Celebrating Fifty Years

College of Fine Arts
College of Fine Arts
College of Fine Arts located in the Alta Ham Fine Arts building

Established in 1989, the College of Fine Arts is one of the fastest-growing such colleges in the country. Then-president Robert Maxson and John Unrue, the provost, worked with the department chairs of art, dance, music, and theatre to lay the foundation for the new college. Known as the College of Fine and Performing Arts, it enrolled fewer than 700 students and offered graduate degrees in theatre and art, a bachelor's degree in dance, and two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree in music.

Growth of College

Under the guidance of Michael McCollum, who became founding dean in 1991, the college experienced tremendous growth. Departments saw enrollment increase by more than a third at the undergraduate level and more than double at the graduate level. The number of performances, concerts, and exhibitions doubled during this period as well. In addition, each department got an artist-in-residence position.

Jeffrey Koep, then chair of the theatre department, was named interim dean in 1995, becoming dean two years later. That year, the School of Architecture and the department of film moved to the newly named College of Fine Arts, and the UNLV Performing Arts Center began reporting to the dean. In addition, the master of architecture program was accredited by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (the undergraduate program also has accreditation from the Landscape Architecture Accrediting Board and the Foundation for Interior Design Education Research).

New Programs

From 2000 to 2006, several new degree programs were added, including a doctorate of musical arts and master of fine arts degrees in screen writing, directing, theatre technology, and graphics. Undergraduate programs increased to more than 40 different degree concentrations, such as the bachelor's in senior adult theatre (the only such program in the country) and bachelor of fine arts degrees in dance and graphics. The interdisciplinary gerontology program, which prepares students to work with older adults in various settings, transferred to the college. Beginning fall 2007, the college, together with the College of Engineering, will offer a bachelor's in entertainment engineering and design.

In 2001, the college launched the Celebrity Speaker Series, bringing in artists and entertainers such as Matt Damon and "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" creator and producer Anthony Zuiker to speak with students about their experiences in the industry. By 2006, the college had grown to nearly 2,500 students, and the number of faculty had nearly doubled.

Community Outreach

Over the years, the College of Fine Arts has built many connections to the community:

  • The Performing Arts Center brings in world-renowned performers; offers department concerts, exhibitions, and plays; and hosts the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Nevada Ballet Theatre, and Nevada Conservatory Theatre.
  • The college has developed a strong relationship with the Clark County School District through the Endangered Instrument Program, which provides instruments and lessons for at-risk middle school students, and ArtsBridge America, which incorporates the arts into everyday learning.
  • In their design studio courses, architecture students have worked on projects such as trail and bike path systems for the city of Henderson, wetland restoration, and recreation planning and design for the National Park Service.
  • The Nevada Entertainment/Artist Hall of Fame honors residents of Southern Nevada who have made a significant impact on the arts.

Student Success

Over the years, fine arts students have achieved great success:

  • In March 2007, students performed an original production at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia, the world's second largest fringe festival, where they were the only group representing an American university.
  • Architecture students recently won first place in the National Organization of Minority Architects design competition.
  • A joint production of the theatre and dance departments was one of five selected from more than 1,000 entries to perform at the Kennedy Center's prominent American College Theatre Festival in 2006.
  • In 2005, the UNLV Wind Orchestra performed at the prestigious La Croix Valmer International Music Festival in France.
  • The music department's Competition Drumline took second place in the American Drumline Association in 2004.
  • Students have performed regularly at the famed Edinburgh Arts Festival.

Faculty Achievement

The college's diverse and gifted faculty members have wide-ranging achievements:

  • Glenn Casale, head of directing and assistant professor of theatre, directed the 1999 Tony Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning "Peter Pan," and recently directed a new production of "Dragapella," nominated for Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel awards for best production.
  • Professor of music Virko Baley, principal guest conductor and artistic advisor of the Kiev Camerata and principal conductor of the international Kiev Music Fest in Ukraine, was the first American to be awarded the Shevchenko Prize for music.
  • Louis Kavouras, department chair and professor of dance, has been a principal dancer of the New York-based Erick Hawkins Dance company and faculty member of the Erick Hawkins School of Dance since 1996.
  • Associate professor of film/screenwriting Sean Clark, who has written or produced for several television series such as "Coach," "Evening Shade," "Northern Exposure," and "Early Edition," won the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting award for his play "Eleven-Zulu."
  • Stephen Hendee, assistant professor of art, has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, SculptureCenter, the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, and the New Museum for Contemporary Art.
  • Francisco Menendez, department chair and professor of film, had his film "Medio Tiempo" selected for the 2001 Showtime Latino Filmmaker showcase.
  • Alfredo Fernandez, graduate program coordinator, associate professor of architecture, and director, N.E.A.T. Laboratory, conducts research that integrates natural phenomena and local resources and traditions into the design and operation of buildings.

Looking Ahead

The College of Fine Arts aims to prepare students for professional employment in the fine and performing arts and design and to provide them with the academic background to pursue graduate study. In the years ahead, the college will further its mission with continued support from community members such as Corinne Entratter-Sidney, Robert and Gwyneth Weiss, Jack Rappaport and the Rappaport Foundation, Phyllis McGuire, Tony Curtis, Klai-Juba Architecture, Edythe Katz, and Bernice Fischer.


1990 - Michael Bowers, interim
1990 - Michael McCollum
1995 - Jeffrey Koep