New visual and performing arts dean sets vision for more degrees, department growth

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The performing arts department is under new leadership, and the new dean has a vision of growth and diversity.

Jeffery Jarvis joined Dixie State University as the new dean of visual and performing arts this semester after nine years at the University of Central Arkansas.

“I was looking for a step up,” Jarvis said. “I was a music department chair, and I was looking for a fine arts position. For about the last three or four years [my wife and I] were looking to move west if we could.”

Although his main expertise is music, one of Jarvis’ goals in his new position as dean is to unite all fronts of fine and performing arts to work together at the university level. He said he hopes to see networks being built between artists to broaden their perspective on other sections of the arts before they graduate.

“My real hope is that we can build a culture in the school that is collaborative,” Jarvis said. “So that students in music, while they are developing as musicians … also [learn] to interact with visual artists. I think that’s what we can do because of our size — we can do some things on the front end of building this program that can make us special.”

Others in the department are aware of Jarvis’ goals and are ready to work with him to achieve growth.

“I was pleased to find out that he understands the arts,” said associate theater professor Michael Harding. “He understands theater. He understands music. He understands dance and visual art. Importantly, he understands not only what it is, but also it’s relevance in today’s world and the professional needs that our students have.”

Jarvis said he wants relationships to build not only within the department, but also with the school and the art in the community.

“There is so much art in this community,” Jarvis said. “So much theater, so much music, so much dance … You just open your eyes and you see it everywhere.”

When Jarvis joined the program goals were already in place to build upon the degrees offered in the performing arts program. He said he has just dived into some areas where the planned growth was already taking place.

“We have [goals] in place to solidify the degree programs that we have in music, theater and art, and to add a degree program in dance,” Jarvis said. “We are working beyond that to get national accreditation in each of those areas … That just puts another stamp of validation on those programs.”

The degrees will expand from the liberal arts to professional degrees, Jarvis said, including a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts and a Bachelor’s of Music.

“It’s become very clear that his vision is really admirable,” Harding said. “Not only is he aware of where we are right now in relationship to the professional world, but (he also knows) where the professional world is going and where our program needs to go to keep up with it. I’m very pleased; I’m very impressed.”