I caught up with Dr. David Humphrey, who, as director of the Oregon Center for the Arts (OCA) at Southern Oregon University, is responsible for spearheading a multidisciplinary arts behemoth here in the Rogue Valley. He shared his thoughts with Quills on his direction and vision for the OCA. 

JG : David, OCA covers theater, the visual arts, creative writing, dance, the emerging arts, classical music concerts, you name it. What do you feel your role is in orchestrating this massive artistic endeavor? 

My role is to ensure collaboration and that each arts discipline is working towards a shared vision as part of the Oregon Center for the Arts. Much of my work is in the monitoring of the academic course offerings for students and making sure that faculty are loaded equally and fairly. I try not to micromanage each area but try to keep everyone moving in the same direction toward mutual goals. Much of my time is also coordinating and partnering with community arts organizations as well as connecting with patrons and donors. 

JG: Where are you finding support in the community that you feel will help OCA stand the test of time? Institutionally, and from individuals? 

DH: The OCA is structured in three parts — academic programs, allied programs and community partnerships. The academic programs are pretty self explanatory. The allied programs are those that are affiliated with SOU, i.e. Schneider Museum of Art, Chamber Music Concerts, ShakespeareAMERICA, Shakespeare Visiting Schools Program, Ashland Chamber Music Workshop, West Wind Review, Oregon Fringe Festival, EmCon, Regional High School Honor Band and Choir, One World Series (in collaboration with JPR), and a few more.

Community Partnerships are with arts organizations that we work in collaboration or in partnership, i.e. Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Britt Festivals, Southern Oregon Repertory Singers, Rogue Valley Symphony, Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon, Ashland Independent Film Festival, Ashland Art Center, New Play Festival and many more. Partnerships benefit our students by providing professional experiences in all aspect of the arts. We work with many individual artists from throughout Oregon that do residencies here, teach workshops, or perform and exhibit. 

JG: What would your dream scenario be for OCA over the next five, 10, 20 years? 

DH: Our dream is to have an impact throughout the state of Oregon and the West Coast. 

We would love to host a Governor's Summer School of the Arts and we would like to be a destination for all aspects of the arts. We would like to have a presence in Portland to allow our students and faculty artists to be able to exhibit and perform there on a regular basis. We want to set up a robust artist residency program and retreat for artists from throughout the Northwest to visit Ashland and develop work and dialogue with each other and our students. We want to establish a dance festival on the West Coast to bring in some of the best dance companies in the nation to perform here and to provide our students and area dancers classes and workshops. We want to establish a Music Theatre Workshop to allow our students and faculty opportunities to perform opera, operettas, musical theatre and cabaret with some of the best singers in the nation. We want to expand the Schneider Museum to include an education center and additional galleries. And we want to renovate and expand the Music Building to include a small recital hall and a 1,200-seat performance hall. 

JG: What particular aspect of this project do you feel the public should be paying more attention to, but isn't? 

DH: The Oregon Center for the Arts at SOU is new and is in the process of establishing itself as a major arts center serving the entire state. This is a difficult process and we seek greater recognition both locally and throughout the state for the awesome endeavors that we do.

JG: David, thanks for your time.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.