At the age of 19, Mia Godfrey has been involved in more theatrical productions than her years. As an extremely talented Indiana University Northwest student, actress, vocalist, and, most recently, Theatre Northwest stage manager, Mia believes her true role is that of dialogue starter.
Through her many performances, Mia has come to realize it is live theater that brings communities together, often addressing and highlighting issues, causing her audiences to react, reflect and respond.
For centuries, art, in its many forms, has served that very purpose, sparking discussion, pushing boundaries, and provoking an exchange of ideas, making it one of the most authentic forms of community-based engagement.
As such, it comes as no surprise, that over IU’s 200 years (January 20, 1820 – January 20, 2020), the study of and community access to fine and performing arts has been a firm university priority.
Reflecting on IU’s bicentenary encourages us at IU Northwest to be introspective about our past and present, which, characteristically, has had its own historically-rich commitment to the Region and the arts.
In fact, there has been nearly a century of IU presence in Northwest Indiana, with the earliest documented extension classes beginning in 1921, at Jefferson School in downtown Gary.
Then, in 1939, the IU Calumet Center in East Chicago dedicated its first building in Lake County, which became a focus for arts appreciation, with its choral society, orchestra, and literary magazine.
Fast forward to 1959, when IU established its current Glen Park campus, with the opening of Tamarack Hall, renowned for its professionally-scaled, 600-seat theatre, and original home to Theatre Northwest.
Many alumni, faculty and staff remember Tamarack Hall as a special place, a civic hub and cultural catalyst for Northwest Indiana, where notables took center stage, including Presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Jesse Jackson, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, Bernice.
While Tamarack Hall had its final curtain in 2008, due to flooding, its spirit and legacy continue to live on through theatrical and musical performances, art exhibits, lectures, and community events in the newly-established, $45 million Arts & Sciences Building.
Today, Arts & Sciences is the new home for our fine and performing arts students, complete with a large, professional theater that has taken its place among the Chicago-area’s finest.
The Arts & Sciences Building also serves as a tangible symbol of IU’s and IU Northwest’s continued commitment to our Region, representing growth, economic development, increased community access to arts and culture and, through our partnership with Ivy Tech, a vital educational gateway.
History is about both continuity and change. IU’s 100-year presence in Northwest Indiana demonstrates that, as a campus community, we continue to keep faith with our founding mission and vision, while also embracing new academic and community-based demands and opportunities, as we look ahead.
Despite the many changes experienced in the last century, IU Northwest has remained devoted to our founders’ vision: “Education is not to be regarded in Gary as a privilege for a few, nor as a concern for a short period of youth, but is to be universal and lifelong for all.” (Albert Fertsch, Secretary of the Gary University Extension, 1921).
It is this principle of regard for the success and well-being of all of our Region’s residents that has sustained IU in Northwest Indiana. It is this message that has guided our campus’s promise to community-based engagement in the form of more than 200,000 student service hours annually. And, it is through this commitment that a young, African-American woman by the name of Mia Godfrey is able to not only attend college but to grow, shine and dream.
We, as a community, should all take pride in what has been achieved. Part of IU’s Bicentennial celebration is our centennial of commitment to Northwest Indiana. We are proud to be the Region’s University.