“Castleton says yes to ideas where other places look for reasons to say no,” Rich Cowden says about why he loves working at Castleton.
Cowden, who was recently promoted from director of the Fine Arts Center to Director of the Arts at Castleton, likes that President Dave Wolk agrees to let him try to make all his crazy ideas a reality.
“He’s a very creative guy… He’s also someone who can work well with the three (arts) departments and improve connections with Rutland,” Wolk said about letting Cowden try out his ideas.
Cowden said he is willing to do whatever it takes to improve the arts at Castleton. He and the art, theater arts and music departments are working together to create a 10-year strategic plan for each department and the arts as a whole.
“My job is to help do whatever it takes to raise the level of arts at Castleton,” Cowden said.
Harry McEnerny, chair of the theater arts department, said he believes Cowden will “bring arts advocacy to the region and get people jazzed about the arts who weren’t before.”
Part of Cowden’s 10-year plan includes growing the number of students who are either majoring or minoring in an arts field, “aggressive fundraising” for scholarships and other things for those students, offering the right degrees to attract more students, and renovating the Fine Arts Center down the road.
“It’s been good for me to be able to have so many things to work on,” he said. Between working on the plan for the arts, teaching, directing plays, and his projects, like Project 240, Cowden definitely has a lot to do.
Project 240 is one of Cowden’s ideas that has taken off. Partnering with the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, they have brought many political events and speakers to the Rutland community. On Sept. 18, James Carville and Mary Matalin came to the Paramount.
Cowden said when he talked to Matalin, she told him that “two thousand students is perfect,” and he agrees.
In a profile for the Castleton website in 2013, Cowden said he was excited about being somewhere he could get to know people, and that’s still something he enjoys.
“Walking around campus, I know more people than I don’t know,” he said.
Cowden said that Castleton has had a huge impact on his family over the last few years. His wife, Jess Cowden, works at Castleton full-time now as Soundings director and a communication professor, and three of his four children live in Castleton and love the university.
“The Cowdens are Castleton folk,” Cowden said.