Stanford University is placing creativity at the heart of a 21st-century education.
In 2006 Stanford launched the Stanford Arts Initiative with the goal of making the arts a fundamental part of a Stanford education and building the resources and programs required to realize that vision. Thanks to the initiative, the university added new faculty positions in arts departments and programs, new graduate fellowships for PhD and MFA students, and many new arts programs and opportunities designed to ensure that every Stanford student, no matter what their major, can have a meaningful engagement with the arts. The university also added a new general education curricular requirement in Creative Expression, ensuring that every Stanford undergraduate must take at least one creative practice class in order to graduate.
The most visible part of the Arts Initiative was the creation of an arts district at the front of Stanford’s campus. In 2015-16 Stanford opened its third new facility for the arts: the McMurtry Building for the Department of Art and Art History. This remarkable resource, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, is a state-of-the-art platform for the study and making of art. It also represents the dynamism of the arts on campus, with a powerful architectural statement and open and inviting spaces. It is truly a transformative addition to campus, joining Bing Concert Hall (2013), the Anderson Collection at Stanford University (2014), and the Cantor Arts Center (1894; renovation 1999). The proximity of these arts facilities to each other allows for productive interactions, and their location at the front of campus highlights the importance the university has placed on the arts.
In fall 2016 Stanford opened the renovation of Roble Gym with new and upgraded theater, now called the Harry J. Elam, Jr. Theater, and dance spaces. Frost Amphitheater reopened in the spring of 2019 after an extensive renovation. Now the university is looking to jump to the next level with Arts Leap. Through Arts Leap, Stanford Arts will pursue three strategic priorities for the coming years: engaging every Stanford student; generating pioneering programs that are possible only at Stanford; and moving Stanford forward with leading artists, creatives, and scholars.
In winter 2017 Stanford announced the creation of a new role: vice president for the arts. This position has oversight for all nondepartmental arts organizations on campus and leads strategic planning for the arts. Harry Elam, professor of Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS) and vice provost for undergraduate education, was the first to occupy the new position, which he held until 2020. He left to become the president of Occidental College and Matthew Tiews was appointed interim head of the Office of the Vice President for the Arts.