History of VPA
These are some of the many significant events in the college’s history.
September 18, 1873
The College of Fine Arts (CFA) opens. It is the first degree-conferring organization of its kind in the United States. George E. Comfort is dean. CFA initially offers degrees in painting and architecture, though other studio arts and art history courses are offered.
Mark Marsden Maycock, first alumnus of CFA, graduates with a bachelor of painting degree.
Department of Music is founded. CFA becomes one of the first in the country to grant a degree in music and to require four years’ study in both music and theory.
John Crouse Memorial College for Women (Crouse College) is formally dedicated. It is the third building on campus and is occupied by CFA. Its chimes are the first to be installed and played in the city of Syracuse. They are first rung by Charles Douglas of Delta Kappa Epsilon. Crouse College is eventually listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Boar's Head Dramatic Society is founded, entertaining audiences for more than 50 years.
The University becomes the first institution in the country to pursue advanced work in photography.
Courses in speech communication at the University are taken over by the newly founded Department of Oratory, which becomes the School of Oratory in 1913. SU was the first school to award a bachelor of arts in oral English.
Dramatics at the University are formally organized into the School of Public Speech and Dramatic Art, with departments in dramatic art, speech arts, forensics, and speech science.
The Estey Organ Company of Vermont rebuilds the organ in Crouse College’s auditorium, which was built by the New York City firm of Frank Roosevelt. Estey retains most of the original pipes.
The SU Symphony Orchestra makes its radio debut from Crouse College on WSYR. Radio broadcasts of SU activities on campus are a staple in this era.
School of Speech and Dramatic Art (SDA) omits the “Public” in its former title.
An article indicates that CFA graduates and faculty are significant contributors to the cultural life of the city of Syracuse. CFA alumni make up 50 percent of the organists and solo singers in area churches, 66 percent of private teachers, and 50 percent of public school music teachers.
SU Chancellor William P. Tolley reorganizes CFA’s areas into the School of Architecture, the School of Art, and the School of Music.
SU’s Opera Workshop is born. It is the only experimental opera classroom-theater of its kind on an American university campus.
Walter Holtkamp of Cleveland is contracted to build a new organ in Crouse College’s auditorium using many of the Roosevelt and Estey pipes.
The ceramics program’s student group, Shaped Clay Society, holds the first of its popular, annual on-campus mug sales, which eventually expands to bowls, vases, and a variety of ceramic art.
The Department of Design is established in the School of Art.
The College of Visual and Performing Arts is created. It is comprised of the School of Art, the Department of Drama, the School of Music, and the Department of Speech Communication (audio and speech pathology are moved to the School of Education). Syracuse is one of the first universities to unite the creative disciplines in this format.
Under the guidance of Arthur Storch, chair of the Department of Drama, the old Regent Theater is converted into the new John D. Archbold Theatre, and Syracuse Repertory Theater becomes Syracuse Stage, providing a professional setting from which students in the department are able to benefit from enormously.
Comstock Art Facility is built to house various art programs. The building is added to in 1985 and 1992 to accommodate additional art programs.
December 21, 1988
Six VPA students are among the SU students killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
The newly built Dorothea Ilgen Shaffer Art Building is dedicated, thanks to a $3.25 million gift from Shaffer, a 1933 alumna. The building consolidates the School of Art’s facilities from an original 14 locations to four.
The School of Art becomes the School of Art and Design to reflect that half its students and faculty are engaged in design disciplines.
The Young Actors Theater Group is created in the Department of Drama to give drama students the opportunity to work with aspiring actors with Down syndrome in the Syracuse community.
Arts Adventure (now known as Pulse), a collaboration between VPA and SU’s Division of Student Affairs, is created to increase student access to the arts by offering reduced-price tickets and transportation to off-campus events. The program receives a 1997 New York State Governor’s Award for outstanding contributions to the arts.
Rose ’33 and Jules R. Setnor ’32 MD ’35 give a $3.2 million gift to the School of Music to name both the school and Crouse College’s auditorium. The Rose, Jules R., and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music and the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium are dedicated in 1999.
