The Collegian
Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Student pushing for greater promotion of performing arts on campus

Senior Liz Minder in Cousins Studio Theatre.
Senior Liz Minder in Cousins Studio Theatre.

“I think it was a feeling of genuine disappointment.”

That was how senior Liz Minder felt after watching the University of Richmond’s recent promotional video for its new branding campaign, “It starts within us.”

Minder, a theater major and scholar, was disappointed because the only representation of any type of art in the video was a three-second clip of a man sketching. 

No theater. No music. No dance. None of the performing arts.

“To see a video showcasing things that the university are proud of and not be included, I think was hurtful, to be honest,” Minder said.

The video built on a variety of other things she thought were wrong with the promotion and representation of the performing arts, Minder said. She decided she had to do something. 

Now, Minder has made it her goal before graduating in May to make sure every student knows about the performing arts and student productions. Several areas of representation and promotion need work, she said

Since the fall of her first year to now, students in the theater and performing arts have put on 23 productions, Minder said. Of those 23, only three have been covered by The Collegian, she pointed out: two plays, “Vinegar Tom” and “Intimate Apparel,” and a University Dancers concert, “Momentum.”

Minder would like to see more regular student coverage of student productions in The Collegian, she said. 

Emails sent to students are another frustration of Minder's. All students receive emails from Spider Athletics promoting different games. She’d like to see emails sent about student productions, UR Free Theatre & Dance, at equivalent levels, she said. 

Minder also cited emails from the Modlin Center for the Arts, which heavily feature the professional productions but include only a small box for the student productions, as another problem. 

Her frustration with the promotional video led her to schedule a meeting with University Communications in November. Minder, along with Sharon Feldman, the interim chair of the department of theater and dance, met with Lindsey Campbell, media relations specialist, and Andrea Almoite, communications content coordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences. 

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During the meeting, Minder expressed the concerns that not representing the performing arts in promotional material raises for current students and the future of the department. 

“We have what I would say is an extremely talented student body," Minder said. "To me, that feels like something that the university should be more dedicated to wanting to showcase, to not only the university community, but honestly to people that they want to join the community.” 

She also talked about how the way performing arts are perceived on campus affects the students in those departments. 

“[Campbell and Almoite] were very receptive and very open to working to sort of remedy that in the future, which I think is excellent,” Minder said. “I think we’ve opened a real dialogue with them.”

In the meeting, the discussion mainly centered on external communications and branding, Minder said. The group discussed how the department of theater and dance can share photos from productions with University Communications and how Feldman and Campbell can work together to research more local and regional publications to send press releases about shows to. 

Campbell declined to comment about University Communications' perspective on the meeting. 

Feldman also declined to speak to The Collegian about the frustrations Minder has expressed. The department of theater and dance is “extremely grateful for the wonderfully abundant resources and support available to us,” she wrote in an email. 

Minder would still like to schedule another meeting with University Communications to focus on what can be done to promote the performing arts on campus, she said. 

She said that she felt good coming out of that meeting and that other positive changes were already happening. 

Currently, standard campus tours do not stop at the Modlin Center. The Modlin Center stop was removed last year when the tour route was changed to shorten its length from 90 to 60 minutes, Austen Kelso, assistant director of admissions, wrote in an email. But tour guides offer to take interested visitors on an extended tour of the Modlin Center after the standard tour, Kelso said. 

Beginning in February, though, admissions will offer a 60-minute-long tour of the visual and performing arts facilities, which will replace the current Modlin Center tour. Tour guides majoring or minoring in the visual or performing arts will be trained specifically for these tours, Kelso said. 

“This affords interested prospective students an authentic behind-the-scenes tour of the Modlin Center (theaters, studio spaces, rehearsal rooms, etc.) and other fine arts spaces on campus,” Kelso wrote. 

Minder, who is also a tour guide, thinks the changes are a strong step in the right direction, she said. If she has time before she graduates, Minder would also like to work with career services to create an arts-specific career fair or networking event. 

Senior Megan Wirtz, a theater major and Minder’s roommate, said the two of them had talked about their vexations, but Minder was the first one to really make a push for change. 

Another area for change is the student body’s perception of the performing arts. Wirtz said people often looked at her with pity when she told them she was a theater major. 

“I do think there’s a general tendency to say that those of us that are arts majors are less than those of us that are seen as having more profitable career paths,” Wirtz said. “I think it speaks against the fact that we’re a liberal arts school.”

Wirtz would like to see a change in the culture at UR surrounding the performing arts, where more people are encouraged to do theater or go to theater. 

“For a lot of [performing arts students], whether we are majors, minors, double majors, not studying [performing arts] at all, it’s a huge part of ‘what is within us,’ so it’s very valuable to us,” Minder said. “But I genuinely think that it’s very, very valuable to the rest of the student body to engage in art.” 

Next spring, student productions will include the Production Studies III showcase, “Rapture, Blister, Burn,” the University Dancer’s “In/Motion” and the play “Caroline, or Change.” 

Contact editor-in-chief Ashlee Korlach at

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