Clarksville, TN – On a cool evening in early February, dozens of people hurried across the Austin Peay State University campus to hear a lecture in the Trahern Building by Hollywood visual effects artist Colie Wertz.
The event, co-sponsored by the APSU Department of Art and Design and the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts (CECA), attracted attendees from across Clarksville, interested in hearing from a man who’d worked on films such as “Captain America: Civil War,” and “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”When Dr. Janice Crews arrived in the building’s lecture hall, she was surprised and pleased to see people standing against the wall.
“It was packed, and I thought that was awesome,” she said. “There were no seats left. It was amazing to see that level of participation at my first CECA-sponsored event.”
Earlier this semester, the University named Crews, an oboist with extensive experience in arts administration, as the new director of the 30-year-old Center. She replaces Christopher Burawa, who left the position in 2015 to serve as the executive director of the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Red Wing, Minnesota.
“The center has helped lead the cultural and artistic growth of this community for the last three decades, and we were looking for someone who could help broaden its reputation and influence as the region continues to grow,” Dr. Dixie Webb, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, said. “Dr. Crews is a perfect fit for this position because, as a gifted musician, she has an appreciation for the arts, but she is also bringing with her a wealth of experience in arts administration from some of the nation’s more prominent arts organizations.”
Crews comes to APSU from Charleston, South Carolina, where she served as director of education and community engagement for the CharlestonSymphony Orchestra. In that position, she helped send professional musicians into 85 local schools in South Carolina and also planned educational concerts for thousands of children.
Prior to that, she was the manager of school and family programs at Atlanta’s famed Woodruff Arts Center. That Center, one of the largest in the world, is home to the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Art.
“I was working on a collaborative project between the Atlanta Symphony, the Alliance Theatre and the High Museum, an arts integration program in the schools,” she said. “It was great, and I gained a deeper appreciation for all of the art forms at that point.”
Crews will now use her skills to oversee Austin Peay’s CECA, which has brought acclaimed national artists to campus for more than 30 years. The center—the only program of its kind in the state—was established during the 1985-86 academic year by the Tennessee General Assembly, and it received a major boost just a few months after its founding when country music legend Roy Acuff generously endowed a chair of excellence.
“The different APSU arts departments are already doing so much individually, and my role is to bring a spirit of collaboration and be the community promoter of what’s happening here,” Crews said. “I want to let everyone know that CECA events are open to the public, and they can come to our campus and take part in the exciting things happening here. A lot of people don’t know the CECA is here for the community at large, and not just students.”
Crews began her new role as director last month. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Music Education and a Master of Music from the University of Georgia, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Louisiana State University. In addition to her background as an arts administrator, she is also an experienced music teacher and musician. She has performed as an oboist with orchestras all over the country.
For more information on the Center and all its programs, visit www.apsu.edu/creativearts