We are seeing a strong emphasis, greater than ever before, on the importance of quality of place. A community’s arts and culture offerings are a critical part of its identity and authenticity. For many communities, their local college or university serves as a central hub for cultural creativity.
As the third feature in our series, Creative Capstones, we interviewed Jo Moore, administrator of Presidential Lecture & Performance Series at Texas Tech University, to discuss Lubbock, Texas, and how the university is helping to grow and develop an authentic, unique arts scene on the Western Texas Plains.
Creative Class Group (CCG): Tell us about Lubbock. What makes it a special community?
Jo Moore: In a word, the people are what make Lubbock, Texas, a special place in which to live. I moved to the Lubbock area from Dallas, Texas, 17 years ago. From the reactions of my friends and colleagues, one would have thought I was moving to the desolate, uncultured, wild West. While the glitz of the Dallas cityscape, landscaped beauty of its manicured parks, and culinary significance is not as apparent in Lubbock, a natural raw beauty borne in the energy of the wind and splendor of the sunsets eclipse the manufactured glamour of the metroplex. There is an energy, an elemental quality to this region with its wide open spaces and endless blue sky that is unspoiled by high density living. The beauty of West Texas has to be seen to be believed.
A comfortably sized city of 218,000 citizens, Lubbock’s unemployment rate is low, as is the cost of living. There is a real sense of community in a city this size and a character all its own. A pioneering spirit and congenial hospitality characterize Lubbock, nicknamed the hub of the plains, economically centering a 25-county region. An ease in networking and a palpable camaraderie are present in the business community at large and, in particular, throughout the arts community.
CCG: What about Texas Tech?
Moore: Lubbock is also home to Texas Tech University, founded in 1923. With a current enrollment of 28,000, Texas Tech bears the distinction of being the largest comprehensive higher education institution in the western two-thirds of the state of Texas. Even though Texas Tech is a major research university, it retains the sense of a smaller liberal arts institution, providing a myriad of academic and cultural activities accessible to the Lubbock community.
CCG: How would you characterize Lubbock’s art community?
Moore: Lubbock’s art scene is vibrant. There is a distinct hum, not only across the Texas Tech University campus, but in the redevelopment of downtown. In the first official State of Texas Cultural District Designation, the Texas Commission on the Arts designated the Lubbock Cultural District as one of seven cultural districts in Texas in September 2009, encouraging Lubbock to use arts, culture, and entertainment for the purpose of economic and community development. The district is anchored by key cultural facilities including the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts and Lubbock Memorial Civic Center to the north; American Wind Power Center to the east; the Buddy Holly Center and Depot Entertainment District to the south; and to the west is Texas Tech University with its museum, Ranching Heritage Center, nationally recognized public art collection, Maedgen and Allen Theatres, galleries, and the City Bank Auditorium and Coliseum.
CCG: How has the area’s art scene changed over time?
Moore: Cultural activities have expanded over the years to not only include those theatrical, musical, and artistic opportunities available on the Texas Tech campus, but to the Lubbock Arts Festival, the National Cowboy Symposium and Celebration, First Friday Art Trail, Flatland Film Festival, performances by the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra and Ballet Lubbock, 4th on Broadway, Celebrity Attractions Broadway Series, Lubbock Music Festival, Fiestas del Llano, concerts at the United Spirit Arena, and the Local Artist Color Studio Tour. Lubbock is home to over 25 art organizations and over 250 individuals that identify themselves as full-time working artists, including world famous ceramic artist James Watkins and sculptor Eddie Dixon.
CCG: How is Texas Tech supporting the arts in Lubbock?
Moore: Central to Texas Tech’s support of the arts is the newest college on campus, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, which is home to the Presidential Lecture & Performance Series. In the late 1960s, arts faculty members and administrators began talks about establishing an arts college. In 1972, Texas Tech’s unique interdisciplinary Ph.D. in fine arts degree was launched, which eventually led to the establishment of the College of Visual & Performing Arts, which formally opened its doors for business September 1, 2002. The college consists of the School of Music, the School of Art, and the Department of Theatre and Dance, which in past years had all operated under the auspices of the College of Arts and Sciences. The college enrolls over 900 undergraduate and 250 graduate majors and hosts hundreds of non-majors each semester in many arts courses. Additionally, hundreds of exhibits and performances are mounted each year for the enjoyment and cultural enrichment of Texas Tech students, faculty, staff, and the Lubbock community alike.
