We’re celebrating our 10th anniversary this year, and we’re interviewing just a few of the many people who make Mason Community Arts Academy what it is. Our second interview is with Libby Curtis, our very own Executive Director of the Academy. Faculty Coordinator Claire Allen met with Libby to talk about her love of the arts, and why being involved with the Academy is such an important part of her life.
CAllen: How did you first become interested in/involved with the arts?
LCurtis: Singing as a child with my Mother at the piano. Then later, going on to perform regularly in my father’s church (he is a retired Methodist Minister who also had a lovely tenor voice). Music was in my home from the very beginning.
CAllen: What did your career look like before you became our director?
LCurtis: I taught and performed for over 23 years at both Radford University and Virginia Tech. I spent hours in the studio as a voice instructor and also taught Voice Class, was Assistant Director of Opera Workshop, and performed as a Soprano in the area regularly.
CAllen: Do you remember your reaction the first time you heard of what is now MCAA?
LCurtis: I remember having coffee with then Dean Bill Reeder from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Mason and vaguely discussing ideas about taking a group of summer programs and expanding them into a more extended program. I don’t think either of us could have imagined at the time what the Academy would become in both scope and impact on the community and the University.
CAllen: What is your favorite part of your job, currently?
LCurtis: Definitely seeing the incredible teaching that happens on a daily basis through our varied programs. We also have an amazing administrative staff that makes it a pleasure to come to work each and every day!
CAllen: Talk to me about your initial goals for the program, and how that compares to the program today. Did you expect it to grow in the way it did? What did you expect, and what has surprised you?
LCurtis: Well, it did take about a year of exploration before we started to figure out what directions to take – what the need was in the community and how Mason could help fill that need. And then it was a steady process of adding all the different components.
CAllen: What is one of the most memorable experiences you have had as a result of directing the Academy?
LCurtis: Truly, there have been so many that it’s hard to narrow it down, but, several years ago a student in one of our 55-and-older Piano Classes was diagnosed with cancer. I witnessed as members of that class gathered around her and become a support system for her – talk about the arts building community. She unfortunately later lost her battle to cancer, but we heard from her family about what a comfort the class had been for her. What an honor to play a small role in that.
CAllen: If you had one wish for how Mason Arts continues to grow in the next ten years, what would it be?
LCurtis: A real home – which means a facility that supports not only a quality arts teaching experiences, but also a place that provides space for community members and artist faculty to gather and share their passion for the arts that brings so much to all of our lives.
CAllen: Is there anything else you’d like our community to know about you, the Academy, or the importance of the arts?
LCurtis: The building of this wonderful Academy has provided so many incredible and unique experiences that have had tremendous impact in our community and beyond. Just a few examples…
1. Providing instruments to help build a whole new orchestra for students in Costa Rica
2. Watching our students grow and flourish through their arts experiences here and in our many afterschool programs
3. Working with and supporting incredible faculty from Mason’s Schools of Art and Engineering in “The Narrative Machine” – a great STEAM initiative using Instruments in the Attic instruments.
I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!
Thanks to Libby for sharing her inspiration and insights.
We hope you and your family can join us an upcoming class or program at the Academy and experience how creating art can build community!