Fine arts offering opportunities to express yourself

At Minnesota State University, Mankato students have many opportunities to express themselves in the fine art programs. Some of the programs offered at MSU are music, art and the performing arts, like theater and dance. 

Julie Kerr-Berry is the department chair for MSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance. She explained why people should appreciate the fine arts departments at schools. 

“The fine arts humanize us. They remind us about what it means to be a human being and to tell stories and to make music,” said Kerr-Berry. “ It sometimes reflects the affective domain of who we are, as people, and I think there are different communicative dskills that one develops in an art form.”

Before it was a combined program, it was two separate departments. Dance was a part of the physical education program until 1999 when it switched to fine arts. 

“There was a trend going on about 20-30 years ago about moving dance out of physical education and into the fine arts. When the dance program moved out of human performance 20 years ago, it was following a national trend,” said Kerr-Berry. “The motivation in that was probably more akin to what went on in theater as an art form than what was going on in human performance.” 

Daniel Stark, the director of dance, also spoke about how the two programs combined. 

“Dance used to be more of an athletic thing, and that was typical for universities. Usually, dance started in universities in women’s physical education and then eventually moved into performing arts,” said Stark. “That was a kind of an interesting transition from seeing dance as something that was physical education into something that is an art form and the performing arts.” 

Florence Cobb helped the dance program get started in the 1970s. She invited numerous guest artists, ran workshops, and instructed seminars open to MSU students, local high school students, and the surrounding community. Her work promoting the art of dance culminated in the implementation of the Dance Education Minor, under the auspices of the Physical Education Department, in 1976. She retired from MSU in 1990. 

“We do a fall dance concert yearly, but we’re having a very special celebration this year. It’s dedicated to Florence Cobb, the person who started the dance program in the late 1960s,” said Kerr-Berry. “She was a black American, one of the first black professors on campus at a very turbulent time in the 1960s. She’s the reason why we have a dance program. So that’s a really important thing.” 

While the programs are independent, students from both can take classes in either discipline.

“Theater and dance work very much in a collaborative way. Some of it is coursework, and some is in the productions,” said Kerr-Berry. “For example, we have theater majors that will perform in the dance concert, and we have dancers that perform in the theater productions. For example, in High School Musical, several dance majors performed.” 

If students want to support the theater and dance programs, they can attend shows, take courses or audition for productions, which are open to any major. 

“We have auditions the first week of school, and anybody is open to those auditions. From there, we cast, and our goal is to get as many students on stage performing as possible,” said Stark. “Typically means that some dances are actually very big cast so that we can get a lot of people performing on stage.” 

For more information on how to support the fine arts, go to the MSU website and click on the fine arts tab. 

Header Photo: Actors play out roles in a Shakespearean play, participating in just one of the many fine arts that campus offers for students. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

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