Brown Arts


The arts are integral to the academic mission of Brown University—so vital, in fact, that “cultivating creative expression” is a key component of the University’s current strategic plan, Building on Distinction. Brown is recognized for its rigorous fusion of arts practice and scholarship, and serves as an incubator for both traditional and experimental art and media. Its Open Curriculum fosters curiosity-driven investigation and invites participation from students of all disciplines and skill levels, as well as from faculty and scholars using the arts as a foundation for cross-cultural exploration and an agent of social change.

A Recent History of the Arts at Brown

Written in 1969, A Report of the Committee on the Arts outlines Brown's commitments to the arts stating "[a] University should provide its students and faculty with the opportunity to explore intellectual and creative activity over as broad a spectrum as possible. . ." The report makes an ambitious case for a new Performing Arts Center to be built on campus.
Read the report here

Rites and Reason Theatre was founded in 1970 by Professor George Houston Bass and was born out of the Black Arts Movement and student protests at Brown University. Now part of the Department of Africana Studies, the mission of the theatre remains to develop new creative works which analyze and articulate the phenomenal and universal odyssey of the African Diaspora. 
Learn more about Rites and Reason Theatre

The Albert and Vera List Art Building, located on College Hill, was completed in 1971, funded in part by a donation from Mr. and Mrs. Albert List, and major gifts from other donors. Designed by Philip Johnson with associate architect Samuel Glaser and Partners, the five-story concrete building features a large lecture room, a 2500 square foot exhibition area, and a 4500 square foot painting studio with skylights.

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Department of History of Art and Architecture

Department of Visual Art

David Winton Bell Gallery

The David Winton Bell Gallery is a contemporary art gallery hosting four to five major exhibitions per year, showcasing diverse artwork by emerging or under-recognized artists. The gallery also has a permanent collection of over 7,000 works of art dating from the 16th century to the present, with a focus on 20th and 21st century works on paper.

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In 1979 the Department of Theatre Arts, Speech and Dance was formed, later becoming the Department of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies. Read more about the history of Theatre Arts at Brown

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The Brown University Creative Arts Council supported the goals of the individual creative art departments and programs and facilitated a common vision for the arts that transcended disciplines and created unity. Led by Faculty Chairs of the arts departments at Brown along with the Directors of the David Winton Bell Gallery, and Rites and Reason Theater, the Council served as a catalyst for innovative collaboration across disciplines and provided a regular forum for communication among all members of the arts community. The Creative Arts Council later evolved to become the Brown Arts Initiative in 2016.

Opened in February, 2011, the Granoff Center is a revolutionary building dedicated to encouraging faculty and students to create bold new directions for research, teaching, and production across the boundaries of individual arts disciplines and among artists, scientists, and scholars.

The Center features:

  • The Martinos Auditorium, a 218-person performance and lecture hall and 35mm screening facility.
  • Four production studios for interdisciplinary work.
  • The Cohen Gallery
  • A recording studio for professional sound recording, sound design, and multimedia work.
  • The Khoo Teck Puat Multimedia Lab with equipment and software to allow students and faculty to create freely and stretch the boundaries of art and technology.
  • The Cogut Physical Media Lab used for production of and research in sensors, robotics, and physical computing.
  • An outdoor amphitheater wired for sound and video, allowing outdoor performances, film screenings, and installations.

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In Brown's new strategic plan, "cultivating creative expression" becomes one the core themes at Brown. Cultivating Creative Expression used to explore human values and communicate new ideas, to challenge societies, and to draw disparate groups together. At Brown, the creative arts are tightly integrated into the liberal arts. We aspire to foster an environment in which artists operating at the highest levels of their crafts learn from and inform scholars in disciplines across the campus.

Read the Complete Plan

In 2016 the Creative Arts Council transitioned to the Brown Arts Initiative, a university-wide research enterprise and catalyst for the arts at Brown that supported, amplified, and added new dimensions to the creative practices of Brown’s arts departments, faculty, students, and community. While continuing the work of the Creative Arts Council, the Initiative also presented public events and produced a season program.

The Brown Arts Institute builds on over two decades of work fostered by the Creative Arts Council (1999 - 2015) and the Brown Arts Initiative (2016 - 2021) and represents the full breadth of the performing, literary, and visual arts at Brown. Building on this strong history of interdisciplinary work in the arts, the BAI aims to achieve the following goals: Support Brown's core arts departments; Expand Brown’s artistic legacy; Exemplify and promote a unified artistic and academic program; Facilitate greater opportunity for collaboration; and Position Brown as a home for future generations.

About BAI

Stay tuned for upcoming information about the IGNITE Series and the opening of the Lindemann Performing Arts Center in Fall 2023.

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