Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Mellon Foundation grant to help Center for the Performing Arts study, enhance sense of community

The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State has been awarded a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The $600,000 grant will support initiatives that will more deeply integrate the performing arts with Penn State’s research and pedagogical missions.

“We Are” — the theme of the grant’s programming — aims to examine the phrase critically, exploring ways to unify students around a common identity as part of the University through meaningful engagement with the performing arts.

“Penn State shares The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s commitment to fostering important dialogue about identity and community, and the grant to the Center for Performing Arts will enable us to develop a deeper shared understanding of what it means to be a Penn Stater,” said University President Eric J. Barron. “This support will allow us to tap the vast creativity of our students and faculty in interpreting ‘We Are’ for the 21st century.”

The concept behind “We Are,” based on the legendary Penn State rallying cry, will ask if there is a deeper, more profound relationship to the phrase that can be explored. The center proposes to use the performing arts as the mechanism for exploring this phrase — for example, its meaning for students who might feel disenfranchised — and for critically examining one’s individual identity and place within the Penn State culture and the world at large.

The program grant, for use from 2019 through 2022, will encapsulate four exploration points: personal and communal identity; creating and receiving empathy; recognizing the importance of telling one’s own story; and preparing for global citizenship.

“I am very grateful for the support provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for this exciting project,” center Director George Trudeau said. “We look forward to engaging students, faculty, and artists in shared explorations through the performing arts of concepts and ideas of belonging and inclusion, of truly who We Are.”

Trudeau also announced a monetary match of $120,000 from the Penn State Office of the Provost for Faculty Affairs for a total funding amount of $720,000.

“Performing artists are uniquely positioned to illuminate issues of community, understanding that all social activity happens in spaces with individuals interacting with each other,” Trudeau said. “By framing experiences that ask participants to examine who they are — both as Penn Staters and as people — the center hopes to uncover multiple ways of belonging as part of this distinctive community.”

The center’s visiting artists will help to drive new ways of thinking and pathways for belonging, and they will help the organization to develop new models for curricular and research integration through the arts. Throughout the project period, the center will work with the Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design and other Penn State partners to develop four new interdomain general-education courses that will live beyond the grant period and combine the arts with one of the other knowledge domains: arts and humanities; health and wellness; natural sciences; and social and behavioral sciences.

This gift will advance “A Greater Penn State for 21st-Century Excellence,” a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. Learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st-Century Excellence.”

The Mellon Foundation previously awarded the center two grants totaling $870,000 for the Classical Music Project series, which ran from 2011 to 2017. The aim of that program was to elevate the profile of the center’s classical music presentations.