n March 7, New Yorkers got a glimpse of Baruch’s creative side when a noontime flash mob erupted in song on 24th Street. Led by Weissman School of Arts and Sciences Dean Aldemaro Romero Jr., PhD, the live-streamed flash mob was just one of more than a dozen events organized for the College’s first-ever Art-a-Thon, a daylong celebration of arts and literature scheduled to coincide with National Arts Advocacy Day.
From morning to night, curious students participated in a multitude of activities, including an improvisational theater session, a marathon reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and a piano blues workshop. The event raised the profile of the arts at Baruch and promoted a sense of interconnectedness—and, says Dean Romero, demonstrated that “Baruch community members, regardless of their background and career goals, feel that art is part of the spirit of inquisitiveness and enjoyment that we carry as part of our condition as human beings.”
This event epitomizes the abundance of artistic activity throughout the College, spilling out from the walls of the Mishkin Gallery and the stages of the Baruch Performing Arts Center into the classrooms, common spaces, and sidewalks of Baruch’s urban campus. So how did business-forward Baruch develop so much arts cred?
From 1983 through 1992, the College’s art gallery, located on the ground floor of the Administrative Center building, was one of Baruch’s hidden gems, unexpected for those who thought narrowly about “business-oriented” institutions. Subscribing to a broader view was Sidney Mishkin (’34), a successful businessman-accountant and avid art collector. When looking for a way to give back to Baruch, the alumnus chose the gallery over more obvious business facilities. And thanks to his multimillion-dollar bequest, which included artworks by such notables as Alexander Calder, Max Ernst, and Man Ray, Baruch had a collection worthy of an outstanding liberal arts college. Baruch’s first public-facing arts space, the Sidney Mishkin Gallery has attracted art lovers to Baruch with five small museum-quality shows every year (see recap of its latest exhibition on page 5) and continues to be an educational and inspirational resource for the College.
The presence of the arts at Baruch increased exponentially with the opening in 2003 of the Baruch Performing Arts Center (BPAC). But it took the leadership of BPAC Director Ted Altschuler, PhD, who arrived in 2015, to bring the center to the next level. His vision of “culture in the broadest sense” has inspired programs featuring unexpected combinations across the disciplines, such as 2016’s “Brains with Music,” a conversation between a cognitive scientist–composer and a music therapist. As a home for the development of new staged works, BPAC offers audiences the opportunity to bear witness to the creative process. The center also has a full calendar of traditional performing-arts fare—theater, film, dance, concerts, and opera—from around the world.
The new Master of Arts in Arts Administration, offered through the Weissman School, is a perfect example of how Baruch does the arts in a unique way that plays to its strengths. Unlike similar programs, it’s not restricted to performing arts or museums. It leverages classes and expertise from the College’s three schools, giving Arts Admin students the chance to develop competencies in finance, budgeting, resource development, marketing, entertainment law, arts education and outreach, policy, and advocacy. “I learned how the arts function politically, financially, logistically, and philosophically,” says Liz Tuncer (MA ’17), a member of its first graduating class. “I entered the program following my passion, but I am leaving it with a purpose.”
Among the unusual venues for the arts at Baruch are the New Media Artspaces, four attention-grabbing mini–exhibition spaces located throughout the College’s William and Anita Newman Library. The spaces, curated by the Department of Fine and Performing Arts and occupying renovated pay-phone booths, support experimental, mixed-media artworks that incorporate video, animation, sculpture, and photography.
“We want our library to surround students with resources that not only support their formal coursework but provide opportunities for learning on their own through browsing books, using new technologies, and viewing art,” says Arthur Downing, PhD, vice president for information services and dean of the library. For him, the beauty of the Artspaces is that they “bring the work of important artists right to our students and only require a brief study break.”
The provenance of the Baruch College–Rubin Museum of Art (RMA) project speaks volumes of the wide swath of arts innovation at Baruch. Launched in 2010, it is the brainchild of Stan Altman, PhD, professor in the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, who is a trained electrical engineer, systems scientist, and proponent of cross-disciplinary and multicultural experiences.
The RMA collections showcase paintings, sculptures, and textiles from the Himalayas and surrounding regions; its exhibitions and programs highlight not only art but the ideas of the region. Through courses that capitalize on RMA assets and special arts events on campus, as well as internship and scholarship opportunities, the Baruch-Rubin partnership engages students and faculty in cultural projects that extend well beyond typical museum visits.
CREATIVE COLLABORATIONS: The Baruch College–Rubin Museum of Art Project is an example of the College’s innovative, cross-curricular programs. Launched in 2010 under the auspices of the School of Public Affairs—now the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs—it involves students and faculty in cultural projects extending well beyond typical museum visits.
Creativity is the catalyst at the Zicklin School of Business’s Maker Hub, where conceptualization, technology, and business meet. Housed within the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship, Maker Hub fosters hands-on discovery in support of interdisciplinary learning and research in and outside of the classroom. Explains Romi Kher, PhD, assistant professor of management and the Zicklin faculty lead of Maker Hub, for him the goal of the makerspace is to integrate maker technologies with lean startup principles to help students bring business ideas to life. In the Hub, Dr. Kher’s students learn basic software applications and leverage 3D printing/electronics for prototyping. “Students soon realize that, while ideas are easy, creating products is much harder!” Kher says.
Maker Hub is a destination for students in the arts and sciences as well. Recently, public speaking students used makerspace materials to build a model and then present that creation to their peers. Flushed with pride and focused on the object, students were less self-conscious, spoke more confidently, and honed communication skills.
Anticipating more innovative and constructive arts-related ventures to come, College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, PhD, hails the foundational contributions of George Weissman (’39), whose February 1998 gift of $10 million—at that time the largest cash gift in Baruch and CUNY history—endowed the George and Mildred Weissman School of Arts and Sciences and firmly established the standing of the arts at Baruch. “Chairman and CEO of Philip Morris Companies and later chairman of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, George was by all accounts a Renaissance man who believed in the mutually beneficial interconnection of the arts, business, and community,” says President Wallerstein. “We trust that if George were still here he would be delighted to see how the arts continue to flourish at Baruch.”