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IPFW’s Dean of Visual and Performing Arts launches arts-themed TV show
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
Chuck O'Connor is an amazing asset for the city of Fort Wayne. Being relatively new to the Fort Wayne arts scene, O'Connor is the Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at IPFW. He has a great vision for the institution, and the ways in which it can interact with the community at large. Before moving to the heartland, O'Connor served as the Executive Director of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre at UNLV, turning that organization into the best-attended performing arts organization in Las Vegas. Not only that, he also conceived and started the Film and New Media Program, now the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Obviously, when he says that he wants to do something, he usually finds a way to do it.
For all of those reasons and more, O'Connor is really getting people to notice our arts communities through Arts Weekly, a multimedia project which has been created between IPFW, WFWA, and use of Web 2.0 applications like Facebook and Twitter. Like life, art always seems to find a way to be noticed and create its own audiences; Arts Weekly would seem to be the product of that very evolutionary process. The most important thing to understand about Chuck O'Connor, however, is his openness to the arts and his genuine appreciation for their existence. "Arts Weekly accepts the broadest definition of “arts’,” he says. “For instance, we are interested in covering emerging bands in the area, poetry and literature, comedy, anything that is a function of human expression. Also, we hope to never take ourselves too seriously."
FWR: What was the impetus for creating Arts Weekly?
CO'C: On a personal level, I have just always loved talking about, reading about, and going to the movies, the theatre, concerts of all kinds, and art exhibits. For me, it is the discussion that they elicit: the thoughts, inspiration, ideas, and of course the joy that makes it all so meaningful to me. Remember the days when you would go to a movie or buy an album or CD, and then talk about it for the rest of the night? You know the arguments, which Godfather is the best, Stones or Beatles, that sort of thing. I still do that, except now I do it on T.V instead of in my college apartment. And, well, my interests have broadened a bit - and I wear a tie more now.
FWR: How did this project get started/who are all the partners involved?
CO'C: I guess I was the one who thought it would be fun to do. So completing ignoring the fact that I am already really busy, my colleague, Irene Walters, and I talked with Bruce Haines over at WFWA and he liked the idea. Thankfully, Mike Wartell was very supportive, so we just moved forward and started doing the show.
FWR: Could you describe the format of Arts Weekly?
CO'C: Arts Weekly is a television show that asks regional artists and performers to talk about and show us their work. Each week we interview two or three people - we try to get inside their heads and find out where their wisdom lies. We also encourage our audience to join our discussions by going to our Facebook site and posting their comments. Another good feature of the show is its Twitter feed. We send out tweets almost every day letting people know what’s going on in the area.
FWR: What do you see Arts Weekly growing into?
CO'C: One of the cool things about the show is that it is largely produced and directed by students from our communications department at IPFW. These people are really good. They have ambitions to take this show, or something like it, to a national level. Arts journalism for television and emerging media provides a real opportunity to them.
FWR: How do you see Arts Weekly fitting into your role as IPFW's Dean of Visual and performing arts?
CO'C: I think an important thing to be conscious about is that this is not about IPFW, or me, or my college. It is about northeast Indiana, and what brings meaning to our lives, and makes our community really interesting.
FWR: What can we see on the next episode (October 18th)
CO'C: First we will be featuring Liz Monnier from the Fort Wayne Dance Collective who will be talking about their upcoming dance concert, “7 Deadly Sins.” This will be a learning experience for me – I’m surprised there is only seven. Then we will have Melanie Bookout and Farrell Vernon from the IPFW Department Music. Melanie is incredible, she plays a rare baroque instrument called the Viola de Gamba and will be giving a concert later this month. Farrell is our jazz man, and is a true force of nature on the sax. People have to hear this guy.
FWR: How do you see Arts Weekly as having a role of community development for all the arts in the greater fort Wayne area?
CO'C: Clearly cities with strong cultural attractions are among the most vibrant economically in America. Cities strong in the arts attract new and innovative companies into their regions as well as the people who work for them, people who desire the amenities of a good life. I get a headache thinking that Arts Weekly will achieve all that. The best I can hope for is that we will serve as an animating agent that will get people to check out the amazing arts and music scene here. This will, in turn, encourage artists, performers, and musicians to do even more, thereby increasing the quality of our lives as a result - and that is how the creative universe stays forever perpetually turning over. (thanks to Suzuki for that last bit)
Clearly Chuck O'Connor's knowledge of the broader cultural aspects as well as the structural problems of a viable arts community make him perfect for his role with Arts Weekly, and his position at IPFW. The arts community's support of O'Connor's projects will be necessary for their further growth and honest fruition. This is a time when all of the arts communities need to come together and see Arts Weekly as a very pure vision of support, and enthusiastically revel in all of the cultural fascinations and true artists which our region has and will create.
Arts Weekly can be seen on Sundays at 7:30pm on PBS39 WFWA-DT Fort Wayne. Also keep track of the program of Facebook and Twitter.