Taking the Arts to the Next Level


As a youth, Lisa Donovan, Ph.D., who joined MCLA in January as an associate professor in the Fine and Performing Arts Department, was always interested in performing.

"But I quickly realized that while I loved being a theater artist, what I really loved is how I can be an agent of change, and how theater can provoke dialogue and be a catalyst," she said. "I always had very strong administrative skills. So, as a theater artist, I would be able to get grants and develop collaborations in schools because I was able to envision something and make it happen."

Donovan comes to MCLA from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she worked for the past nine years, and directed its creative arts and learning division for the last six years.

No stranger to the Berkshires, Donovan has lived in the South County town of Lee for the past 20 years.

"There's nothing better than living and working in your community," she said. "Work at Lesley had me flying across the country a lot, working with teachers in arts integration, but in the Berkshires I've worked for the Berkshire Opera Company and I did research with Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. I worked in the education department at the Barrington Stage, so I had deep roots already in area arts organizations."

As a result, by accepting the position at MCLA, she felt like, "I was coming full circle."

Also an adjunct professor at MCLA before she began her full-time position, Donovan's classes include "Introduction to Arts Management" and "Grants and Fundraising."

Next semester, she'll teach a special topics course in designing an arts-based education. This independent study course will be linked to the Massachusetts Cultural Council's "Youth Reach" program, which celebrates 20 years of giving grants to benefit youth development.

"I'll have a team of students doing some research on youth development programs," Donovan explained. "They will be creating and maintaining a blog, and interviewing folks who have been through youth development provider programs. I feel like there's so much potential for the arts management program."

A native of the Hudson River Valley in New York, Donovan attended Oneonta State, where she studied theater and psychology. She earned her master's degree in communications from Boston University, and her doctorate in educational studies from Lesley University, where her research question centered on how an education in theater can develop a sense of voice and identity in adolescents.

In addition, Donovan is a former executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts Education, and served as a co-principal investigator of a research project funded by the Ford Foundation, that focused on teachers' perspectives on the relevance of arts integration.

She has taught internationally in Japan and Israel, and throughout the United States.

Donovan also is co-editor of a new book series on arts integration published by Shell Education that includes "Integrating the Arts across the Content Areas" (2012), "Strategies to Integrate the Arts in Mathematics" (2013), and "Strategies to Integrate the Arts in English Language Arts" (2013).

As a professor of arts management, Donovan is excited about what lies ahead for the program.

"There really isn't another place like the Berkshires, where you have this incredible mix of natural beauty, a rich artist community, a wealth of cultural institutions that are very interested in collaborating. I feel like the exciting moment to be here now is the opportunity to help connect the dots. There's no place better for an arts incubator than an institution of higher education," she said.

"It's already in motion, and I feel like my work will help to take it to the next level."