College of Arts and Architecture honors first 50 years, looks to bright future

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy was president, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed “I have a dream,” and the Beatles were poised for world domination. At Penn State, enrollment numbers tripled under President Eric A. Walker, who oversaw unprecedented expansion of facilities at the University. It was during this era of promise that the College of Arts and Architecture was formed, uniting programs from departments as diverse as engineering, horticulture and liberal arts.

“When the college was formed, there was no art museum, no major auditorium. But over the next 10 years, the Playhouse and Pavilion theatres were built, and the art museum opened. It was a magic time because we saw arts and design on campus become a reality,” said E. Lynn Miller, professor emeritus of landscape architecture, who taught at Penn State from 1961 to 1990.

“It is an important component of the University, and its birth was not an easy one, involving at least three abortions and a couple miscarriages,” Penn State President Milton Eisenhower wrote about the beginning of the College of Arts and Architecture.

Arts and design previously existed, of course, but not in a single administrative home. Instruction in the arts at Penn State goes back to the late 1800s. Music courses were first offered in the 1870s, and a formal Department of Music was established in 1915. Courses in art history and studio arts began in the 1890s as part of the engineering curriculum. Instruction in theatre began in 1920 as part of the program in English literature. All these courses were eventually united in 1956 with the formation of the School of Fine and Applied Art.

The programs in landscape architecture and architecture were created in the early 1900s. Landscape architecture courses were first offered in 1906, in the horticulture department, while the architecture program was established as part of the architectural engineering department in 1910.

Discussions about a school of arts and architecture date back to the mid-1950s, under Milton Eisenhower’s tenure at the University. However, according to a written commentary by former President Walker, the history of Penn State says “literally nothing” about the College of Arts and Architecture. “It is an important component of the University, and its birth was not an easy one, involving at least three abortions and a couple miscarriages,” he wrote.

Despite early challenges, the college has grown in leaps and bounds over the past 50 years. From 440 students in 1963 to approximately 1,500 today, the College of Arts and Architecture now maintains a high profile on the University Park campus, thanks in large part to the hundreds of performances, exhibitions and other events it presents annually. The School of Music alone presents more than 300 recitals each academic year. The college’s outreach units — Center for the Performing Arts, Palmer Museum of Art, Penn State Centre Stage and Music at Penn’s Woods — also contribute greatly to its integral role in the local arts community.

The College of Arts and Architecture’s first dean was artist and art educator Jules Heller, who had been director of the School of Fine and Applied Art. He remained dean until 1968. According to theatre professor emerita Helen Manfull, who came to Penn State in 1966, the late 1960s were a period not only of growth, but of reputation building. “We saw Penn State change from a rural college to a great university,” she said. “At the time, you were very aware of the growth of the College of Arts and Architecture. The way the college is structured is unique, and I think that was good thinking on the part of the founding fathers.”

Heller was succeeded by his assistant dean, Walter Walters, a theatre faculty member who had come to Penn State in the late 1950s. Serving as dean until 1982, Walters oversaw great change in the college, most notably the establishment of the School of Music and School of Visual Arts. In 1979, the art education and music education programs moved from the College of Education to the College of Arts and Architecture, leading to the formation of the two schools.

The 1980s saw the creation of the Arts and Architecture Alumni Society and the celebration of the college’s 25th anniversary. In the program for the anniversary convocation, held in 1988, then-dean James Moeser wrote, “The decision to create a College of Arts and Architecture was a bold step forward for Penn State, a signal recognition of the centrality of the arts to the University’s larger education mission, as well as a recognition that the arts can best prosper when they are housed together in a single college. … We are fortunate that we have an enlightened and committed administration — enlightened to the truth that this University must bolster its commitment to the arts and the liberal arts and commitment to providing us with the resources necessary for Penn State to be known as a university that excels in the arts.”

The University demonstrated its commitment to the arts in the early 1990s, when the Palmer Museum of Art underwent a major expansion and renovation. The paws — sculpted by Paul Bowden — that flank the museum’s entrance are now one of the most photographed spots on campus.

