In Pursuit of Humanity

Jacksonville University’s Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts celebrates continuous evolution during its 60th anniversary season

By Laura Phelps

In the fall of 1958, young humanities professor Frances Bartlett Kinne came to Jacksonville for a one-month teaching engagement at Jacksonville University. Three years later, she became founding dean of the Jacksonville University College of Fine Arts, bringing to life the advice she often gave students to “go out and make the world a better place.” Kinne served as dean of the college until her appointment as president of Jacksonville University in 1979 and remains a steadfast supporter of the college, even beyond her death in 2020 at age 102, through her bequests. 

Celebrating its 60th anniversary season in 2021-22, the Jacksonville University Linda Berry Stein College of Fine Arts has grown to be a beacon of arts and culture in the Southeast, attracting students who have gone on to win Tony Awards on Broadway and Emmy Awards on television, earn recognition in the visual arts, choreography, dance, and composition, and make enormous contributions to their communities. 

One such community-focused alumna, Jacksonville’s own Linda Berry Stein, along with her husband David Stein, made a multi-year, multi-million-dollar naming gift in 2018, among the largest investments in the university’s 84-year history. That transformative gift launched the Stein College to a new level of student support and recognition, all the more fitting given that Linda Stein was a student of Kinne. 

Given the pace of global expansion over the past six decades, the students, faculty, and staff of the Stein College are no strangers to performing and creating during times of change. In many cases, they’re the best-suited to weather the uncertainty of global upheaval—a strength that was fully on display during the COVID-19 pandemic. The current dean of the Stein College, Timothy Snyder, emphasizes, “Artists have always responded to cataclysmic paradigm shifts with transformative art methods, modes, languages, and conversations. History teaches us that these moments of unrest, of quick change, lead to innovation.”

The Stein College innovated quickly at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, pivoting to all-online teaching over the course of one week in March and then assimilating data-based recommendations from world-class arts institutions into their reopening plan to safely return to in-person learning in the fall. 

And now, as we collectively, cautiously step into a version of the “new normal,” the Stein College is evolving yet again, as the university reimagines its academic offerings to further meet the demands in the marketplace—both from future students and from their future employers and partners. The Stein College, with its School of Performing Arts and School of Art & Design, now includes the School of Humanities, with majors in English, languages, and philosophy and minors in humanities, writing, and women’s and gender studies, as well as medical humanities. Building on the critical thinking skills and language mastery cultivated within the humanities, the college is also offering a certificate in editing. 

Asked why the humanities are such a natural fit with the fine arts, Snyder responds, “We’re talking about the definition of the humanities in the broadest sense: the study of what makes us human. The scholarly inquiry into culture, language, philosophy, and the investigation of human nature. The desire of all people to express themselves, to reflect on their environment, and their human condition is foundational to what it means to be an artist.”

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Author: Arbus

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