George Sprengelmeyer, the director of music at Quinnipiac.

Professor of Fine Arts Stephen Henderson in his office. He believes art classes are complex but also offer students stress relief. Megan Maher

Professor of Fine Arts Stephen Henderson in his office. He believes art classes are complex but also offer students stress relief.

“I came here five years ago, thinking that I would not leave my [previous] job because I was happy with it,” he said. “But I was blown away by the fact that there was a lot of desire for music here, and it was not really being met by the music program.”

The program has grown massively in those past five years, according to Sprengelmeyer.

“The place where you see the biggest growth has been in the ensembles and in the private instruction,” he said. “When I took over we had just one ensemble, which was QU Singers.”

QU Singers, now directed by part-time professor James Noble, is still present on campus and has more than 100 members. They perform during Ensemble Evenings.

“[The group] has become much more professional,” Sprengelmeyer said. “All I can say is that you should go hear them.”

These music offerings aren’t only for leisure, however. Many students are required to take at least one fine arts course during their time at Quinnipiac, whether it be a music, drama, art history or studio art class.

The visual arts courses and opportunities are popular on campus, according to Professor Stephen Henderson, director of the fine arts program. He does not think their popularity is solely determined by the university’s course requirements.

“We have 22 studio art classes a semester, eight art history classes a semester, and [they are] almost always full. So there’s a demand
for it,” Henderson said. “Students want to take something else… Majors have the tendency to be very intense and you want something that will sort of release that tension.”

With the demand for more music lessons, art offerings and shows, comes the problem of inadequate space.

“You are looking at a teaching studio right here,” Sprengelmeyer said, gesturing to his office, which holds a piano and other various instruments. The room could be mistaken for a music closet.

Sprengelmeyer says he often has to leave his office so students can practice there. He doesn’t mind this because it contributes to his students’ success, but he emphasizes the need for more usable space.

“We need a teaching studio,” he said. “We don’t have any practice rooms. Students want to practice the piano but the practice times for this room have already been taken up.” He points to a sheet of paper taped to his door, filled with student names.

However, Sprengelmeyer points out that the visual and performing arts programs are less likely to grow than other programs. He says this is because a science class, for example, that needs space is of academic concern and as a result, they will get that space before it is used for instruments.

Crystal Brian, a professor of theater at Quinnipiac and director of the theater program, has a similar issue with space. Rather than instruments crowding her office, she has costumes.

“We need more space, not only theater space, but space for lights and costumes,” she said.

Brian has been working at Quinnipiac for 15 years. Brian believes being a part of the theater program can be beneficial for any major and notes that usually the students who are a part of the program come from all different fields. She worked to create Theater for Community, the theater program at Quinnipiac.

Looking toward the future of the department, Brian said they have been working on expanding into a closed building on the York Hill campus. She hopes the space can be used by theater students and anyone interested in the arts.

Theater students are also concerned about the lack of space, especially since they believe the program is so strong otherwise.

“Within the faculty I’m getting a lot of support,” freshman theater major Maggie Richardson said. “But I feel like Quinnipiac as a whole could be more supportive, because we don’t actually have a theater building or an arts building at all.”

Spaces for the arts are scattered around campus, with a few classrooms and black box theater in CAS 2, an art studio in Tator Hall and the stage of Buckman’s small theater.

Caroline Flynn, a senior interactive digital design major with a fine arts minor, agrees that resources and space are limited in the visual art department. However, she does acknowledge some positive attributes of the program.

“We only have one room for the fine arts… and everyone’s always running out [of supplies],” she said. “In terms of the professors and the things we’re learning, I think [the program] is pretty good. But some of the facilities and programs I think can be updated or improved on.”

Flynn also said that career services seem to not cater to arts-related majors as much as they do for others. Quinnipiac offers a Bachelor of Arts in theater, as well as game design and development, and minors in music and fine arts.

“I’ve gone to [career fairs] every year… and the internships and programs they have come out are for the business majors or communications majors,” she said. “There isn’t really much for an art major. Even some of the speakers I’ve seen, they have don’t really talk about art careers or anything like that.”

When asked how he felt about the lack of art majors at Quinnipiac, Sprengelmeyer said that our students are better off without them. He used himself and his multiple guitar degrees as an example.

“I graduated school, got a degree [in guitar] and went right back to doing what I did before. That didn’t make sense,” Sprengelmeyer said. “Then I was dumb enough to do it again and got my master’s degree [in guitar] and still struggled to find a job.”

He said that he is happy he ended up at Quinnipiac as a professor, but not everyone who graduates will be so lucky.

“Music is becoming more of a nonprofessional thing,” he said. “Students who are graduating from Yale and Juilliard are struggling to get jobs, I wouldn’t want our students to be in that position as well.”

Sprengelmeyer adds that not all successful musicians have a degree in the field.
“Look at who is No. 1, Justin Bieber,” he said. “He doesn’t have a degree in music.”

However, Sprengelmeyer is not fully satisfied with the quality of musical offerings at Quinnipiac. He believes a stronger music program could benefit students with other majors.

“I would like to see us have a really professional [music] minor,” he said. “Have students be able to take music and use it with their major to see how music is important in their life. Film majors can learn more about attaching audio content to their work and physical therapists can use music therapy in their sessions.”

The faculty aren’t the only ones exploring the broader applications of an arts degree.

“I’m going to keep my theater major,” Richardson said. “But I’m thinking of doing an MBA-theater combined [degree].”

Henderson is in full support of expanding the arts program claiming that there are things that the arts teaches that other subjects couldn’t.

“Art is about so many different things,” he said. “It’s about how we perceive the world, how we take in visual information, how we put that
information into some sort of artwork. It’s about thinking, ‘cause you have to think to be an artist. You have to be able to understand ideas, you have to be able to edit and critique.”

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