The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management at Oklahoma City University is the first of its kind in higher education and its creation is truly an historical event. The United States has been a powerhouse for creating, producing, and managing the arts and entertainment. A case could be made that arts and entertainment are America's greatest exports and in many ways identify and define what it is to be an American.
While higher education has easily embraced art forms firmly rooted in European traditions, it has often ignored those developed out of a uniquely American experience. When Oklahoma City University, under the leadership of Jo Rowan, established a dance program, the American dance art forms of tap, jazz, and musical theatre dance were not included in the curricula for dance degrees at other American universities. Even today, when tap and jazz are included in dance curricula elsewhere, they are often included reluctantly and at low technique levels.
Unlike European art forms which were founded in nobles' courts, funded by royal patronage and then filtered down through society, America's art often started on the streets of its cities and in the fields of its farms and plantations. Pilgrims and indentured servants brought to America may have been poor, but they were rich with imagination and innovation. Cultures mixed, shared and borrowed from each other, and the results were like seeds planted in fertile earth, first sprouted and growing, then blossoming and bearing fruit.
America has brought equal creativity to the management of its arts in both the commercial and non-profit sectors. Our history of managing and producing the arts and entertainment is filled with entrepreneurs, impresarios and visionaries --George M. Cohen, Florenz Ziegield, David Merrick, Sol Hurok, and Lincoln Kirstein easily come to mind. This is a history of people who used energy, innovation, talent, perseverance, and cunning to leverage dreams and scarce resources into wonderful realities.
The uniqueness and sophistication of American management of arts and entertainment becomes quickly apparent to those of us in the field who work internationally or who converse with colleagues in other countries. Without significant state and national funding of our arts, American managers have had to hone their programming, audience development, marketing, financial and fund-raising skills.
So why is the creation of the Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management a historical event? Because now there is a single place within a respected university where American dance art forms and arts management can be nurtured and developed to their highest level and properly recognized for their contributions to art and culture throughout the world.
We are committed to changing dance, dance education and the management of the arts by sending forth well-educated and well-trained professionals to work in all aspects of the entertainment industry. There will be a time not far in the future when someone will pose the question, "Why are so many leaders in entertainment, onstage and off, from Oklahoma?" When that time comes, you and many others will know the answer.
Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Arts Management