Georgetown students interested in culture and creativity often imagine themselves like the characters Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, lost figures awaiting the arrival of someone who never comes.

Now imagine a place at Georgetown where the English major writing an honors thesis on Beckett shares samosas in the lounge with the director of Nomadic Theater’s production of Waiting For Godot, while arguing about symbolism and staging. Unlike Vladimir and Estragon, Georgetown students do not have to endure an eternal deferral. Such a place has arrived: this academic year marks the beginning of the Culture and Performance Living and Learning Community, a new residential community that is both laboratory and lounge.

During the recently concluded New Student Orientation, I taught a Prelude course on Filmmaking and Film Studies at Georgetown. Here were 20 new students dedicating two hours of their first Monday on campus to serious discussion of the study and creation of film, without receiving credit or other reward. Their interest in film study suggests a broader hunger for serious attention to culture and performance. Contrary to popular belief, many Georgetown students take the performance and study of culture seriously. Not content to wait, they actively seek opportunities.

In recognition, the Office of Student Affairs and the Office of Residence Life, in partnership with the faculty and deans, have created the CPLLC, located on the second floor of the Reynolds building of the Southwest Quadrangle. The CPLLC is dedicated to the performance and study of culture through linking student life with cultural scholarship, with “culture” defined as the products of human creativity.

In The Rise of the Creative Class, Dr. Richard Florida argues that human creativity is the most important engine for economic growth in the 21st century, and that cities and regions must seek the flow of human creative capital if they are to develop in dynamic ways. As a consultant to regional development groups, Florida argues that cities must become places that welcome and support a new class of creative workers. Using cities like Austin, Texas, as examples, Florida argues that places that provide participatory amenities, demographic diversity, openness to newcomers and stimulating cultural interplay will experience dynamic growth in the 21st century.

A similar idea animates the CPLLC. Like Florida, the Office of Student Affairs believes that an open, participatory residential community will promote human creativity in arts and scholarship, adding in significant ways to the cultural resources of the campus.

The CPLLC is not simply an “arts floor.” The community was named “Culture and Performance” to suggest the floor as a point of intersection for cultural studies and performance, joining together 47 undergraduate students, from all four classes, whose interests range from magic to musical theater, folk dance to filmmaking. The community draws upon the insight of the academic discipline of cultural studies that social identity is inextricably linked to performance, that we are constantly performing our identities, constantly making and remaking culture. The hope is that the CPLLC will become a model for new efforts at Georgetown to bridge the distance between student life and academic life. Indeed by placing in residence a guitarist with a student studying the cultural history of flamenco guitar, the community can deepen both students’ work. On the CPLLC, the ballet dancer is also the student researching the role of ballet as Cold War cultural exchange.

To achieve its goals, the community requires diverse partners. From first conception, faculty in Art, Music and Theater, English, American Studies and Culture and Politics offered counsel and advice. The CPLLC now seeks faculty who would like to share research and creative work with the community. Community members also seek to collaborate with peers creating and studying culture while living elsewhere. Cultural groups seeking partners, or an audience, ought to think of the CPLLC.

As we enter the 2003-04 academic year, new developments in culture and performance debut across campus. The curtain rises on the new Program in Performing Arts, joining the academic programs in Music and Theater with the Office of Performing Arts, formerly a subunit of Student Affairs. In the next several weeks, award-winning vocalist and composer Bobby McFerrin and globally renowned author Mario Vargas-Llosa begin residency on campus, teaching and working with students and faculty. In early fall, ground will be broken on the Fr. Royden Davis, S.J., Performing Arts Center, with an anticipated opening in 2005. In the spring, GUTV will sponsor the fourth Annual Student Film Festival, looking forward to the submission of more than 30 videos and films made by Georgetown students. In answer to concern about Georgetown’s lack of serious support for cultural performance and study, I suggested that students look around. Positive signs are everywhere. While more work remains in terms of program development, faculty hiring, fundraising and facilities, progress has been made on multiple fronts. I argue that among the most promising developments is the newly convened Culture and Performance Community, where student life and academic attention to culture and performance are joined in a seriously fun, vital and creative place.

Dr. Bernie Cook is Associate Director of the John Carroll Scholars Program and Adjunct Assistant Professor in American Studies. Dr. Cook co-chaired the committee responsible for the creation of the CPLLC.

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