Bruce Kelley

Dr. Bruce Kelley has been named the University of South Dakota College of Fine Arts dean. Kelley has been serving as interim dean since Feb. 29 after the retirement of Dean Larry Schou.

The decision was made after a survey conducted by Academic Affairs indicated faculty, staff and affiliates in the College of Fine Arts strongly supported and preferred the appointment of Kelley to the permanent position. President Sheila K. Gestring and Provost Kurt Hackemer reinforced the decision, and Kelley accepted the deanship, beginning immediately.

“My goal has always been to serve the university to the best of my abilities and to meet new challenges as they arise,” said Kelley. “I have a passion for the Fine Arts because they allow us to express the meaning of our experiences and understand and interpret our world. USD has the only College of Fine Arts in the state and serves as a cultural center for South Dakota and the region. Our graduates are empowered to impact culture and the quality of life of those they serve. The Fine Arts are also important drivers of economic growth. The arts and culture sector annually contributes $1.2 billion to South Dakota’s economy, representing 2.5% of the state’s GDP and more than 14,000 jobs. In short, this is an amazing place with incredible opportunities for our students.”

Kelley came to USD in 2007 as the founding director of the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and as an associate professor of music. In 2013, he was promoted to full professor of music. In March of 2019, Kelley was appointed assistant provost, overseeing the Gallagher Center for Experiential Learning & Education Abroad and the USD Testing Center, in addition to the CTL.

USD President Sheila Gestring says that Kelley is the right choice for the position.

“We are proud to announce Dr. Kelley as the permanent dean of the College of Fine Arts,” said President Gestring. “It is a unique experience to be appointed dean of a college during a global pandemic, but within the last months as interim dean, and now as dean, Dr. Kelley has exemplified persistence and ingenuity.”

To deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, Kelley said he first held listening sessions with students, faculty and staff from every department and affiliated unit to help him better understand their needs and vision for the fine arts at USD.

“There was no single solution—art, music and theatre each have unique challenges. I worked extensively with the department chairs to determine the safest way to offer courses in each of our fine arts departments,” said Kelley. “They took on everything from the creation of special ‘Zoom’ classrooms for remote musical instruction, to crafting plexiglass shields that fit our unique spaces, to reimagining entire productions and installations. This has been a team effort, requiring sacrifices by faculty, staff and students, and I’m so proud of what they have done.”

Some of those reimagined productions and installations include online art portfolios, a streamed production of “Julius Caesar” and several outdoor and streamed music events.

The alternative performance events have allowed the college to meet the needs of both the community and the students.

“How we go about our daily lives has changed,” says Kelley. “What has not changed is the importance of the arts. We need to understand and emotionally react to everything that is going on around us, and the arts allow us to do that. Our community hungers to experience the arts, and these alternative performance events allow us to deliver the arts in ways that are safer than our traditional performance venues.”

He continues: “Our students want to perform and showcase their talents, and we love seeing what they do. These new ways of thinking about performance have required all of us to be flexible, disciplined and even more creative—and those are the very skills that make our graduates so valuable in the 21st-century workforce.”

Kelley has many goals for the future, he says.

“I want to create a culture where we work together—students, faculty and staff—to combine creativity and scholarship to make a difference in our world,” he said. “I want our graduates to have long and satisfying careers wherever they go, from the smallest of our South Dakota communities to the greatest stages in the world.”

The renovations going on now at the Fine Arts Center will help move USD and its students and faculty toward that goal.

“The Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts was constructed and specifically designed to serve the unique needs of the Departments of Art, Music and Theatre,” explains Kelley. “It is also the primary location of the University Art Galleries. While its facilities are impressive, the building was constructed in 1973, and its ability to meet the demands of today’s artistic workforce have become limited. The renovations will transform this building. Each of our departments is receiving a significant upgrade, from the renovations of Wayne S. Knutson Theatre and Colton Recital Hall to the development of an outdoors sculpture yard just north of the Fine Arts building. These updates will provide our students with a more modern, technologically advanced environment to help them succeed at their craft.”


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