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Dreams of Dancing Transform into a Career

Gaye Greever McElwain fostered her love for the arts through dance programs at Texas Tech, leading her to a career with the Texas Commission on the Arts.

As told to Ioanna Makris

From watching dancing on TV to taking dance and music lessons and then following her passion through college, Gaye Greever McElwain has incorporated her passion for the arts and her passion for communications into the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), where she has raised awareness of the organization and has helped promote the arts and culture in Texas.

Q: What sparked your interest in the arts?

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina. This was back in the day of the variety show, and I would see dancers on television and think, “I want to do that!” My parents were very supportive and provided me with dance and music lessons. My dance training taught me to be disciplined, work hard, be a team player and think with both hemispheres of my brain. It kept me mentally and physically fit and gave me a level of confidence I might not have otherwise felt. I feel very blessed to have found a life in the arts.

Q: How did Texas Tech help foster your attraction to the arts?

As a dance major at Texas Tech, I got to participate in a lot of creative, experimental work that other universities did not offer. The dance department collaborated with the music and theatre departments on everything from Broadway musicals to improvisational concerts. We got to work with professionals in the local community, as well as in national touring companies. As a student, it was wonderful to a take class with the Joffrey Ballet and perform to live music with the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra. We did some crazy things, too, like the time we did a modern dance class on the Texas Tech bus. Students on their way to class got a big surprise – what an adventure!

Q: How have you seen the campus and university change from the years you were here?

Obviously, the campus has grown since I graduated in 1981. I’m really excited about Texas Tech’s public art program, considered one of the best in the nation. I was there recently, and I found the artwork provides quiet places for contemplation while enhancing the beauty of the campus. It’s a great destination for cultural tourists.

Q: What sparked your interest in getting involved with TCA?

After graduating from Texas Tech, I went on to get my Master of Fine Arts and pursue a professional dance career. I moved to Austin when I was hired by the Sharir Dance Company, and eventually met my husband, Michael. I wanted to spend less time on tour and I also wanted health insurance benefits. I joined a small high-tech firm and worked my way into product marketing. Then, out of the blue, I found out the Texas Commission on the Arts was hiring a marketing director. It was the perfect blend of my two careers – art and communication. I jumped at the chance!

Q:How have you seen TCA grow over the past years?

The arts always face financial challenges and the current economic situation has made it an even bigger issue. Fortunately, there seems to be greater understanding of the role the arts play in educational advancement and the creative economy. TCA’s current leadership is doing a great job positioning the agency as one that provides solutions to the many challenges facing our state, and our role in tourism and economic development has expanded.

Q: How has TCA affected Texas and its tourism?

Texas is the third most-visited state in the nation, and the leisure and hospitality industry is the fourth largest employer in our state. Research shows that 78 percent of U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural or heritage activities. This is where TCA plays a big role. We invest our resources in venues, events and high-quality arts and cultural programming for these travelers to experience. The economic impact of museum exhibitions, music and film festivals and other arts programming is huge. Cultural tourists stay longer and spend more than other travelers. Another benefit of cultural tourism is the preservation of our unique Texan culture. TCA works in partnership with four other state agencies to develop and promote authentic and exciting tourism product offerings to attract visitors to our state. For example, TCA is responsible for officially designating cultural districts on behalf of the state. I’m pleased to say that one of the first was the Lubbock Cultural District.

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College of Visual & Performing Arts

The College of Visual & Performing Arts at Texas Tech offers a diverse array of programs and courses in art, music, theatre and dance.

The college seeks to prepare students who will be leaders in the profession by employing the highest standards in performance, teaching, research, and artistic and creative vision.

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