When Provost Peter Salovey assumes the presidency on June 30 next year, Yale’s galleries and arts professional schools will be stronger than they ever have been before, following 20 years under University President Richard Levin’s leadership.
In 2000, Levin announced the $250 million donor-funded Area Arts Plan, which would go on to fund additions to the physical resources of all four of Yale’s arts professional schools — the Schools of Architecture, Art, Drama and Music — as well other arts-related facilities. The plan also began the Yale University Art Gallery’s 14-year renovation process that culminated in March and increased the Gallery’s total exhibition space to 69,975 square feet. These changes in physical resources were accompanied by an increased administrative focus on increasing the affordability of professional arts education, and all four professional arts schools altered their financial aid policies during Levin’s tenure.
Though not all aspects of Levin’s vision for the Area Arts Plan and arts funding were completed before his resignation, high-level administrators at all four schools and the galleries said that Salovey’s important role in planning these initiatives will ensure their smooth continuation under the new administration.
“As provost, [Salovey] has been an extraordinary supporter of the arts and of collections across the board,” British Art Center Director Amy Meyers said. “I am confident that this support, given sincerely as provost, will now be extended in the presidency.”
Among the uncompleted projects of the Area Arts Plan is the renovation and expansion of the School of Drama’s aging buildings. School of Drama Dean James Bundy said in an email that since Salovey served as provost when the plans for these buildings were set in motion, it will be easy for him to get the projects up to speed. Jock Reynolds, director of the YUAG, said he expects the transition between the two Presidents to be “seamless and joyous.”
While the School of Music’s Sprague Hall and Leigh Hall were revamped during Levin’s term, Hendrie Hall — which houses the school’s opera, brass and percussion departments, as well as undergraduate music groups — is yet to undergo renovation.
Salovey said in an email that he expects to move forward with capital projects on both the drama and music campuses during his presidency, citing plans to raise funds for a new School of Drama theater to replace the Yale Repertory Theatre and to complete the Hendrie Hall renovation. Though the plans for Yale’s 13th and 14th residential colleges include space for a new undergraduate theater facility, Salovey said the theater — in addition to the colleges themselves — will require additional major donations that he will pursue as president.
But the most “visible” aspect of Levin’s legacy at the School of Drama has been the expansion of its financial aid program, Bundy said. He explained that as provost, Salovey had already closely collaborated with the school about its budget process, calling Salovey “instrumental” in maintaining the school’s affordability through the economic recession. The School of Drama’s financial aid budget is now $6.1 million, as opposed to the $1.4 million available when Bundy assumed the position of dean in 2002, the News reported in February. Levin also helped the School of Music solicit a $100 million donation to grant free tuition for all its students — Yale’s largest donation to date.
Meyers said Salovey’s connection to the British Art Center is evident in his position on the Board of Governors of the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, the institution that organizes the Yale-in-London program and maintains relationships between the center and art institutions in the United Kingdom. She added that Salovey and his wife, Marta Moret SPH ’84, are frequent visitors to the Center who “make it a point to come to events.”
Dean of the School of Architecture Robert A.M. Stern noted that Salovey’s experience as dean of Yale College will help him to “understand the psyche of undergraduates,” an ability that Salovey has demonstrated in his visible involvement in Yale’s undergraduate art scene. He has starred in multiple Yale Symphony Orchestra Halloween shows, playing roles such as the genie from Aladdin and a kidnapped Yale administrator.
“He’s been willing to come to Mory’s at 11:00 at night or climb Harkness at 7:00 in the morning to shoot with us,” said Wells Andres ’13, a violinist in YSO.
Salovey’s hobbies speak to his personal connection to the arts as well. As Director of Undergraduate Studies of the Music department Patrick McCreless said in an email, “How can you go wrong with a Yale President who plays in a bluegrass band?”
Since being appointed Yale’s 23rd president last Thursday, Salovey has continued to reach out to artistically inclined undergraduates. Andrew Leu ’13 said he received an email on Monday morning saying his photo of snow-covered Hillhouse Avenue had been selected to inaugurate a new tradition Salovey is putting in place, in which a student’s photograph will be featured on his annual holiday card and party invitations.
“It’s very encouraging to see that Salovey is taking an interest in students’ works,” Leu said. “This is an excellent way to get in touch with students and foster the art scene at Yale. He cares about what we care about, a hallmark of being a true Yalie — supporting the endeavors, artistic or otherwise, of your peers.”
Salovey’s activities outside of his role as a Yale administrator have also won him praise from members of the University’s arts community, many of whom described him as a participant in the arts as well as a fierce supporter of them.
“Peter Salovey is not only a great supporter of the arts — he’s also an artist himself,” Associate Dean of the Arts Susan Cahan said in a Thursday email. “As a musician and a psychologist, he understands creativity and the nature of non-verbal communication. His appointment marks an exciting new era for the arts in Yale College.”
Bimal Mendis, the director of undergraduate studies at the School of Architecture, expressed hope that Salovey’s “artistic flair” will be transformed into change on the institutional level. Mendis, who called the incoming president a “complete person in the model of the liberal arts,” noted that he would like to see more emphasis on the visual arts within the University’s core curriculum. While acknowledging that Levin has strengthened Yale’s arts disciplines on the whole, Mendis said he hopes Salovey’s administration will usher in an age in which visual arts are considered a more intrinsic part of the liberal arts education. Associate Dean of the School of Art Sam Messer said Salovey’s involvement with the visual arts at Yale has extended beyond New Haven to his role as a trustee of the Yale Summer School of Art and Music that takes place in Norfolk, Conn. annually.
Salovey and Moret have been New Haven residents since they arrived in the city as graduate students 30 years ago.
Sarah Swong contributed reporting.