In the Moment: An Interview With Rick Davis on ‘Arts By George!’ on Saturday, September 24, 2016 at George Mason University’s Center for The Arts

These are times of increasing emphasis on STEM as the seemingly set future direction for American students; when there is serious discussion that college bound students and their parents be presented with a ROI (Return on Investment) given the major student debt many incur.

Rick Davis. Photo courtesy of George Mason.
Rick Davis. Photo courtesy of George Mason University.

With that perspective in mind, I enjoy my regular conversations with Rick Davis – the Dean of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, about theater and the arts.

This In the Moment column is particularly focused on upcoming ARTS by George! Event to be held at George Mason University on late Saturday afternoon, through the late evening of September 24, 2016. It is a signature event in Northern Virginia.

One of the major benefits for patrons is to watch CVPA students perform and then interact with them. But, another major aspect of ARTS by George! funds raised are used to benefit CVPA student scholarships. Now, that is a way worthy cause for arts students.

I recently interviewed Rick Davis, just as the new semester of George Mason University gets underway. Beyond his role as Dean of George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts, he also has responsibilities for the Center for the Arts located on Mason’s Fairfax campus, and is also Executive Director of Hylton Performing Arts Center, located in Manassas, VA.

David: First, please tell me a bit about the GMU/CVPA’s mission to launch careers in the arts? Given recent national emphasis on STEM, what does arts education provide to students?

Rick: Our students do very well in pursuing their chosen careers. In fact, in a recent survey of graduates, CVPA students outperformed the already high success rate of Mason students overall. It’s important to note that an arts education at Mason is a rigorous and diverse education in the liberal arts tradition, along with serious training in one or more arts disciplines.

Merrill and Mark Shugoll. Photo courtesy of George Mason University.
Merrill and Mark Shugoll C0-Chair the 2016 Arts By George! Photo courtesy of George Mason University.

We like to say that we teach and practice the “Four C’s” of a modern college education – Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Community. These are skills and habits of mind that the working world has told us it needs, across all fields, and our success shows that we are delivering that. And by the way, as important as STEM education is, a lot of STEM employers are asking now for STEAM – adding the “A” of the Arts – to help with innovation, problem-solving, and creative solutions to difficult challenges

What is ARTS by George!

ARTS by George! is quite literally “an evening like no other,” as we call it in our publicity. There’s no other event where a patron can experience the energy and passion and sheer joy of “rising stars” in dance, music, theater, film, visual arts, computer game design, and arts management so “up close and personal” and all in the same night. It’s a self-guided tour of all the arts have to offer — you might think of it as an elegant buffet or smorgasbord, which also applies to the fabulous food and wine that are featured throughout the evening. The grand finale is always a top-shelf headliner performance in the Concert Hall, followed by a coffee and dessert reception on stage with the artists.

ARTS by George! encompasses so much of what the arts at Mason are all about – uniting the academic, the professional, and the community in one shared celebration of the best that humanity has to offer.

Why did Center for the Arts invite The Midtown Men to perform as the headliner act for this year’s ARTS by George!?

These amazing singer-actors all have illustrious careers of their own, but when they come together as The Midtown Men — or in their previous incarnation as Jersey Boys — the chemistry is special.

The Midtown Men. Photo courtesy of George Mason University.
The Midtown Men. Photo courtesy of George Mason University.

One of the group visited our campus last April and met with students, faculty, and our Board to offer us a “sneak preview” and talk about his life as an artist.

All four will be conducting a performance master class in September focusing on musical theatre, and we expect a terrific turnout from across the College.

For those who have not attended a previous ARTS by George! how would you invite them to attend this year’s event?

Come hungry and thirsty – for new experiences, for amazing art, for gourmet food and lovely wine, for meeting new friends and diving into conversations about what you’ve just seen on your way to the next showcase, for terrific take home items and high-end experiences in the silent and live auctions – in other words, hungry and thirsty for life itself. You’ll end the evening well-satisfied on all counts, and energized by the vitality that has surrounded you all night.

To conclude this column, let’s provide some of the highlights for the 2016 Arts by George! Co-chaired by Merrill and Mark Shugoll. There is lots more than The Midtown Men performance starting at 8 p.m. in which they will perform chart topping musical numbers by The Four Seasons, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Motown and other artists are a number of earlier events.

ARTS by George! includes student showcases in visual arts, music, dance, theater, computer game design, film and video studies, and arts management. The showcases are held throughout the classrooms, studios and performance spaces of the de Laski Performing Arts Building, Music/Theater Building, and Harris Theatre. Student showcases all beginning at 5 PM. Patrons will be personally greeted by College of Visual and Performing Arts students and staff and then directed to the many different showcase venues. ARTS by George! guests will also enjoy cuisine and wines from local restaurants, caterers, and wine vendors.

Now, this year beyond the annual silence auction of arts-related items is a live auction followed by a champagne and dessert reception onstage with The Midtown Men. The live auction will include this prize: a live auction for a ticket package to the Tony Award-winning Broadway phenomenon HamiltonAnd the package is not “merely” tickets to Hamilton, but transportation and lodging as well. To go with current technology, patrons will have the opportunity to bid on silent auction items before and during the event using a mobile platform called BidPal. (Information on how to access BidPal is available at ArtsbyGeorge).

George Mason University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts’ 2016 ARTS by George! is Saturday, September 24, 2016, starting at 5 PM at George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus – 4400 University Drive, in Fairfax, VA. The event takes place in the deLaski Performing Arts Building and a tented plaza next to the building, and in the Harris Theatre, the Music/Theater Building, and the Center for the Arts, where The Midown Men will perform.

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Note: Tickets for ARTS BY GEORGE! (Includes student showcases, food, beverages, The Midtown Men concert, and a champagne and dessert reception onstage) are $275/person. Contact Susan Graziano, call (703) 993-4188, or purchase them online.

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Note: Tickets for The Midtown Men are $100, $85, and $60 per person.Tickets are available at the Center for the Arts’ ticket office, by calling (703) 993-8650, or by purchasing them online.


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