Featuring Arts NC State Executive Director Rich Holly
As we navigate summer orientation in a pandemic, Arts NC State wanted to reach out to incoming students, as well as any colleagues, students and community who’d like to get to know the faces behind the arts programs of Arts NC State. Be sure to visit go.ncsu.edu/arts to check out all we have to offer for your creative experiences at NC State!
We kick off our Get to Know Us series with an interview of Arts NC State executive director, Rich Holly. Get to know a little bit more about Rich and about Arts NC State!
How long have you been involved in the arts on campus and what do you do?
I’ve been at NC State for five years now. My primary position is as the executive director for the arts, but I also serve as the associate dean of University College and hold a professorship in the College of Design.
What has been one of your favorite projects you have worked on here?
Ha! Well, that’s a bit like asking who is my favorite child! If you don’t mind, I’ll give you two.
The first is the Amplified Bands Club. No matter how many joyous occasions we have in the arts, for me the absolute best are when I can work directly with students. Over the spring and summer of 2019 I worked with students to form this club, and in particular, Rahul Bhat. We’re in the 21st century and the campus is not built for 21st century musicians. It’s nearly impossible to find a location where a group of musicians with amplifiers – or even just a drum set – can rehearse without their volume level being a problem for others around them. And, as an institution of higher learning in the 21st century, we need to be providing education to our students on what the current state-of-the-art is in terms of live performances, recording, digital music technology, and so on. The purpose of this club is to identify and sign out spaces on campus where rehearsals can take place, and to bring in guest speakers who will enlighten the students to the types of information that will help their music careers expand and flourish, even if only part-time.
The second example is a bit more selfish, although it also involves students. My first few months on campus, in getting to know Dr. Gary Beckman who leads the Entrepreneurial Studies in the Arts program, we discovered a love of many similar rock bands, so I suggested we start a faculty rock band. His response was immediate and included “only if we can bring students along for the ride,” which I was (and still am) enthusiastic about. We were so fortunate to get Dr. Tom Koch of the Department of Music, Dr. Kate Annett-Hitchcock of the Wilson College of Textiles, and Dr. Tommy Holden of the Department of Health and Exercise Studies to join us, and thus we became The Quadrivium Project (and I hope readers will look up “quadrivium“). We change the theme of our repertoire each year, and perform full-production concerts each fall. This is where many students have been instrumental to our success. We have had students involved in the research of our theme, building guitars, performing onstage “tech” duties, as part of the marketing strategies, and deeply involved in the theatrical performing requirements. Needless to say, we have a great deal of fun but we’re also proud of the dedication of these students and how successful the project has been and will continue to be.
What have you been up to during the pandemic? What shows have you been watching or books have you been reading? What podcasts have you been listening to?
Yeah, the pandemic. Well, I’m still working, about 8-9 hours a day and a few hours every weekend. The number of things that require conversations and decision making has grown considerably from our previous non-COVID existence. But I’m also pretty careful to take care of myself. I like to read spy and cop mystery novels, so I’ve been reading a lot by Daniel Silva and James Patterson lately, and will soon start some books by Don Winslow on the advice of one of my best friends. My wife and I watch NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, The British Baking Show, and others on Netflix. Until the pandemic I was not a podcast listener, I have too many other interests and obligations to find the time to sit and listen. However, I have now been interviewed two times in the past few months for podcasts, so I’m starting to listen to some.
Have you watched any art performance online? Which ones?
Oh, yes – I’ve spent many hours watching arts performances online. It’s both a great stress reliever and also part of my job to stay current with arts trends. I am totally enthralled with the 360-degree walkthroughs our Gregg Museum of Art & Design has created. In the last week I watched the Billy Hart Quartet live streamed from The Village Vanguard jazz club in New York City. Then I watched and participated in a live Zoom performance by incredibly talented bass player/multi-instrumentalist Adam Ben Ezra. He was live from his home in Tel Aviv and restricted the number of logins, and he had his manager serve as the moderator. They made it very fun and community oriented, introducing some of the audience members to the rest of us, encouraging us to play along, ask questions, etc. Penn State University has a summer (professional) theatre company, and due to COVID they shifted gears and are producing a live, virtual play this Friday night, and I’m excited to watch that and see how it works out.
What advice would you give to an incoming student about getting involved with the arts at NC State?
So this is the really beautiful thing about the arts at NC State – they are for everyone! If you’ve participated in the arts during middle school or high school, you can continue that participation here, you don’t have to be a major in the arts like you would at most other universities. And if you’ve never participated in the arts, now is the time to get involved. We offer numerous first-timer opportunities and classes in the performing arts and the visual arts, and absolutely, all students need to take advantage of this great opportunity while they are here.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m impressed on a daily basis with my arts colleagues and how dedicated they are to providing our students with meaningful experiences. On a very frequent basis we hear from students how the arts on campus are the thing that keeps them positive. And no student should believe the “I won’t have time for it” statement that we frequently hear. We work with students from every college on campus and from virtually every department. Students most certainly can find the time to engage in the arts, increase their knowledge and awareness of the world around them, and enjoy the beauty that the arts will bring into their lives.