Fall 2016 Features

Dean Mathews Answers Why Fine Arts Matter on Bison Hill

Why is it important to study the arts?

“In the beginning, God created.” Our first record of the work of God hints at the inventiveness and artistry of our Maker. Through His creation, we see variety, practicality, community and love. And we soon learn that the crown of His creation bears His image; an image that finds delight in the creative process.

Art, music, drama, speech and design lead us close to the call of the Garden. Artistic endeavors call us to thoughtful solitude as we hone our craft while at the same time leading us to vibrant community where we share our work as well as join in the work of others. Pursuit of the arts quiets the noise of our fallen world and causes our hearts to yearn for something greater: a return to the unblemished beginning when we join with all creation in singing the praises of Him who created us, redeemed us, sustains us and desires to dwell with us for eternity.

Why should students come to OBU if they want to pursue a degree in the fields of music, art and design, or communication arts?

People. In terms of expertise and experience, the faculty of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts is exceptional. In terms of personal concern for the students, they are unmatched. The students that comprise the College are spectacular – talented, compassionate, intelligent, driven and dedicated to the cause of Christ. Opportunities to learn and to practice an artistic craft are certainly numerous and laudable, but I have found the most compelling reason for gifted, committed musicians and artists to attend OBU is the people with whom they will work and live. We are sincere in our desire to welcome new students, to push them toward their personal best, and to send them into the world proud of their formative years on Bison Hill and eager to lend their talents and time to expanding the influence of the Kingdom of God.

What do students learn from an OBU education in the College of Fine Arts? What sets an OBU fine arts degree apart from other Christian and Baptist universities?

Generally speaking, students in the College of Fine Arts are immersed in the liberal arts tradition, learning a spectrum of subjects that further prepare them to be contributing members of society, subjects including math, science, literature, languages, social sciences, biblical studies and physical education. Simultaneously, we expect our students to dig deep into a chosen field and to develop individual skills to prepare them for graduate studies, viable careers and a lifetime of growth and success. If a designer, he will learn the history of design, tools of that trade and disciplined approaches to producing great works of art. If an actress, she will likewise learn the history of theatre, techniques of drama and stagecraft and individual skills to convincingly portray a given role. If a singer, he will know music theory and music history, will practice vocalizing, learn diverse repertoire and build confidence as a soloist and ensemble member to perform artistically in a myriad of settings. Breadth and depth, wisdom and knowledge, skill and judgement, the “what,” “how” and “why” of what artists do, are our goals for our students.

When students graduate with degrees from the College, what careers are they prepared for? What types of positions or fields of study might they work in?

The possibilities are as diverse as our student body. Worship leaders, professional writers, educators, composers, missionaries, designers, performers and photographers are just a sampling of the career opportunities. I believe the degrees in the College of Fine Arts offer some of the best training for the broadest spectrum of professional skills in terms of personal discipline, critical thinking, collaborative work, creative problem solving and confident presentation. While our degrees are rigorous and focused, the experiences gained and skills acquired equip our graduates to face whatever challenges may come and to pursue whatever path the Lord places before them.

What does the future of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts hold at OBU? What are some of the long-term goals for the College?

Practically speaking, we hope to finish renovations on Ford Music Hall and to provide some aesthetic updates to our other buildings across campus. We will continue developing the camaraderie and effectiveness of our team, which includes seven new faculty members, one new administrative assistant and a new dean. We plan to begin a debate team, to send more ensembles on national and international tours and to see the digital animation program thriving. And, we pray for measurable growth in terms of the number of students, gifts from friends and alumni, and recognition for our faculty and student research and creative work.

In a broader light, I long for the College of Fine Arts to bring beauty to our world as we build bridges between the past and the future, tradition and innovation, scholarship and service, and the church and our world. We have a rich history to celebrate and an uncharted future to shape. As academics and artists, we hope to use our gifts to edify the body of Christ and to engage a diverse, lost world in ways that will open the door for the gospel.

What has your experience been like so far at OBU?

The welcome has been warm, the possibilities are vast and the expectations are high. I realize that I have been grafted into a company of greatness and grace, and I’ve loved every minute of it. God has frequently confirmed our call and has placed people at just the right time to encourage and to teach me. I’m quickly falling in love with the people and the place that comprise OBU.

What do you most look forward to during your first year as dean?

Meeting people and developing friendships. I have already met so many who share wonderful stories of their time at OBU, or their family members who were impacted by OBU, or their respect for OBU students, professors and leaders. I know there are many others with similar stories who share the vision of the impact OBU can have in transforming lives to the glory of Christ, and I look forward to meeting them and joining them on this great journey of faith and learning.