Performing arts professor Jodi Baker has been named a permanent faculty member at College of the Atlantic. PHOTO COURTESY OF JASON P. SMITH

Baker now endowed arts chair

BAR HARBOR — Performing arts professor Jodi Baker has been named a permanent faculty member at College of the Atlantic.

The school has received two $500,000 anonymous donations toward an endowed performing arts chair, which Baker will fill once fundraising is complete. School officials are currently seeking donations for the final $250,000 to complete the chair.

“The performing arts investigate the complexities of human behavior through art and action, and on a very practical note, they also cultivate cooperation — these are the very ideals on which College of the Atlantic was founded,” said COA President Darron Collins ‘92.

“I can think of no one more brilliant to lead our students through this investigation than Jodi Baker. Her great enthusiasm, experience, humor and intellect make Jodi the perfect person for the endeavor.”

The performing arts chair will be the 14th faculty position endowed by the college, in areas such as earth sciences, literature and women’s studies, visual arts and sustainable business. Endowing a position ensures the inclusion of that academic discipline at COA in perpetuity, while also adding to the economic wellbeing of the college, said Lynn Boulger, the college’s dean of institutional advancement.

“We are so grateful to those families, individuals and foundations who have donated to endowed funds at COA,” Boulger said. “Endowments provide a steady and predictable source of operating revenue on which we can build and enhance our academic programs.”

Originally from Utah, Baker began her career with the Denver Center Theatre Company and subsequently worked as an actor in New York, Los Angeles and regional theaters across the country. She has studied in England and the U.S. with members of The National Theatre of Great Britain and The Royal Shakespeare Company, and her work has been significantly influenced by experiences training with members of Double Edge Theatre and Rena Mirecka, a founding member of Grotowski’s Laboratory Theatre.

Baker, who holds a master’s in acting from the National Theatre Conservatory, has taught full-time at COA for five years. Previously, theater was taught at the school by Lucy Bell Sellers for 23 years before her retirement.

“I feel very lucky and very grateful,” Baker said. “When I heard the news, I was honestly, really moved. It’s kind of extraordinary for someone to invest so significantly in performance study and to have that happen in the context of this particular college after having grown to love my work here so much – well, it’s wonderful.”

While COA faculty do not expect a significant portion of their student body to go on to be professional actors, the performing arts is seen as an essential part of the school’s interdisciplinary curriculum, providing opportunities for students to develop important life skills like communication, collaboration, creativity, planning and teamwork, said COA film professor Nancy Andrews.

“The performing arts nurture a collective focus and empathy – forces that fuel cultural change and social action. Theater is one of the most transdisciplinary of art forms, as it calls upon a wide variety of skills and processes, demanding extraordinarily high levels of creative collaboration across a broad spectrum of fields,” Andrews said.