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Larry D. Thompson, Interim Dean; Professor, Art and Design
Since the earliest years of the university’s history, music and the dramatic arts have been a vital part of campus life. The college Glee Club sang at commencements, and seniors and dramatic arts students performed in campus productions during the school year. The Masquers Club, organized in 1933, invited all students to be a part of their dramatic productions. Within five years, the popularity of The Masquers Club increased to such a degree that their productions were limited to drama students only. Throughout the state, Howard College dramatic productions were well recognized, and that recognition continues to the present.
In 1948, the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the establishment of the Department of Music to offer the bachelor of music degree. Prior to that time, music was taught on campus by professional musicians from a local music school through a cooperative agreement, but a bachelor’s degree was not offered. By 1952, the music curriculum was so successful that more teaching space was required to accommodate the demand for music courses. In 1970, the department was elevated to school status.
In 2001, dramatic arts, known as the Theatre Department, moved to the School of Music, and the school was renamed the School of Performing Arts with a Division of Music and a Department of Theatre. A new major, musical theatre, was introduced, in both the music division and the theatre department. In 2008, the Department of Art formally joined the school, which was renamed the School of the Arts.
In 2009, the theatre department was renamed the Department of Theatre and Dance, to recognize the expanded focus of the department. That same year, a new bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre was introduced.
In 2011, the Department of Interior Design formally joined the school and was renamed the Department of Interior Architecture, offering a bachelor of fine arts in interior design as well as a concentration in pre-architecture.
The Department of Art and the Department of Interior Architecture were joined together as the Division of Art and Design from 2014 through 2021.
The Center for Worship and the Arts was established in 2013 to equip congregations to engage intergenerational and artistic worship practices that glorify God, honor Christ, and join the transformative work of the spirit in the world. Housed in the School of the Arts, the Center offers unique on-line resources and on-campus programming for student worship leaders and their mentors.
In 2014, the university established the Academy of the Arts by joining existing programs in Preparatory Music and Samford After Sundown to offer non-credit classes, studio lessons, and certificates in the arts for all ages throughout the year.
In 2017, the School of the Arts launched the Catalyst Program. This included creating 13-credit hours of new SOA course work designed to propel students into their artistic careers by fostering creative and entrepreneurial thinking, cross-disciplinary collaboration, and a greater understanding of the intersection between the arts and their faith.
Samford introduced an interdisciplinary Christian ministry degree in the fall of 2018 designed to equip committed students from across the Samford campus for the work of ministry and missions through a biblically-grounded, missionally-focused curriculum. The new Department of Christian Ministry also houses the Ministry Training Institute, a non-degree program with a long history at Samford that offers theological training to church communities throughout the Southeast.
In 2020, the School of the Arts introduced two new majors, a bachelor of arts in commercial music and a bachelor of science in game design and 3D animation. In 2021, the Division of Art and Design transitioned to two departments: Department of Art and Design and Department of Architecture and Interior Design. Additionally, the School of the Arts launched a new five-year accelerated master of architecture program within the Department of Architecture and Interior Design.
During the summer of 2021, renovations began for both Harrison Theatre and Buchanan Hall. Harrison Theatre was completed to enhance the Fall 2021 season with accessible seating platforms, new overall guest seating, improved safety measures and new performance and production platforms. Buchanan Hall will be complete in the summer of 2022 and will be home to state-of-the-art facilities for the Division of Music.
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