Brenau University dance major Katie Watkins performs with the university's Spectrum Singers during Brenau's 2019 holiday concert in the John S. Burd Center for the Performing Arts' Hosch Theatre. (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Music and dance join the Center for the Arts & Design

Jun 7, 2021
Michael Lowe

Brenau University recently announced the addition of its Music and Dance departments to the Center for the Arts & Design, an interdisciplinary initiative promoting the university’s highly regarded art and design programs through student-centered education and community outreach.

CAD launched in spring 2018 as a collaboration of Brenau’s Art & Design Department — which includes studio art, fashion design and fashion merchandising programs — as well as the Interior Design Department and Brenau University Galleries.

The addition of performing arts strengthens the center’s mission to provide greater access to all of the academic programs under the CAD umbrella while expanding professional development for students, faculty and the Brenau community. This will also create more opportunities for the wider community to experience the arts at Brenau, said Claudia Wilburn, CAD director and Art & Design Department chair.

“The Center for the Arts & Design continues to enhance the visibility, awareness and reputation of our programs, and I am excited about the opportunity to build a stronger community in the arts at Brenau,” Wilburn said. “With music and dance now part of this important initiative, we can share with the world even more of the extraordinary artists and programs Brenau has to offer.”

While Brenau’s CAD programs and galleries have occasionally worked together on events in the past, Wilburn said more visual and performing arts collaborations are planned for the future. CAD will also use its new shared resources to build upon community outreach efforts such as workshops, service projects, student activities, social media and a quarterly newsletter.

Barbara Steinhaus, Music Department chair, welcomed the potential that CAD presents to music majors for engagement in artistic experimentation and innovation with their Brenau peers from other CAD programs. Brenau currently offers bachelor’s degrees in music education and music performance, along with several music ensembles for students.

“The music faculty looks forward to many of the planned collaborations within the Center for the Arts & Design to enrich the upcoming year and those beyond,” Steinhaus said.

Likewise, Madia Cooper-Ashirifi, Dance Department chair, expressed her appreciation for the long-term benefits CAD will provide students, including new avenues for dancers to showcase their hard work and talents in a creative and supportive environment.

And while Brenau’s dance program — which offers a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in advanced ballet, modern dance and jazz/musical theatre — has remained active during the pandemic with virtual performances, workshops and guest lectures, Cooper-Ashirifi said she looks forward to more on-campus events in the months ahead.

“We are elated to expand CAD’s mission to extend fine and performing arts to the greater Gainesville community,” Cooper-Ashirifi said. “The future for Brenau’s art programs is brighter than ever before and will be the pedestal for unity and appreciation.”

For more information about the Center for the Arts & Design at Brenau University and to sign up for the quarterly newsletter, go to