$750,000 to boost New College’s arts, humanities initiatives

In this file photo, people arrive at New College of Florida's graduation ceremony held at the Historic Bayfront Campus.
In this file photo, people arrive at New College of Florida's graduation ceremony held at the Historic Bayfront Campus.

A $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will help New College of Florida spread some of its arts and humanities initiative throughout the area.

The “New College: Connecting the Arts and Humanities on Florida’s Creative Coast” project has three central goals, according to organizers:

  • To elevate New College’s capacity to contribute to public discourse on humanities and arts in the region.
  • To build sustainable relations with local arts organizations.
  • To establish sustainable academic connections with local colleges that comprise the Consortium of Colleges on the Creative Coast, also called the C4 group.

“These are the subjects that deal with, for lack of a better word, the human soul,” New College president Don O’Shea said.

Some of the more immediate outcomes, O’Shea said, will likely include humanities classes open to the public, new courses that students across the C4 colleges can enroll in, and humanities professors better leveraging relationships with arts organizations in the area.

“We’ve got all the pieces here but not the connective tissue,” O’Shea said.

The grant will run over five years and will be managed by the provost’s office. Nova Myhill, an English professor, and April Flakne, a philosophy professor, will direct the project. A senior program officer of the foundation will be on campus in November to speak about the value of arts in liberal arts and why New College’s proposal was chosen.

The grant will support projects that bring together faculty and students across C4 colleges, such as faculty seminars and jointly developed courses that will be available to students at the colleges, and the sharing of arts and humanities opportunities between campuses.

Announced in January 2016, the C4 group is a joint effort between New College, University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, Ringling College of Art and Design and State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. The effort also includes Florida State University's programs at the Ringling Museum and Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

Instead of being thought of as separate institutions, the C4 group aims to leverage the resources of all the institutions.

Although O’Shea was able to rattle off some likely early outcomes, he said it was hard to determine what would happen in five years. O’Shea said he was thrilled and humbled when he got the word about the grant.

“Mellon drove a stake in the ground, saying the humanities matter, and ... we think we can really move it to a new level and we made a pitch, they agreed, and it’s just so gratifying,” he said. “It feels like the winds at your back instead of blowing against you.”

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney