The University of Texas at Austin
  • Getting to know Dean Douglas Dempster

    Getting to know Dean Douglas Dempster

    By Tara Chandler
    Published: Jan. 24, 2008

    4) What projects are you working on now that you are especially excited about?
    The pragmatic dean in me is most excited about anticipating the possibilities for our programs when fully and adequately supported. But like many faculty members, I’ve spent most of my career building curricula and new programs. At bottom that’s always about creating communities of cooperative purpose, coherent artistic sensibilities, common educational cause. I get most excited when I see us realizing the interdisciplinary and interdepartmental possibilities that are so natural to a university of UT’s expanse and caliber. At this moment, we’re collaborating within our college and partnering with other colleges to create new initiatives in museum studies, digital arts and media, musical theatre, performance as public practice, music business and recording technology, cultural policy studies and arts administration, classical art and archaeology, and modern and contemporary art of Latin America. The possibilities are endlessly exciting.

    5) What area of the arts do you most enjoy?
    I’m what is these days called a “cultural omnivore.” I listen to many different kinds of music, and enjoy attending the Austin City Limits Festival almost as much as visiting the Elephant Room or the Houston Grand Opera. I’m especially fond of jazz and earlier forms of chamber music. My first love was the visual arts, having grown up attending the great museums of New York and Washington, D.C. I’m a recreational drawer who’d rather sketch a landscape or city scene than take a photograph. I consider theatre to be our most timely, potentially profound and dangerous of art forms because of its humane engagement with the issues of our day. One of the great pleasures of coming to UT has been the chance to learn a great deal more about dance, which I have come to appreciate as simultaneously the most physically embodied and most ephemeral of art forms because of the difficulty of canonically encoding a dance work for posterity.

    6) Outside of work, what do you enjoy in your free time?
    I live with my wife, a poet and health literacy researcher, and two teenage daughters who attend Austin public high schools. Most of my non-work time is spent with family. (They’ll tell you that there isn’t a lot of “non-work time.”) Music, film, literature and politics are a big part of family discussions around the dinner table. We love to back pack, canoe, or go rafting when we get the chance to get away. I decided I had better run a marathon, if ever, by my 50th birthday, which has become a serious pastime—which is not how most would describe getting up at 5:00 a.m. for morning runs! (Anyway, it is cheaper and healthier than buying a mid-life sports car and doesn’t take as much time as golf!) I’m now training with Gilbert’s Gazelles for my third marathon and on my good days am not entirely delusional in hoping to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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