Don’t tell the New Hampshire Institute of Art that a small school can’t make big waves. This small but growing arts college in the heart of Manchester is the oldest and largest arts institution in the state. As a city that hosts more than 17,000 students – more than in Durham – Manchester is now the education hub of New Hampshire. The reality of that is not lost on the school’s new president, nor is the potential for the NHIA to play a role in the ongoing changes throughout the city.
“It’s a luxury to step in at this point because it’s pretty clear where it’s all going to go in the next 10 years, and how lucky it is that an arts college can play a part in it,” NHIA President Kent Devereaux says. “To actually be at the table and to be able to say, ‘hey, we can contribute to this.’ That’s an awesome opportunity. You don’t find opportunities like that nationwide. It’s exciting.”
Devereaux came to Manchester a year ago after working in a number of higher education roles nationwide – most recently as a professor and chair of the music department at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, Wash. The self-described “west coast boy” arrived with a mission to reinvigorate the curriculum. But first he wanted to explore the opportunity firsthand.
His first visit to New Hampshire left the admitted history aficionado “awestruck.” “I’m fascinated with American history – my father was an American history professor,” Devereaux says. “I had read about the area’s history, but I had never been north of Boston. So coming here and seeing the mill buildings, and then to go in and see how Arthur Sullivan of Brady Sullivan Properties has redone some of these buildings, and taken those famous Lewis Hines photographs that really led to the first child labor laws and realize they’re mounted in the same place where the photo was taken 100 years ago – it was overwhelming. The sense of history for me was what was exciting. There’s a history here – a connection here that really makes sense. That was really exciting to me.”
Devereaux’s start came at a time as the city continues into a period of cultural and economic growth and improvement – something Devereaux appreciates and fully understands. The benefits of living and working in Manchester are numerous, he says, starting with the cost of living in the Queen City.
“Think about going to Boston or New York or San Francisco or Los Angeles,” he says. “You might want to think about coming here to go to college. It’s a lot more affordable, you can graduate with a lot less student debt, and we can do a really good job of giving you the skills you need and hopefully place more and more students into internships with companies and businesses we work with statewide. We can develop that college-to-workplace transition so that we can keep more of the young people here in New Hampshire.” The NHIA is also in the enviable position of having the expertise on-staff to train students in skills currently in high demand.
After all, if massive box-office hauls, growing pop culture influence and genre-busting, critically-lauded work is any hint at where young, creative people are focusing their efforts, the college encircling Victory Park may be ground-zero for aspiring writers and artists or new, emerging opportunities – have a great option here in Manchester.