WVU arts and humanities set the course for the future; yearlong celebration highlights achievements and impact
Fifty years ago in the White House Rose Garden 200 guests stood shoulder to shoulder to witness President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act into law.
Yesterday and today (Sept. 30), West Virginia University commemorated that historic day with celebrations, recognizing the important work of the arts and humanities on the University campus and beyond.
“Our society draws its strength from citizens whose education is well-rounded and whose perspectives are wide-ranging,” said President Gordon Gee as he introduced Wednesday’s Jackson Distinguished Lecture Series in the Department of English. “In a world without arts and humanities, we would lose much of what makes us human.”
At the Creative Arts Center’s Lyell B. Clay Concert Theatre on Tuesday, Provost Joyce McConnell premiered a video featuring students and faculty articulating WVU’s commitment to the arts and the humanities. The video was followed by a free string quartet performance and reception.
In her remarks, McConnell stated that society needs arts and humanities more today than 50 years ago. “The good news is that we already have all of these things right here on our campus, and we are absolutely committed to seeing them continue to flourish,” she said.
A country changed
When President Johnson signed the act on Sept. 29, 1965, it was seen as a momentous step, creating two separate, independent agencies that would become two of the largest sources of funding for the arts and the humanities in America.
The law was a public declaration that art, culture and history were as important to the future of America as science, technology and engineering.
Today, the NEA and NEH are two of the nation’s largest funding organizations for the arts and humanities, advancing and advocating for their practice and study. Their endowments fund museums and public radio stations, support artists and scholars, and ensure that students of all ages receive education in the arts and the humanities.
In the years prior to the signing of the act, there was a nationwide outpouring of support for the federal government to invest in culture. Glenn Seaborg, then the head of the Atomic Energy Commission, told a Senate committee:
“We cannot afford to drift physically, morally, or esthetically in a world in which the current moves so rapidly perhaps toward an abyss. Science and technology are providing us with the means to travel swiftly. But what course do we take? This is the question that no computer can answer.”
Arts and humanities take center stage
“Join the Celebration: 50 Years of the Arts and Humanities” is WVU’s yearlong celebration of the creation of the National Endowment of the Arts and the National Endowment of the Humanities.
“Throughout this academic year, we’ve committed to celebrating the arts and the humanities on this campus—not as a one-time thing, but hopefully as the beginning of a heightened sense of just how valuable these disciplines are, to our world, yes, but also specifically on a university campus,” McConnell said.
Further details about the celebration, including a calendar of events and book recommendations from WVU faculty are available at http://artsandhumanities.wvu.edu/. Check back often for features, updates and showcases of WVU departments throughout the year.
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