Type of entity
Authorized form of name
School for the Contemporary Arts
Parallel form(s) of name
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Centre for the Arts (1977 - 1990)
- Centre for Communications and the Arts (1966 - 1977)
- Communications Centre (1965 - 1966)
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
The School for the Contemporary Arts is a department within the university's Faculty of Arts committed to the study, production and promotion of contemporary art. The School offers a graduate Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, and undergraduate programs in art and culture, dance, film, music, theatre and visual art. Exhibit and performance are integral to the curriculum. The School also includes the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters; located in downtown Vancouver, Praxis is a non-profit organization devoted to the professional development of Canadian screenwriters and filmmakers.
The School's history can be divided into three broad periods: its origins as a Centre within the Faculty of Education in the university's early years (1965-1969); its years as an independent Centre emphasizing public-events programming (1970-1976); and its formation as an academic unit offering credit courses and degree programs (1976-).
In the university's first year of operation (1965), the Faculty of Education was organized into several Centres, including the Communications Centre (renamed the Centre for Communications and the Arts in 1966). The Centre's mandate included instructional programming (credit and non-credit courses in communications, media studies and the fine and performing arts) and public programming (theatre productions, films, art exhibits, lectures and demonstrations). In the fine and performing arts, artists were engaged as faculty and university residents, accessible to students and the university community through performances, exhibits, workshops, seminars and special events.
Over 1969 and 1970 the Faculty of Education reorganized; the Centre transferred out of the Faculty and reported instead first to the Director of General Studies, then to the Director of University Services (1971). The Centre retained its functions of public-events programming and provision of non-credit, non-degree instruction in the arts, while academic credit programming was transferred to the newly formed Department of Communication Studies in the Faculty of Education. During this period, the Centre focussed its energies on organizing the cultural life of the university, with an extensive series of public programs, including a full-scale production of Henry Purcell's 17th-century opera, "Dido and Aeneas" in 1973. The Purcell String Quartet became the SFU's Quartet-in-Residence in 1972, an association that continued until 1982.
In 1976 the Centre was reorganized as the Centre for the Arts, a department within the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies. Its mandate was to develop credit programs in the fine and performing arts, while inheriting its predecessor's public-programming functions, including management of both the university Theatre and Art Gallery. In 1984 the Centre sustained a large funding cut, approximately a third of its budget. Its home faculty -- the Faculty of Interdisciplinary Studies -- was disbanded in 1985 and the Centre moved to the Faculty of Arts. Despite these circumstances, the Centre continued to develop its academic programs, and in addition established strong professional development programs with the the annual Summer Institute series of intensive programs (1986-1994) and the Praxis Centre for Screenwriting (1986-).
In 1990 the Centre changed its name to the present form, the School for the Contemporary Arts. In the same year, the School created a graduate Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree.