A histor y inArtsthe Fine and drama have been part of life at Mount Allison for more than a century and a half by Aloma Jardine T ARTS he new Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts brings together one of the oldest programs at Mount Allison and one of the newest. Fine Arts has been part of the curriculum at Mount Allison for 160 years. Its roots go back to the Ladies’ College, which opened in 1854. “It was one of the first schools in Canada to offer Fine Arts,” says Gemey Kelly, director/curator of Mount Allison’s Owens Art Gallery. “Mount Allison, especially under Mary Electa Adams (first preceptress of the Ladies’ College), was very insistent that there be rigorousness in these courses. They were not just to be seen as ‘female accomplishments.’” That Fine Arts was considered more than an “accomplishment” was evident by the investment the University made in the program. In 1893 Mount Allison acquired the Owens art collection and subsequently built the Owens Art Gallery, which served as the home of the Fine Arts program for more than 70 years. “They wanted to be seen as a top school and they went after certain teachers to give them a level of credibility,” Kelly says. “John Hammond (the first head of the Fine Arts department) would have been a huge draw.” The University continued to be a leader in Fine Arts education when, in 1937, it became the first university in Canada to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, with the first degrees awarded in 1941. “It is a defining program today,” Kelly says. “Everybody knows Mount Allison as a fine arts school.” Drama took a different path at Mount Allison, but its origins extend back just as far. The Eurhetorian Debating Society was founded in 1862 and as early as the 1870s, elocution and public speaking were offered at the Ladies College. Students at the three “institutions” — the Ladies’ College, the men’s Academy and the University — staged readings, tableaux, and pantomimes well before 1914 to raise funds for missionary work and the war effort. Later came groups like the Garnet and Gold Musical Theatre Society, established in 1932. But drama as Mount Allison knows it today is traced back to the Mount Allison Players, founded in the 1920s, which became Windsor Theatre in 1971. Alex Fancy (’61), professor emeritus, former director of drama, and founder and director of Tintamarre, says the evolution from players’ society to academic program can be traced back to the 1970 arrival of Dr. Arthur Motyer (’45), who served as the University’s first director of drama. Together they advocated for a formal program that would give students regular access to dramatic experience. “There was lots of discussion at the time about how drama could evolve because we recognized the importance of drama at Mount Allison,” Fancy says. “In the mid-1970s Arthur introduced courses in directing and acting and designing. First there was one course, then a couple.” But it was not until 1995 that drama was approved as a major and minor at Mount Allison. The drama program continued to operate out of Windsor Theatre until 2011. “We worked in incredibly cramped quarters, but the number of plays that went on in that very cramped space was phenomenal,” Fancy says. “It was a testament of creativity, a testament of commitment, and the number of graduates that we have in professional theatre careers is absolutely incredible.” Fancy says the new Motyer-Fancy Theatre in the Purdy Crawford Centre for the Arts is well-deserved for a team that worked so hard to “do so much with so little.” “I think it is a very eloquent next step in the evolution from a players’ society, which produced theatre in improvised spaces with no support staff and no formal academic credibility, to a state-ofthe-art theatre, which is very appropriate to our goals and to our needs,” he says. “It is the realization of a dream.” 16 / Fall 2014 / RECORD