Provost Vincent Price - Expanding horizons

Penn's 'Arts and the City' year highlights arts, culture and their unique place at Penn

The Daily Pennsylvanian
September 24, 2009

Autumn days have their unique beauty - moments of warmth that seem fleeting as we begin to feel the end of the calendar year, and winter, approaching. These turns in the weather serve as a metaphor, perhaps, for the larger changes surrounding us at this moment: economic changes that will challenge many educational and public institutions, and their surrounding communities, in the coming months and years. Among the most challenged will likely be arts and culture institutions.

Yet this is also a time of great promise for the arts, with the potential to reassert dramatically their critical role at the heart of community life. Change and transformation are the essence of art and culture, and for this reason they serve as an emblem of our educational mission at Penn. The excitement of campus life lies in its sense of possibility: the possibility of transforming who you are, and the possibility in turn of transforming the world, whether through groundbreaking research, innovative ideas, social activism or inspiring art.

Arts and cultural programs have a unique place in our social fabric. They play a critical role not only in expanding knowledge, but also in bringing people from all walks of life together, for debate, for discussion and sometimes just for fun. Penn is fortunate to have an array of diverse and exciting cultural institutions, among them the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Arthur Ross Gallery, the University Museum, WXPN, Morris Arboretum, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, the Platt Student Performing Arts House and the Kelly Writers House.

There is perhaps no more important time to celebrate these fine institutions. We are doing just that, with the Arts & The City Year, Penn's celebration of arts and culture across our campus and throughout our neighborhood, city and region. Through symposia, lectures, music, film screenings and exhibits, the Arts & The City Year will serve as a reminder of art's power to build bridges across disciplines, centuries, neighborhoods and conventional boundaries of knowledge:

Support of the arts at Penn and in Philadelphia is, in essence, a celebration of the joys of shared experience. Some might claim that you can't quantify such joy, or put a price on it, and perhaps they're right. But consider that the arts are a $1.3 billion industry in Southeastern Pennsylvania, and that in Greater Philadelphia alone, there are 15 million visits to cultural organizations in a single year. Such vibrant cultural exchange is critical to the vitality of our economy.

But more than that, it is critical to our community, breathing life into our common experience, whether we are students, staff or area residents. It defines who we are, and what we value: creativity, self expression, imagination, intellectual and artistic freedom. We are here at Penn because we share these values. More than ever, we must be unwavering in our commitment to them.

Yes, we face change today, but change we can and will weather, together. Art, like our colleges and universities, retains the most idealistic and utopian sense of change. Change that is meaningful, profound and transformational, and experience that is both deeply personal and deeply shared by our community. Perhaps the Arts & The City Year will be such a transformation for you, and for Penn.