Arts Initiative

“We can make this University the premier place for students, artists, and scholars who want to engage with the arts in a way that draws strength from and adds strength to a great liberal arts university.”

— President Emerita Shirley Tilghman

Introduction: Princeton Arts Initiative

A new era for the arts at Princeton University launched in 2006 when then President  Shirley M. Tilghman unveiled an ambitious initiative that included plans for substantially increased support for creative and performing arts and the establishment of an “arts neighborhood” on campus.

In a report presented to the University’s Board of Trustees on Jan. 20, 2006, Tilghman said this initiative would be an opportunity 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.”

Tilghman noted in her report that Princeton “fully embraces the creative and performing arts as an essential part of its educational mission” and recognizes that “universities have increasingly become important patrons of the arts … where new ideas and forms of expression can flourish.” She points out that “by participating in the arts, our students develop cognitive abilities and forms of intelligence that complement training in other disciplines, and in some cases they discover talents and interests that will shape their careers and principal avocations.”

Following the Jan. 20 trustee meetings, President Tilghman announced that Peter B. Lewis, a 1955 graduate and trustee of Princeton University, was contributing $101 million to support this far-reaching initiative. Since then and under the new leadership of President Christopher L. Eisgruber, significant progress is being made to realize the goals set forth in the report, which include:

  • Establish the Center for the Creative and Performing ArtsThe Lewis Center for the Arts was named in November 2007.
  • Create a new interdisciplinary Society of Fellows in the ArtsThe Fellowships in the Creative and Performing Arts were established in September 2012 with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and an anonymous alumnus, and the first two fellows were appointed in May 2013.
  • Expand the sizeresources and visibility of Princeton’s existing undergraduate certificate programs in creative writing, musical performance, theater and dance, and visual arts. The number of Lewis Center courses offered has grown by 24% and the number of students enrolled has increased by 31% since the 2006-7 academic year.
  • Establish a scholarly research program, as a joint venture between the new center and the Council of the Humanities.
  • Provide additional physical space to house the new and expanded programs. An “arts neighborhood” would be created that the report anticipates would “become a magnet for Princeton students, faculty and staff interested in the arts and an important new point of contact for the campus, the surrounding community and the outside world.” Ground was broken in Spring 2013 on the Arts & Transit Neighborhood, which will include a new state-of-the-art $30 million arts complex.
  • Establish a fund to provide additional financial support for extracurricular activity in the arts.