Mission & History

Mission Statement

At the Lewis Center for the Arts, we believe that art arises out of questions. Art, on a campus like Princeton’s, is so much more than an “outlet” for expressing what one already knows and feels, or an “escape hatch” for blowing off steam built up by more rigorous kinds of work. Our classes and certificate programs in Dance, Creative Writing, Theater, Music Theater, Visual Arts and in the interdisciplinary Princeton Atelier operate on the principle that rigorous artistic practice is a form of research, innovation, discovery and intervention. Like scholarship of any kind, rigorous artistic practice is a way of interrogating that which is accepted or understood in an attempt to break into the territory of the unknown or under-explored.

Through their individual creative work, Lewis Center students investigate questions about themselves, others, and the events and systems that affect us all—systems like geography, politics, gender, race, the economy, the environment, and of course the wide realm of human choice and activity. This is fundamental to the formation of artists. It is also fundamental to the formation of alert, compassionate, creative, resourceful, and active rather than passive people.

The Lewis Center is committed to being an anti-racist space. We endeavor to frequently reappraise and redouble our efforts toward this goal. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is not nominal or symbolic, but rather action-based. Our faculty, classes, public programs, co-curricular offerings and our engagement with the community beyond Princeton reflect these values.



In a report presented to the University’s Board of Trustees on Jan. 20, 2006, former President Shirley Tilghman heralded a sweeping initiative for Princeton “not only to expand its programs in the creative and performing arts, but to establish itself as a global leader in the quality of its offerings and in their integration into a broader liberal arts education.”

The result was the formation of a new Center for the Creative and Performing Arts, thereafter named the Lewis Center for the Arts in honor of its lead patron, Peter B. Lewis ’55.

The Lewis Center brings together Princeton’s academic programs in Creative Writing, Dance, Theater, Music TheaterVisual Arts and the Princeton Atelier, with guest artists and Fellows. Arts research, instruction, performance, co-curricular activities and public programming provide Princeton’s community with opportunities for engagement, reflection and inspiration.

Today, the Lewis Center encompasses multiple venues on the Princeton Campus, including 185 Nassau Street (Program in Visual Arts), New South Building (Program in Creative Writing), and the Lewis Arts complex (Programs in Dance, Theater, and Music Theater, as well as the Princeton Atelier).


Lewis Center Leadership

Acting Chair:
Michael Cadden, 2021 - 2022

Past Chair:

Tracy K. Smith, 2019 - 2021

Past Chair:
Michael Cadden, 2012-2019

Founding Chair:
Paul Muldoon, 2006 - 2012

» Lewis Center Advisory Council