Wayland fine arts providing plenty of community activities

Ideally, a university and its community should be tightly woven together, with both relying on each other as resources. In the area of fine arts, that is definitely the case at Wayland Baptist University.

Wayland's Harral Memorial Auditorium is frequently the hub of many activities, including the Plainview Community Concerts and recitals by local performing arts groups. The 1,300-seat facility is ideal for events of every caliber and is booked regularly by groups outside the university.

Wayland's numerous performing groups also provide Plainview with cultural opportunities from art exhibits to theatre performances and concerts. Reasonable ticket prices - in some cases, even without charge - make events possible for a date night or for family entertainment.

The benefits go both ways. Wayland students gain valuable experience in performance before audiences and all that entails, and the public gets to enjoy the arts from a different perspective.

Wayland's music department is revered for its strong academic programs and offerings in instrumental, vocal and church music studies. But its performing groups are community favorites. Choral groups vary from the more formal International Choir, which performs traditional arrangements, classic songs in various languages and a capella selections, to the more contemporary Spirit, an 8-member ensemble that performs show tunes, patriotic programs and more contemporary favorites with choreography. Dr. Scott Herrington directs the International Choir, while Robert Black directs Spirit. Two other student groups - Wayland Singing Men and Wayland Singing Women - perform concerts each semester both separately and combined, presenting a varied program.

On the instrumental side, Wayland boasts an impressive band, which performs several concerts of its own and joins with choral groups frequently for their performances. Timothy Kelley directs the band and orchestral programs. Dr. Ann Stutes directs the Wayland Handbell Ensemble, also an active group with performances in a variety of venues.

Wayland's music faculty often present recital of their own during the semesters. Dr. Carl Moman, fine arts chair, presents an annual vocal recital, as does Mark Anthony Pair, pianist. Dr. Gary Belshaw also does piano recitals. Graduating music students also give required senior recitals that are open to the public.

Wayland's music groups join forces for a Christmas spectacular concert each year titled American Family Christmas. This free event is a family favorite to welcome in the holidays.

On the other side of the Harral Arts Complex, Wayland's theatre department is typically busy rehearsing, building sets or preparing for their four annual performances. Under the direction of Dr. Marti Runnels, Wayland Theatre typically presents one larger show in the fall, staged two weekends during Wayland's homecoming, and two shows in the spring. A production of short vignettes directed by students - called Shorts - is presented in early fall. The final show of the season is usually a dinner theatre with a meal offered in Harral Auditorium. Harral Studio Theatre, known by many as the Black Box, is home to theatre productions.

This year's fall show was the Agatha Christie murder mystery The Mousetrap. The drama The Elephant Man is planned for Feb. 28, March 1 and 2. Art, a comedy with a cast of three, will be performed April 18-20 and 26-27. Tickets are $7 per person for adults, $3 for students college age and under.

The theatre group also participates in the Christian University Theatre Festival, which Wayland has hosted several times. This year, the festival will be held at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, with the Wayland group performing The Elephant Man.

For art lovers, the Abraham Art Gallery, located in the lower floor of the Mabee Learning Resources Center, offers regular exhibits in a beautiful facility. Dr. Candace Keller serves as associate professor of art and curator for the gallery, which was opened in 1995 with the completion of the LRC. The gallery hosts several exhibits yearly, ranging from works of professional artists to student work. Wayland hosts the West Texas Regional Scholastic Art Awards competition each year and 400 of those pieces are on display at the gallery through Feb. 15. Exhibits of work by graduating senior art students are also featured in the gallery, which is free to the public.