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Omaha Magazine

Where the Arts Come Together

Nov 11, 2015 09:44AM ● By Kim Carpenter
It’s been a big year for Creighton University’s Fine and Performing Arts Department. Its spring production of Cabaret received 13 Theatre Arts Guild nominations and took away a whopping five, including Outstanding Musical. The Midlands Mentoring Partnership named ceramics professor Amy Nelson Mentor of the Year for her commitment to helping teens through the Joslyn Art Museum’s Kent Bellows Mentoring Program and her exhortation for Creighton students to engage their community in similar ways.

The year has, in short, been phenomenal for the department, which is unique among Jesuit universities for offering a full complement of fine and performing arts programs, including photography, printing, dance, and music.

But 2015 is a big year for another, more important reason: it marks half a century of the department’s commitment to bringing all these disciplines together, and it plans to celebrate with public events that demonstrate its combined strengths.

“The department started with a lot of guts and determination,” notes John Thein, who began teaching drawing and printmaking at Creighton in 1975 and retired this past spring. “We started in a building downtown and, over the years, the department has really grown. The chairpersons are due a tremendous amount of respect.”

One of those chairpersons is professor of music Frederick Hanna, who has held the position for the past decade. “We put a task force together two years ago to discuss how to celebrate the anniversary. All of us became involved. We wanted to do a collaboration between studio and performing arts. It’s unusual and rare to bring in the complete department.”

This collaboration is taking the form of the fittingly and simply titled “A Creighton Exhibition,” which in addition to Nelson and Thein includes work by three other fine arts faculty members: photographer the Rev. Michael Flecky, painter Bob Bosco, and sculptor Littleton Alston. It also features a symphony that Hanna composed to commemorate the anniversary.

“My inspiration was each faculty member,” explains the music professor. “The piece opens with thematic material that reoccurs throughout and weaves five major sections together, which are depictions of the five studio artists in the department. They were my inspiration. I know these artists and created melodic material for each. The 50th anniversary is a big deal.”

Bridget Keegan, dean of Creighton’s College of Arts and Sciences, agrees. “It’s definitely exciting,” she remarks. “The exhibition’s a showcase.”

For her, the 50th anniversary celebration also underscores the university’s mission regarding fine and performing arts. “One thing to note is that, historically, Jesuit spirituality emphasizes the importance of imagination. If you go back to the 17th and 18th centuries, Jesuits were putting on plays and operas. They really cultivate imagination through the arts. They educate through creativity.”

She notes that Creighton’s Fine and Performing Arts Department more than achieves this goal. “We are so proud of our department,” she emphasizes. “We started the year on a roll. It’s very inspiring. We’re so fortunate to have these programs where students can cultivate their creative passions.”

“A Creighton Exhibition” runs Nov. 2 through Dec. 5. An artists' reception takes place on Friday, November 13, with a performance by the student orchestra conducted by Hanna. The event is free and open to the public, although the Fine and Performing Arts Department encourages people to bring boxed or canned food for donation to the Siena Francis House.

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