New College of Entertainment and the Arts launched

Lipscomb University

By Kim Chaudoin on 9/25/2014

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The Lipscomb University Board of Trustees has approved the formation of the new College of Entertainment and the Arts, bringing the number of colleges at the university to nine.

Building on the university’s strong liberal arts foundation, the College of Entertainment and the Arts will combine the university’s exceptional art, music and theatre departments with its fashion merchandising program and its graduate film and creative media program.  It will then add exciting new programs to prepare students for careers in contemporary music, digital entertainment, film, design, gaming and animation. The result will be a cutting-edge arts training ground with four major departments (music, visual arts, theatre, cinematic arts) and five new undergraduate programs planned in contemporary music, interactive media, film, fashion and design and dance. The college will also bring on board experts in the industry as artists-in-residence to shape its future. The college is an integration of several disciplines formerly in the College of Arts and Sciences

“Our arts programs have grown in recent years to become an even more vital part of the Lipscomb community,” said Lipscomb University Provost W. Craig Bledsoe. “By bringing these programs together into a college that focuses on these academic disciplines, it creates a synergy and provides more opportunities to collaborate than ever before. Several degrees in the college are one-of-a-kind in the region. The direction in which these programs are developing will help prepare our students especially for digitally oriented arts and entertainment careers that are growing in demand.”

Mike Fernandez, associate professor of theatre and chair of the department of theatre, has been appointed dean of the College of Entertainment and the Arts. Chair of the department since his arrival in 2008, Fernandez has expanded the scope of the university’s productions, grown the number of theatre students and faculty, added new formats such as dinner theater productions and outdoor performances and has worked to strengthen Lipscomb’s connections to local theater artists and companies. He also added a highly successful graduate film and creative media program, which has already partnered with local companies to produce two feature films, with plans this fall to work on two more.

“The blending of these disciplines into one college will foster a natural collaboration between classical and contemporary art forms,” said Fernandez, who was named outstanding director in 2012 by for his direction of “Doubt.” “We will bring in contemporary artists like award-winning music producer Charlie Peacock and critically acclaimed Disney animator Tom Bancroft to help create exciting programs and events to build on the strong foundation of each of our current disciplines. We will create a place where we all dream together about the role a Christian university should have in shaping culture through arts and entertainment.”

The new entity was named the College of Entertainment and the Arts based on recent research conducted in partnership with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. Fernandez said this college is poised to make an impact not only on its students but the Nashville community as well.

“There isn’t a university as primed and ready to move to this more than Lipscomb,” said Fernandez. “Not only do we have a strong foundation to build on, but we are located in Nashville, which, along with its reputation as Music City, is quickly becoming a hub for film, theater and interactive arts. We are actively aligning ourselves with Nashville’s vision for art and entertainment by making connections in the community through professional film, theatre and music companies. That not only helps our program contribute in significant ways to preparing skilled and knowledgeable professionals to enter these fields, it also gives our students many hands-on opportunities to learn from experts in our community.”

The college has advisory boards for the film program and a new commercial music emphasis that includes some of the industry’s top talent such as singer-songwriter Amy Grant, Nate Owens and Nathan Chapman, producer for entertainer Taylor Swift, among others. In addition, Town Square Pictures serves as the college’s company-in-residence, filmmaker, producer, recording artist Steve Taylor serves as the filmmaker-in-residence, and Blackbird Theater serves as the college’s theater-troupe-in-residence.

“Nashville has built its reputation over the years as a city that values collaboration, and it’s now one of the world’s preeminent destinations for entertainment and the arts,” said Taylor. “The time is right and ripe for Lipscomb University to build a collaborative institution that brings entertainment and the arts together under one roof to train world-class, world-shaping artist entrepreneurs.”

“Lipscomb’s commitment to excellence and a big picture view in a rapidly changing media landscape guarantees the most important quality for a program like this—relevance,” said Howie Klausner, screenwriter, producer and partner in Town Square Pictures. “Stay tuned, there’s some exciting stuff happening over here.”

Lipscomb typically offered more traditional arts programs in the past. Fernandez said those programs are still significant pillars of the college, but “we are broadening our horizons.”

“Our research tells us that there is a need for additional programs that would focus on areas such as commercial music and interactive media such as gaming, animation and mobile app development as well as an undergraduate film program to build on our graduate film and creative media program,” he said.

Fernandez said an initiative of the college will be an interactive media program that is an interdisciplinary program with the College of Computing and Technology and the College of Business.  The new college is also planning to create a fashion and design program that will be a reengineering of its fashion merchandising program. It will include an emphasis in custom design areas like art decoration for TV and film, set design for theatre and commercial entertainment design for theme parks and industrial events. Fernandez said he plans to grow the number of students majoring in these subjects as well as enhance the facilities including a proposed state-of-the-art performing arts facility within five years.

“Artists are constantly reinventing themselves,” said Fernandez. “Lipscomb is reinventing itself so that it can move quickly into this arena and marketplace. Our vision really appeals to our students, industry leaders and the community. At the end of the day, we want to train students to be good storytellers, whether it be through music, visual arts, interactive arts, theater or other creative outlets. They can have an impact and leave a legacy that will benefit those who come after them in our university and in our community.”