The Graceland University Division of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) on the Lamoni, Iowa, campus is developing a new design for its concerts, recitals, plays and exhibits schedule, according to Division Chair Adam Groh. “The spectacular new additions to Shaw Center have made us rethink our performance schedule,” Groh reports. To take advantage of the new opportunities the facility expansion provides, the VPA division will be promoting all of its public events in a new “At the Shaw” calendar. The intention is to coordinate publicity to campus and public alike to promote the vigorous artistic and intellectual life that occurs in Shaw Center.
In the past, the 650-seat auditorium was the primary focus of fine arts events. The homecoming play, concerts by the choirs, bands and orchestras, and the Performing Arts Series were season highlights. While those events will continue, the division also wishes to take full advantage of the additions of the smaller Carol Hall and the JR Theatre, as well as events in the Helene Center galleries.
Under the new “At the Shaw” program, attention will be given to opportunities for events that may have a more targeted audience. In addition to auditorium events, the music department will also schedule and advertise music recitals and lectures in Carol Hall. “Its acoustics are fantastic,” Groh relates, “and we can present solos or ensembles there that would get lost in the auditorium.” Carol Hall boasts a nine-foot concert grand Steinway piano and state-of-the-art recording equipment. According to one piano student, “When you play that Steinvway, you just sound better than you are.”
One new innovation already in place along this line is the first Thursday noon Recitals, a once-a-month opportunity for Graceland students to perform a selection from their repertoire.
The university will continue to contract with outside professional performers as it has done through the Performing Arts Series. However, the plan is to discontinue the “series.” Instead of marketing these events as part of a season package, Graceland will promote each one as it comes up on the calendar, along with Graceland events. Groh states, “We want to make those who have followed the series aware of the many other arts events that are occurring.”
The JR Theatre also provides new opportunities. Its open floor, great lighting and excellent sound system make it a director’s dream. Arliss Howard, who directed and starred in “Our Town” there for the Shaw Center dedication in 2012, claims that the JR Theatre is superior to similar facilities at elite Ivy League schools where he has worked.
“At the Shaw” will also integrate marketing of art exhibits that occur in the Helene Center’s Constance Art Gallery. In some cases, receptions for exhibit openings are scheduled to coincide with concerts or plays down the hall in Shaw Center. “We think that there is considerable overlap among the audiences for music, theatre and art,” Groh reflected, “and we want to get the word out through a single communication network to reach the largest possible audience.”
In the past, the Performing Arts Series has had its own mailing list as have the art and theatre departments. Now publicity will be integrated through social media, email and newspaper features to area papers.
To brighten the winter calendar, a multimedia art exhibit by Ames artist Tibi Chelcea will run through Feb. 12 in the Constance Gallery in the Helene Center. It will be followed by a brass recital and Valentine’s Swing Dance and jazz combo. On Feb. 29, Graceland will host the internationally-famous men’s vocal ensemble “Chanticleer.”
Where’s the action? It’s “At the Shaw.”