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Fine arts initiative helps strengthen town-gown ties

by Kate Hofler Dabbs

When Furman was based in downtown Greenville, it was the epicenter of the city’s cultural scene, frequently playing host to orchestral productions, concerts, plays and festivals. Now, through the impetus of Furman’s Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, gifts from university benefactors and two major grants — $800,000 from the Mellon Foundation and $2 million from The Duke Endowment — a fine arts initiative linking Furman and Greenville is under way.

A key aspect of the initiative is Partners in the Arts, an outreach program coordinated by Anna Barbrey Joiner of the music faculty. It connects Furman to the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, the Upcountry History Museum and other organizations to strengthen students’ access to the professional arts field. More Furman arts events will be held downtown, and Partners in the Arts is collaborating with the Peace Center to sponsor such programs as February’s appearance by the Boston Pops, conducted by Keith Lockhart ’81. At the Upcountry History Museum, campus departments will have an ongoing presence through exhibits, speaker series and other collaborations.

Mellon Foundation funds have allowed the music department to hire a musicologist, and it is working to add a position in arts administration. Theatre arts has provided enhanced acting instruction for students and upgrades of its stage equipment.

Thanks to a donation from trustee Todd Ruppert and his wife, Karen, the art department is involved in a major project with Peter Wexler, a New York artist and Broadway set designer. Furman is digitizing much of Wexler’s  work, including sculptures, set models, sketches, paintings and photos. An exhibit of Wexler’s work is scheduled this fall at the Upcountry History Museum.

Furman also recently hired Marta Lanier, an admission counselor devoted to recruiting fine arts students, and adopted a marketing strategy to highlight the university’s strength in the arts.

Contact to learn more about Partners in the Arts. To learn more about the overall arts initiative, contact john.beckford@furman.eduThe author is Web communications coordinator at Furman. Arts illustration by


Last updated March 1, 2013
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