David Humphrey, the intrepid director of the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Europe on behalf of the university. We caught up with Humphries to find out about the trip and what he learned while he was away. 

JG: You recently took a trip to Barcelona on behalf of SOU, tell us about that. 

DH: This was a personal trip to Paris and Barcelona. However I had received an invitation by the Institute of the Arts Barcelona to visit their institution while I was in Barcelona and I accepted. This is Europe's only International Performing Arts Institution and it is an English-speaking school since it was founded by two citizens from the UK. This private school, actually located in the beautiful beach resort of Sitges about 20 minutes south of Barcelona, has nearly 300 students from 35 different nationalities. Students major in the performing arts, including acting, dance, film direction, musical theatre, popular and contemporary music, singing and recording arts. There is a graduate program in acting and dance too. What impressed me about this institution, besides their beautiful facilities and surroundings, is that it is a very diverse college community that encourages interdisciplinary dialogue and produces sophisticated, thinking arts practitioners and global citizens. 

JG: What do you see as the benefits of an exchange/collaboration program between SOU and European universities?  

DH: We have very talented students attending the Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University but many of them have very little experience outside of their home communities and culture. Students must have opportunities to broaden their horizons and learn and experience different cultures other than their own. This exchange program will provide students greater sophistication in their art as well as in their personal lives. SOU already has a robust international exchange program and many students take advantage of it but there is not an exclusive exchange program in the arts. This exchange program will provide a special opportunity for our OCA students. 

JG: What particular benefits do you see for SOU in having international students on campus? 

DH: Besides having our students study abroad, we also host international students at SOU which stimulates inquiry by American students into the cultural life of others. It enriches the educational experience of our students and provides life-long friendships with other students throughout the world. 

JG: Tell us about how this initiative fits into your larger vision for OCA. 

DH: The arts are universal and it is a form of communication between peoples of the world. We want our arts students to not only study the arts from other cultures but also to experience them as well. This provides a greater depth of artistic growth and appreciation. The mission of the OCA states that we will empower people to learn, interpret and change the world through the arts. In order to do that students must experience the world and what better way to do this than to study in Spain at the Institute of the Arts Barcelona. 

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