Texas Tech University is an ardent supporter of the arts on several additional levels. The museum was founded as the West Texas Museum in 1929, shortly after Texas Technological College was chartered in 1925. Today, it is a major general museum with collections in the arts, humanities, and the sciences numbering over five million objects. The museum is the working laboratory for the Center for Advanced Study of Museum Science and Heritage Management, which trains graduate students in the philosophies, theories, and practices of the museum profession and awards master’s degrees. Significant additions to the Texas Tech Museum have occurred over the past 31 years including the establishment of the Ranching Heritage Center, the construction of permanent interpretation and research facilities at the Lubbock Lake Landmark, the building of the Diamond M Wing to house the Diamond M Fine Art Collection, and the addition of the Helen Jones Auditorium and Sculpture Court Wing.
Barely a decade old, the Texas Tech University System’s Public Art Collection and Program has been named one of the top 10 university public art collections in the nation by Public Art Review magazine. Texas Tech allocates one percent of the estimated total cost of each new construction project that exceeds $500,000 for the acquisition of public art. Another one percent is set aside for landscape enhancements, resulting in MSNBC deeming Texas Tech one of the “Top Five Prettiest Campuses in the United States.”
CCG: Describe the Presidential Lecture and Performance Series. Who has participated? Is it free to the public? Why does Texas Tech support this program?
Moore: Since its premier season in the Fall of 2006, the distinguished Presidential Lecture and Performance Series has dazzled audiences with such exceptional performances and lectures as that of Paul Taylor Dance Company, Santa Fe Opera, Sarah Vowell, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Band, Jeannette Walls, Pilobolus Dance Theatre, and Richard Florida. The 2010-2011 season boasts such notables as Garrison Keillor and The Second City. Enriching the cultural landscape of the South Plains with programs that are distinctive and diverse is a personal mission of mine as series administrator which mirrors not only that of the Presidential Lecture and Performance Series, but also that of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Bringing leading scholars and artists together with Texas Tech University’s distinguished faculty, students, and staff for the purpose of exchanging expertise, research, and talents is also central to the mission of the Presidential Lecture & Performance Series.
The College of Visual & Performing Arts Presidential Lecture & Performance Series serves to enhance the intellectual and cultural climate of the Texas Tech University campus and surrounding community. A primary component of each event the series hosts is that of outreach and engagement. Through a combination of master classes, seminars, book signings, and receptions, a strong academic connection is fostered for Texas Tech students, faculty, staff, and the community at large. These kinds of activities support the primary purposes of this series – to enrich the academic experience for Texas Tech students, to enhance our academic programs, and to provide outreach opportunities between campus and community. Unique lectures, discussions, and performances that inspire and stimulate intellectual debate support key priorities of Texas Tech’s strategic plan: promote student success, strengthen academic quality and reputation, expand and enhance research and creative scholarship, and further outreach and engagement. Tickets to the series are free to students and nominally priced to the public to encourage frequent attendance and accessibility to the series’ events held on campus.
CCG: I understand Texas Tech is offering a new graduate course, “Creativity and the Economy.” Tell us about the new class. Why did the university create the course?
Moore: Mary Cain Fehr, Ph.D. serves as assistant professor, curriculum and instruction, College of Education and as associate director, Teaching, Learning, and Technology Center. Her class has been re-titled “Creativity in the Curriculum.” This course will be offered in the Curriculum Studies program in the College of Education at Texas Tech University. Students who enroll might be future teachers, leaders, and policy makers in education, as well as future economists.
I asked her why she created this course and her answer follows:
“I created this new graduate course because I believe it’s crucial that we take the time to look critically at the importance of fostering creative thinking and problem solving in young people, as a means of preparing them for their futures and building a strong future for our economy. We must evaluate existing school curricula and practices to determine if we are nurturing creativity or extinguishing it with convergent thinking and standardized testing. Are we discouraging students from thinking independently and creatively by focusing to such a large degree on test preparation and “the one right answer?” Are we encouraging creativity in classes outside of the arts, such as math, science, and social studies? I believe that the economic growth of China and India is due, in part, to some recent creative thinking and it’s a wake-up call for us. Our nation will not prosper with a future workforce of well-practiced test-takers. We need citizens who have been encouraged to extend their thinking into unknown realms and take a few risks. I believe this is how we will remain economically competitive and dynamic as individuals and as a country. “