Sweet Briar’s pastoral 3,200-acre campus — ideal for contemplation and creative practice — is also a vibrant destination for art-making, art scholarship, and art education that responds to the needs and aspirations of a new generation, where the ability to think creatively is key to addressing both individual and societal challenges.
Across its 117-year history, the arts have been a cornerstone of Sweet Briar College. An informed appreciation for the field, a critical and historical understanding of the role of the arts in human civilization, and the development of artistic practice and skill are central to the College’s purpose. From a noted collection of fine and decorative arts and support for artistic scholarship to the cultivation of artists, performers, curators, authors, and arts managers, spanning each of these endeavors at Sweet Briar is a commitment to creativity as a central feature in the liberal arts experience and to the arts as a profound investment in human potential.
The college contains several distinct but related arts facilities — the Art Barn and Ceramics Studio, imaginative renovations of the College’s original dairy barns from its days as a working farm; The Ann Gary Pannell Center, one of the College’s many graceful examples of Georgian Revival architecture, and which serves as the college’s primary gallery space; and the Babcock Performing Arts Center, with an auditorium for large-scale productions, a black box theatre, a music library, an art gallery, dance studios, and numerous private music studios. A wide variety of acclaimed artists visit campus every year for lectures, performances, and exhibitions, and students across campus are engaged in a diverse range of artistic activities from musical performance and composition to dance, theatre, creative writing, and visual studies. Every student at the College is exposed to the arts through the College’s leadership core curriculum, and our majors in English and creative writing, the performing arts, and visual studies, as well our certificate program in arts management are lively hubs for artistic practice and conversation.
In addition, through the College’s unique partnership with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, students are taught in the studio classroom by its fellows, award-winning emerging and established artists. Through collaborative programs and activities linked to Sweet Briar’s core curriculum, the center connects students and faculty, VCCA fellows, and the community in catalytic opportunities for learning and teaching, apprenticeship and mentorship, and performance and exhibition, creating a naturally-evolving environment for expression, learning, and connection that spans the arts and reaches deeply into other disciplines. The result is an interdisciplinary blend of study and practice unique among liberal arts institutions today.
Theologian Thomas Merton said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” To come to know oneself and to know others in an increasingly complex and dynamic world is a challenge facing every individual today. Both require time, a room of one’s own, and the opportunity for engagement with others. The making of art and the opportunity to be in the presence of art serve as a bridge that unites individuals of diverse circumstances in individual and shared experiences of expression and humanity.
The Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts lives in the nexus of that experience.
Director, The Center for Creativity, Design, and the Arts