UMass Amherst officially renames the Fine Arts Center building and performance hall for Randolph W. Bromery and Frederick C. Tillis

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AMHERST, Massachusetts – The University of Massachusetts Amherst honored its deep roots in the performing and fine arts today in a ceremony celebrating the renaming of the Fine Arts Center building and its main stage . The building was named on

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Randolph W. Bromery

Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts in honor of the university’s first black chancellor. The 1,800-seat concert hall at the Bromery Center, meanwhile, was renamed in honor of Frederick C. Tillis, famous composer, poet, music teacher and arts administrator at the university, who died in 2020.

The event also served as an unveiling for the newly renovated Pont des Arts on the fourth floor of the Bromery Center, which includes a range of multidisciplinary teaching spaces for the arts, including a gallery, design studio, rehearsal, a recording studio, an animation studio and laboratory and music class.

Fine Arts Center Director Jamilla Deria said, “What we’re really celebrating today is a legacy of deep commitment – to the arts, arts education and academia. Dr Bromery and Dr Tillis have fundamentally reshaped UMass Amherst. We honor these campus leaders for the sweeping changes they have made to the arts and arts education on campus, but we do so with the understanding that their influence goes far beyond the arts and echoes across campus. And it is normal that alongside these two visionaries, we also celebrate the Pont des Arts, and more particularly the legacy of Laura Bailey, Julie Hayes and Claude Bersano. As we bring Bromery and Tillis’ revolutionary ideas into modernity – and the university responds to research that affirms the critical role of the arts in higher education – it is projects like Arts Bridge and the donors that make them possibilities that will ensure a legacy of the arts at UMass.

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Dr Frederick C. Tillis
Frédéric C. Tillis

The Bromery Arts Center

Perhaps the most important example of modern architecture on the UMass Amherst campus, the Bromery Center was designed as a gateway to the campus at the south end of the Campus Pond. Designed in 1968 by Kevin Roche de Roche, Dinkloo and Associates, the building was considered an innovation on American college campuses. It remains one of the most visible structures on campus. It was under the leadership of Chancellor Bromery that the Palais des Beaux-Arts was built.

Bromery, a geologist and geophysicist, arrived at UMass Amherst in 1967 as a professor of geology and quickly rose through the management ranks. He was vice-chancellor for student affairs, then led the campus as chancellor from 1971 to 1979. His appointment as chancellor made him the second African-American to lead a predominantly white campus and the first African American to lead UMass Amherst. During his tenure, the United States was in the throes of political, social and economic upheaval. Students were protesting the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal arose, and the recent gains of the civil rights movement were called into question.

UMass Chancellor Amherst Kumble Subbaswamy said: “Chancellor Bromery has also inherited a growing campus. As the growing baby boomer demographics have taken the college route, university applications have grown from about 5,000 in 1959 to over 20,000 ten years later, and enrollments have nearly tripled over the course of that year. the decade leading up to 1972. ”He noted that Bromery equalized the ratio of male and female students at 50-50 and stepped up recruitment and support for students of color.

Subbaswamy also noted that it was during this time that the university was able to recruit jazz legends Max Roach, Archie Shepp and Tillis to the faculty, as well as acquire the WEB Du Bois and Horace Mann Bond archives. It was during this time that UMass Amherst’s reputation as a leader in African American studies was strengthened and the WEB Du Bois Center was established.

“But it is Chancellor Bromery’s approach to the arts that most clearly defines his leadership and legacy on this campus,” Subbaswamy said. “After the opening of the FAC in 1975, Dr Fred Tillis became one of its first directors, and both men shared a vision of the arts as fundamentally and necessarily inclusive – and the Chancellor was not afraid to challenge the academic status quo to realize that vision. “

At today’s event, Subbaswamy also credited Professor John Bracey Jr., founder of the campus’s WEB Du Bois African-American studies department, with the idea of ​​renaming the Fine Arts Center for Bromery and also announced the establishment of the University Black Presence Initiative, established under the leadership of Bracey. The initiative will bring together the voices and stories of black professors, students, staff and alumni throughout the university’s 160-year history and chronicle their contributions to UMass.

The Frederick C. Tillis performance hall

During today’s celebration, Subbaswamy also announced the renaming of the main stage at the Bromery Center in honor of Frederick C. Tillis, Ph.D. renowned composer and music specialist, who was recruited to join the faculty of UMass by the head of the music department Phillip Bezanson in 1970. In 1978, Bromery chose Tillis to become director of the Fine Arts Center, a position he held for almost 20 years. years. He remained connected to the organization after his retirement in 1997 until his death in 2020 at the age of 90. Tillis is remembered as a passionate musician, composer, educator, poet and advocate of the arts.

Tillis has deeply shaped the cultural and musical landscape of UMass Amherst, the Pioneer Valley and beyond. His work as a performer and composer spans the traditions of jazz and European music, encompassing a wide range of cultural references. His more than 100 compositions include works for piano and voice, orchestra and choir, as well as chamber music and works in the African-American spiritual tradition. Tillis has also published 15 books of poetry.

Tillis is credited with helping launch some of the university’s most successful artistic endeavors, including the Jazz and African American Music Studies Program, Jazz in July Summer Music Program, New World Theater, the Augusta Savage Gallery and the Asian Art and Culture Program. . He has also received several awards and has represented UMass as a cultural ambassador, performing locally, nationally and internationally with students, alumni and faculty such as Salvatore Macchia, Jeffrey Holmes, David Sporny and Horace Boyer.

“Over the course of his career, Dr. Tillis has shaped our concentration in African-American jazz and music – one of the first in the country – into an internationally renowned program,” said Subbaswamy. “And from the early days of FAC, as director, he defined the future trajectory of the center by showcasing Western and non-Western artists and art forms, thus making the university a national leader in inclusive programming. . By shaping our artistic excellence through learning, discovery and engagement, Dr. Tillis has created an area of ​​strength for the campus, allowing us to build on his legacy.

The bridge of Arts

In 2020, the university embarked on a $ 12.57 million renovation project on the fourth floor of the Bromery Center to transform the centre’s bridge into a makerspace for the departments of art, music and dance, and theater. The multidisciplinary space includes a design studio, theater rehearsal studio, costume shop, music education room, music seminar room, recording studio and newly designed spaces for dance classes. animation and art and a computer lab.

“These state-of-the-art facilities encourage emerging student artists to hone their art and practice, and support faculty in their cutting-edge research and creative production,” said Subbaswamy. “Today, with the opening of the Pont des Arts, we reaffirm our heritage of making the arts inclusive and accessible. “

In space is the Laura Bailey Costume Store, generously supported by Laura Bailey, who graduated from UMass in 2003, and her parents Doug and Sara Bailey. Bailey says his career in film as a script supervisor for independent films was founded on his UMass education in theater, which focuses as much on performance as it does on the hands-on, behind-the-scenes work of editing a production.

Also part of the Pont des Arts, the Recording studio Julie C. Hayes and Claude Bersano is named in honor of Hayes, the former dean of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts, and her late husband, Claude Bersano, who was a sound engineer and loved classical organ music. The studio is supported by a fund created in their honor by Bill ’86 and Madeleine ’89 Noland. The fund will finance the purchase and maintenance of recording equipment and other purposes related to the recording studio.


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