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Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou?

by: Kris Lovekin   (February 2000)

To Romeo:
Thank you for the play. You were the best actor in the play I would like to try and do what you do.”
Those words, and many more scrawled in a child’s hand on letter after letter, are hard evidence of an arts program that has touched the lives of people off-campus, especially children and seniors.

“That is so great. I didn’t even know we had these,” said Jacob Higgins, the UCR sophomore who played Romeo for elementary school students, as he thumbed through letters stacked up on tables at the UCR Sweeney Art Gallery.

Higgins was one of dozens of students, faculty artists and presenters invited to the gallery in October to celebrate the continuation of the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts at UCR.

A $1.4 million grant from the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation allows these UCR ambassadors for the arts to continue visiting schools and nursing homes in the area through the year 2003. Total funding since the beginning of the program is $2.8 million. It is one of only three similar arts programs in the nation funded by the Gluck Foundation. The other two are at the Julliard School in New York and at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Richard Reinis, secretary of the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, is credited with bringing UCR’s Gluck Fellows for the Arts Program to the attention of the Gluck Foundation. Reinis argued that Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez, former dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and program coordinator Sarah Neiman “set a standard that equaled or exceeded the Julliard School.”

Vélez-Ibáñez and Neiman incorporated both students and faculty into UCR’s program, making it unique.

“When I saw a group of elderly folks burdened with oxygen tanks tapping their feet along with the classical beat, I knew the reason I spend so much time working for the Gluck Foundation,” Reinis said. “If you believe that through the arts one discovers the heart and soul of a culture, then some day through the Gluck Fellows Program, the heart and soul of the Inland Empire will be expressed as it ought to be, and enriched by such expression with the richness of its history, the beauty of its terrain, and the fabulous diversity and creativity of its citizenry.”

The program is set for a bigger and better future, said current dean Patricia O’Brien.

“We will be increasing the number of music fellowships, adding a tap dance troupe, a children’s theatre group and creating a multi-media interactive gallery at the Sweeney Art Gallery.”

She also said the program will teaches children to be a courteous and knowledgeable audience.

“I think this is a tremendous endorsement of the quality of the arts at the Riverside campus,” said O’Brien.

The accomplishments of the Gluck program over the past three years includes 797 performances with a total audience exceeding 25,000 people.

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