Fine and Performing Arts, situated in the Centre for Communications and the Arts, were considered integral to the innovative philosophy of the newly founded University. Programming began in 1965 on a non-credit basis. From the first, there was a collaborative atmosphere encouraging interaction between the arts and academic departments. Highly regarded practicing artists, such as theatre director John Juliani and composer R. Murray Schaefer, ran some of these programs.
By the early 1970s, the Centre was a recognized program with a vibrant public event series, workshops conducted by invited high profile artists and in-house interdisciplinary productions. such as Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas.
In 1975 the Centre became an academic unit in the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies, with credit courses in dance, film, music, theatre, visual art and interdisciplinary art history under its first Director: Dr. Evan Alderson. The University brought in new faculty and initiated minor programs beginning with dance in 1977.
Grant Strate, the celebrated choreographer andÃ‚ former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, became Director in 1980. By 1981, there were minor programs for each disciplinary area of the School, a major in Dance, and a BA with a major in the Fine and Performing Arts.
Although subjected to cutbacks as a result of the provincial restraintÃ‚ program in 1983, the Centre showed resilience and spirit, finding a way toÃ‚ maintain the academic programs in all fine arts disciplines. In 1986 a new provincial initiative spawned the establishment of Praxis Centre for Screenwriters as well as a professional non-credit summer program called the Summer Intensives. These two four week courses focused upon a range of topics from Art Theory and Criticism, Voice Training, Choreography, New Media, Film Sound and Music and Javanese Court Gamelan. In 1989 the school co-founded the Centre for Image and Sound Research. Funded by a major grant from the federal government, CISR supported innovation in new media through a state of the art lab, workshops and grants to industry until 1992.
When composer Rudolf Komorous became Director in 1989, the department was renamed the School for the Contemporary Arts and grew to include BFA's in Film, Theatre, Music, and Visual Art,Ã‚ a BA in Art and Culture Studies, and extended minors in all disciplines. Ã‚ An interdisciplinary MFA was established in 1990.
In recent years, under the direction of Owen Underhill (94 - 01, 06-7), Patricia Gruben (97-8) and Martin Gotfrit (01), the School for the Contemporary Arts has:
Increased faculty numbers to 22 tenure-track professors, 5 lecturers, and 2 lab instructors.Ã‚ Recent hires include dance professor Robert Kitsos, film studies professor Christopher Pavsek and theatre professor Steven Hill.
Established Field Schools in Ghana and India where students receive up to 12 credits while traveling and studying at host universities under the guidance of SFU faculty.
Reorganized Art and Culture Studies with an increased faculty complement and new courses.
Upgraded technical facilities to support digital new media labs and studios in all of the areas as well as maintaining key analogue technologies such as 16mm film.
Established faculty research centres at the Great Northern Way campus shared by SFU, UBC, ECIAD and BCIT.
Through Praxis, developed a nationally-recognized program of professional training for screenwriters, and public events with Canadian and international filmmakers like Atom Egoyan, Sally Potter, Costa-Gavras, Mike Leigh, and Walter Murch.
Individual faculty from the School have built an impressive record of success in winning research support from the Canada Council and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council as well as commissions from a variety of national and international art centres.
In September 2010, the School for the Contemporary Arts relocated to the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. In downtown Vancouver's innovative new Woodwards redevelopment we are now situated in a state-of-the-art building with greatly expanded teaching, exhibition and performance spaces, including a large experimental theatre, a sound stage for film production, a cinema, a gallery, a World Art Studio to house the SCA's Javanese Gamelan, two mid-size dance and theatre performance studios, screening rooms and a new media centre. At Woodward's, the School will be at the centre of Vancouver's lively art and cultural scene and a magnet for visitors from across the country and around the world.