Seeking to cut back on administrative costs, art departments at Stony Brook University are combining under a new Center for the Arts, which will include the Staller Center’s performance space.

The new center has been under discussion for years, according to the university, but the actual implementation of it could happen very soon.

“Discussions of a Center for the Arts arose out of the Strategic Planning Process in December of 2009 and the plans have yet to be finalized,” said university spokesman James Montalto.

Even so, sources within the art departments say that the new Center for the Arts could be “taking effect this semester.”

The plan would include bringing the music, art, and theater departments, as well as the Staller Center’s performance spaces, together under a single administrative staff. According to Montalto, no decisions have been made in terms of leadership.

John Lutterbie, an associate professor and the director of graduate studies in the Department of Theater Arts, said that the separate departments would maintain a degree of independence.

“The departments will maintain their own autonomy but share the administrative staff,” he said.

The move comes amidst the gradual implementation of shared service centers, a university-wide initiative to consolidate the administrative components of individual academic departments. But the creation of the Center for the Arts is not directly related to planned shared service centers, says Montalto.

“This would be an academic and performance center for the campus and is independent of shared-service centers,” he said in an email.

Still, the university will be watching closely to see how well the Center for the Arts adapts to their new administrative structure, with the hopes of modeling future shared service centers on it.

“The prototype for these shared service centers has been in the arts,” said President Samuel Stanley at his annual State of the University address on Monday.

The new Center for the Arts will serve as more than just a trial balloon for shared service centers. Combining all of the arts-related departments into a single entity will have several practical benefits as well, says Lutterbie.

“The reason for creating a center, in part, is to give greater visibility to the arts on the whole,” he said. “And it’s easier to raise funds for the center than individual departments.”

Raising money from outside donors or foundations is not uncommon in the hard sciences and other research-focused disciplines. But in the humanities and arts, academic departments are not typically big beneficiaries from grants. The inclusion of the Staller Center for the Performing Arts, which has no direct academic component, within the new Center for the Arts will allow the new administrators to raise money simultaneously for the performance component and academic component of the center.

To help with those efforts, the center will budget in a salary for a full-time fundraising person, according to Lutterbie.

Students who are currently enrolled in academic programs within the arts won’t notice much of a change at all.

“What they will see,” said Lutterbie, “is a change in terms of new opportunities and our innovative program.”

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