KINGSTON, R.I. — Feb. 23, 2021– With a week before voters decide on a $107 million bond issue for higher education, University of Rhode Island art, music and theater students have a lengthy list of reasons why voters should vote yes.
As part of Question 1 for higher education, which voters will consider on March 2, URI would receive $57.3 million to support the completion of renovations and improvements to the Fine Arts Center.
The Fine Arts Center is home to URI’s theater, music and art programs, which fosters the talents and skills of more than 5,000 aspiring artists every year. Renovations to the Fine Arts building will be pivotal in providing rich cultural and artistic experiences, attracting new talent, and providing new opportunities to students and artists who contribute to the creative economy.
Here’s what students across various fine arts majors are saying about how the bond issue can benefit them and the faculty:
Lierin Sullivan, junior art history and English double major, Smithfield, Rhode Island
“Renovation will do a lot to improve community morale. It would allow students access to a space that reflects our efforts and talents in the arts. It would give some well-deserved attention to the amazing educators found here, and I hope it would inspire students to venture into the building more. I think it is necessary because the current state of the Fine Arts Center is not a true reflection of the level of education found within its walls. A learning environment has a lot of influence over how students stay motivated, perform, and even view themselves.”
Joey Peavey, freshman music therapy major, Merrimack, New Hampshire
“The community at the Fine Arts Center has been extremely caring and supportive, while pushing me to become a better musician. One thing that has been extremely frustrating is not having enough practice rooms in the Fine Arts Center. It feels limiting and I always feel like I’m cramming in practice in some of the few rooms that are available. Moreover, having the exterior look as aesthetically inviting as the rest of campus is something that is necessary.”
He said it’s time for the Fine Arts Center to look as beautiful as the Fascitelli Center for Advanced Engineering, which is across the street. He said fine arts faculty and students deserve the same outstanding teaching and learning spaces as the engineering and science programs.
“There is an immense amount of talent here within the students, faculty, and staff, and with more funding we can really self-actualize our talents as individuals and as a community. I strongly believe that the music community here is unlike anything that I have ever seen. This investment would motivate us even more to become the best musicians we can be.”
Caleb Hilyard, sophomore music education major, Portsmouth, Rhode Island
“The best part of the music department here at URI is the sense of community. Despite the friendliness of the people who make up the department, the building itself is dark and dreary. Physical improvements to the building will result in a more welcoming learning space. Having access to more educational space, and practice rooms would help make learning easier and more comfortable. The bond approval would absolutely benefit my learning experience here at the university. A renovated Fine Arts Center would not only be aesthetically pleasing, but a welcome addition to Rhode Island’s and Southern New England’s artistic life. The Fine Arts Center hosts a multitude of programs, such as the Southern New England Honor Band, Rhode Island Music Education Association High School Jazz Festival, URI Brass Day and Guitar Festival, and RIMEA Professional Development workshops, which attract prospective students, professionals, and community members from across the region.”
Makayla Lane, junior vocal performance major, North Providence, Rhode Island
“The Fine Arts Center is our home base. Our faculty care so much for us individually. Something that would make the experience better for me and our professors would have more and improved rehearsal spaces. We are struggling with sharing spaces while still allowing a safe amount of ventilation. This makes it difficult for us to coordinate rehearsals with a lot of people due to limited spaces. We should also include handicap access to our second levels. The bulk of our practice rooms and professors
studios/offices are on the second floor of our building. Having a more inclusive building will not only inspire people to attend, but make them more comfortable. This bond approval is necessary, and would change the lives of the people in our building. We not only want our guest performers and students to feel proud of and confident in the building where we present our hard work and talents, but we as students want to feel excited and inspired to come to our building every day. Having facilities that reflect how hard we work is our dream, having spaces that are comfortable will inspire us to work harder. Giving us the proper spaces to rehearse and perform would change the entire experience for students where they would be coming to a bright, comfortable, beautiful building.”
Omar Laguerre-Lewis, junior theatre major, Mamaroneck, New York
“This would benefit my experience at URI because there are a lot of structural issues here at the Fine Arts Center. The building simply is not as well constructed as others on campus, and it affects all students’ learning experiences. I think it’s necessary because it’s impacting our ability to work.
Riley Nedder, sophomore theatre (acting and costume design concentrations) and English double major, Attleboro, Massachusetts
“As a theatre major, I spend so much time in the Fine Arts Center. I love the building as a hub for creativity and social interaction, but there are parts of it that are unfortunately really run down. This bond would help the Fine Arts Center physically reflect all the beauty and creativity that goes on inside. So many students, whether they are fine arts students or not, spend time at the Fine Arts Center, whether for classes or for shows, and it should be able to positively reflect URI’s community.”
Note: Student photos were taken before the pandemic or by themselves in socially distant settings.
Edhaya Thennarasu, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and Communications major, wrote this press release.