Today the College of Arts and Architecture is celebrating its golden anniversary under the leadership of Barbara O. Korner, the college’s 10th dean. According to Korner, one significant area of growth is advanced technology usage — aided by the college’s e-Learning Institute — in addition to exploration of new teaching avenues and methods.

On the administrative front, in 1997 then-dean Neil Porterfield united the departments of architecture and landscape architecture in the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture. Thanks to the funding of generous donors — including H. Campbell “Cal” Stuckeman (’37 B.S. Arch.), for whom the school and its building were later named — the school launched a number of interdisciplinary initiatives during the ’90s, including the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing and the Hamer Center for Community Design.

The School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture’s move from the Engineering Units to the Stuckeman Family Building — Penn State’s first building to earn a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Rating — marked an important step toward the creation of an “arts district” on the University Park campus. The final step took place in 2008, when the college’s administrative offices, Department of Art History and Graphic Design and Photography programs moved from various locations to a renovated Borland Building, notable as the former location of the Penn State Creamery.

Today the College of Arts and Architecture is celebrating its golden anniversary under the leadership of Barbara O. Korner, the college’s 10th dean. According to Korner, one significant area of growth is advanced technology usage — aided by the college’s e-Learning Institute — in addition to exploration of new teaching avenues and methods. The e-Learning Institute works with faculty to design and develop online course materials. Korner notes, however, that using technology means more than developing an online class. “Technology becomes a pedagogical tool. It’s not simply about moving classes online, although that is an important step,” she said. “It’s also about new ways of teaching and engaging students in the learning process.”

The College of Arts and Architecture is engaging more students thanks to its participation in Penn State’s initial offering through Coursera, a massive open online course (MOOC) platform that allows the University to provide courses on a vast scale, for free. Introduction to Art: Concepts and Techniques has been one of the highest-enrolling classes since the Penn State offerings debuted on Feb. 21.

While online pedagogy is an important part of the college’s future, Korner stresses the College of Arts and Architecture will always be “high touch,” with students and faculty using their hands, eyes and minds to create. “That is what’s so wonderful about what we do. We are anchored in high-touch traditions that allow us as human beings to be, to contemplate, to meditate, to ponder — all of which are essential to creativity, which is necessary for solving global issues,” she explained. “Our challenge for the future is translating some of that process to an online environment, to reach more people.”

College of Arts and Architecture 50th anniversary celebration
The College of Arts and Architecture’s 50th anniversary celebration will take place April 4-7, with many events open to the public. The centerpiece of the anniversary celebration is the collaborative production of the Leonard Bernstein MASS, April 5-6 at Eisenhower Auditorium (tickets available via cpa.psu.edu, by calling 814-863-0255 or 
1-800-ARTS-TIX, or at any Arts Ticket Center location). A joint effort of the Center for the Performing Arts, School of Music and School of Theatre, the production — a provocative look at faith — will include more than 300 performers drawn from the Penn State and local communities.

Other highlights, open to the public, include:

School of Visual Arts Alumni Exhibition: Gesturing into Consciousness
April 1-12, Zoller Gallery
Reception, open to public: 5 p.m. Thursday, April 5, at the gallery

Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture Alumni Exhibition: Stuckeman Works
April 1-12, Rouse Gallery, Stuckeman Family Building

Student Sketchbook Show from the Art Foundations Course
April 1-12, Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library (Stuckeman Family Building)

Panel Discussion on Diversity in the Arts: The Continuum: Linking the Past, Present and Future
3:30 to 5 p.m. on Friday, April 5, Palmer Lipcon Auditorium, Palmer Museum of Art

Arts Crawl
Friday, April 5, 6 p.m.–midnight, studios and galleries in the Arts District

Visit aanda50.psu.edu for more on the anniversary celebration and the history of the College of Arts and Architecture.

Last Updated April 30, 2013