Syracuse University Recordings, the University’s first student-run record label, is founded by music industry students.
Setnor Auditorium undergoes an extensive restoration.
After the University dissolves the College for Human Development, programs in environmental design (interiors), fashion design, and textile design as well as retail management and consumer studies and the Sue Ann Genet Lecture Series move to VPA. The retail management and consumer studies programs are later moved to the Whitman School of Management.
A gift from Broadway producer Arielle Tepper ’94 establishes the Tepper Center for Careers in Theater in the Department of Drama. Tepper goes on to establish the Tepper Semester in 2005, which offers advanced undergraduate drama students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the New York theater scene.
Crouse College begins a three-year exterior restoration project, with companies from Syracuse and Ottawa, Canada, working on the building. The work receives a Preservation Merit Award from the Preservation Association of Central New York in 2005.
The Department of Speech Communication changes its name to the Department of Communication and Rhetorical Studies to appropriately reflect the nature of its curriculum.
With the arrival of Chancellor Nancy Cantor and her vision of a “creative campus,” VPA’s role in the cultural life of the Syracuse community is heightened.
Musician and recording artist Billy Joel gives $320,000 to the Setnor School of Music as part of his music education initiatives.
The School of Art and Design hosts the first East Coast stop of Faces of the Fallen, an exhibition of more than 1,400 paintings of the U.S. military casualties in Iraq since March 2003, garnering the college national attention. Three hundred fifty additional portraits are contributed by VPA and Syracuse community members.
VPA is one of the first of SU’s academic units to participate in the new educational partnership between the University and the Syracuse City School District, now known as the Partnership for Better Education.
VPA’s programs in advertising design and communications design are among the first tenants in the University’s newly renovated downtown building, The Warehouse.
A gift from writer/producer Aaron Sorkin ’83 allows drama and film students the chance to spend Spring Break in Los Angeles learning about the entertainment industry, thus giving VPA a coast-to-coast academic presence.
A gift from Martin Bandier ’62, chairman and CEO of Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, establishes the multidisciplinary Bandier Program for Music and the Entertainment Industries in the Setnor School of Music.
VPA launches COLAB, an interdisciplinary initiative that encourages students and faculty to use their diverse skills and perspectives to solve complex, real-world problems creatively and collaboratively.
Contributions from Paul and Susan Efron P’09 and JPMorgan Chase allow the college to host its first annual fashion show for senior fashion design students in New York City.
XL Projects, a space in downtown Syracuse to showcase the work of VPA students, faculty, and alumni, is opened.
Bandier Program students are among those at SU who inaugurate the University’s Los Angeles campus and its LA Semester program, which engages students in professional internships, specialized course work, and regular interactions with industry leaders, including notable SU alumni.
The School of Art and Design’s Department of Design moves all of its programs to The Warehouse, SU’s downtown facility, where the department’s programs in advertising design and communications design already reside, as well as VPA’s COLAB. The building is renovated for the programs, with a new student lounge and gallery also added.
The Ginsburg-Klaus Art in Los Angeles Practicum Week is announced, funded through a gift by Marylyn Ginsburg-Klaus ’56, G’57 and Charles Klaus. The inaugural "Art in LA" allows eight students in the School of Art and Design to undertake an intensive investigation of art collections housed in the city’s most significant museums, as well as visit galleries and contemporary artist studios to hear from prominent artists, curators and gallery owners.
VPA is the first SU academic unit selected to begin implementing the University’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), the blueprint released in September 2009 that is designed to make SU climate neutral by 2040.
A new M.F.A. program in collaborative design, "Design+," is announced. Also new to VPA: a summer study program in Bologna, Italy, on Italian film studies and restoration and a unique summer course that gives SU students the opportunity to teach Syracuse high school students with disabilities about the art of music production and recording engineering in a professional recording studio.
Iris Magidson '64 establishes a $1M endowed professor of practice in design innovation in the School of Art and Design's Department of Design.
You can find more SU history by visiting the SU Archives web site.