Saturday, June 07, 2008

URI officials comment on arts cuts

Yesterday afternoon, University of Rhode Island spokesman David Lavallee e-mailed me the university’s official public statement about its elimination of the school’s Fine Arts Center Galleries program and “Great Performances” series, and its the firing of the programs’ longtime directors Judith Tolnick Champa and Roxana Tourigny. I’ve reproduced the entire document below:
Friday, June 6, 2008
URI Department of Communications and Marketing

Statement concerning University of Rhode Island’s Great Performances and Fine Arts Center Galleries programs.

The University of Rhode Island faces a $17 million budget shortfall as a result of the state of Rhode Island’s fiscal 2008-09 budget. In response, the University has asked all departments to make reductions that would preserve the University’s curriculum in undergraduate and graduate programs.

Donald H. DeHayes, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, said of the $17 million total, the University has asked academic affairs to reduce its budget by $12 million. The academic affairs budget at the beginning of the current fiscal year was $120 million. The total University budget at the beginning of the current fiscal year was $524 million.

“We went through all of the academic programs and our number one goal was to protect the delivery of our curriculum to our students,” DeHayes said. “Protection of curriculum is paramount. Programs that provide enrichment to the University and to the wider community had to be put on hold for the time being.”

The College of Arts and Sciences, the largest of the academic colleges at URI, was asked to reduce its budget by $2.7 million. To remain in line with the University’s priorities, the College has eliminated the Great Performances series and the Fine Arts Center Galleries program. The cuts will result in a savings of $325,000. Those funds are being used to deliver the curriculum.

“We value both programs, and we know they provide unparalleled cultural enrichment to the University community, the residents and the artists and performers of our state,” DeHayes said. “But our top priority has to be the needs of our students. Our students and faculty, as well as parents, can be assured that we will continue to deliver with quality a great curriculum.”

Great Performances has brought artists of world renown in diverse genres to the Kingston campus and community on a regular basis during the past 21 years.

The Fine Arts Center Galleries have been a part of the Fine Arts Center since 1972, but more recently have offered a comprehensive range of exhibitions, including photography, sculpture, painting, multi- and mixed media, historical and commemorative themes, and many more.

Responsibility for the galleries is being shifted to the Department of Art and Art History, and Winifred Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said she is beginning talks with donors to endow both programs.

“Obviously, the Great Performances Series and our Fine Arts Center Galleries programs have brought tremendous and acclaimed cultural programming to our campus,” Brownell said. “But be assured that we are continuing our academic programs in art, art history, music and theater and supporting our undergraduate and graduate curricula.”

Brownell said, “the University Artist music series, which is endowed, and the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, which is supported by external funds, gifts, and sponsorships, will continue, as will performances and productions by students, faculty and staff in the URI Departments of Theatre and Music. Student art exhibitions will also continue, and we plan to raise funds to support exhibitions by faculty and visiting artists.

“We deeply appreciate the extraordinary work that Roxana Tourigny (director of Great Performances) and Judith Tolnick Champa (director of the Fine Arts Center Galleries) have accomplished, but our top priority is our curriculum. We can no longer fund these outstanding public arts programs. You can’t reduce the University budget by $17 million and expect to maintain all programs.”

Brownell said those who want to contribute to support public arts programming at URI and enhance cultural enrichment opportunities should call, should Thomas Zorabedian, associate dean, at 874-2853 or email him at All contributions to URI are tax deductible.
The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research broke the story on Wednesday with this brief. My initial follow up is here. More to come.


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