Student Expression at Arts Week

DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA The Gracenotes, pictured above, are just one of the many talented a Capella groups on campus. A Capella groups are just some of the impressive and expressive performing arts groups on campus.

The Gracenotes, pictured above, are just one of the many talented a Capella groups on campus. A Capella groups are just some of the impressive and expressive performing arts groups on campus.

After the success of its inaugural year in 2014, Georgetown University Arts Week is back. From April 11-18, students will be able to experience a diverse set of events and activities promoting the arts at Georgetown. Arts Week was started as a way to celebrate and promote student art, drawing from the strengths of various art groups across campus.

This year, the week will include creative activities, musical performances, dance workshops, improv shows, theater productions, pop-up student galleries and open-mic nights, just to name a few. Some are serious productions, willing to delve into thoughtful discussions about issues such as sexual assault. Others leave room for fun, such as a karaoke night, which will be held at Bulldog Tavern.

The theme will be “Arts And…,” which is meant to reinforce the far-reaching and wide-ranging impact of art in all aspects of students’ lives. To many students at Georgetown, this is an important and liberating message in light of the way the relevance of the arts on campus is downplayed too often.

“People don’t seem to view the arts seriously — they are often seen as a hobby, if that, and I feel that it is the first ‘activity’ to nix when someone is feeling overwhelmed or stressed. There is so much emphasis placed on government, and finance, and resumes, and GPAs and just general success that people seem to simply forget about the arts,” said Arianna Calabrese (SFS ’17), a member of the GUSA Arts Week Subcommittee.

This is a common and harmful sentiment, one that is difficult to shake. Georgetown is a very competitive school that places high professional demands on its students, which makes programs like Arts Week all the more essential in promoting student involvement in the arts.

“For a campus like Georgetown’s, which can sometimes feel pre-professional and intensely intellectual, it’s undeniably refreshing to promote the arts and foster their development. After all, so much of college is about self-expression as a means to understand ourselves and connect with those around us. Arts Week helps us showcase a medium of student expression that sometimes is underappreciated at Georgetown,” said Claire Doyle (COL ’17), another member of the GUSA Arts Week Subcommittee.

In fairness to Georgetown and its culture, there are elements of the arts that not only exist on campus, but also thrive. Theatre and a cappella groups hold steady as reputable and popular, but their notoriety is not shared evenly among all genres of the arts.

“Visual arts have also been traditionally underrepresented on campus,” said Enushe Khan (MSB ’17), Arts Week Treasurer and the GUSA Senate’s Chair of Student Life. “With little/no gallery space, it is difficult to interact with student artwork.”

Khan also points to the music department and student artists as groups that are either underrepresented or up against barriers to gaining any meaningful visibility at Georgetown. “Freelance artists and musicians have a very difficult time finding practice space. For example, guitarists or drummers not involved in the Guild of the Bands are unable to reserve practice space or equipment. Artists not involved in an art class do not have access to studio space. This creates a major problem for students who use art as a means to relax or de-stress, and not as an academic pursuit,” she said.

Arts Week is one of the few remedies to this issue. It opens up artists to audiences, as well as opportunities for collaboration with each other.

“The week is intended to bring arts to the forefront and emphasize the important role that artistic expression plays in an education of the whole person,” GUSA Arts Week Subcommittee member Megan Howell said.

Howell’s point brings up an interesting irony in Georgetown’s aversion to the arts. Georgetown is an institution that promotes the education of the entire self. The phrase cura personalis is one no student can escape hearing at least a dozen times throughout his time on campus. Yet ingrained in Georgetown’s structure is, if not obstacles to engaging in the arts, a lack of significant incentives for individuals to express themselves through art in all its forms.

The importance of the arts to one’s education is difficult to specify in exact terms, but their ability to enhance growth and learning is equally trying to deny.

“Art is about learning to think for yourself, learning to express yourself and exploring those different modes of expression; it’s about learning to see in a new light, from a different perspective; it’s about originality and endless possibilities; it’s about celebrating the process, not the product; it encourages vulnerability, connectivity, and, in essence, it honors the human experience. These aspects are fundamental to our life as humans and to our development as moral, empathetic and open-minded men and women,” Calabrese said.

Of course, the arts are not for everyone. But those who do find solace and inspiration in the arts do not enjoy the same opportunities to pursue their passions as students with other interests. Practicality aside, the arts have a place on this campus. They can never fully be removed. However, at times, their merits must be drawn out and showed to the campus at large. If only for a week, Georgetown University Arts Week hopes to bring the arts from the sidelines to center stage. From there, it is up to Georgetown’s student body to determine whether they will stay.

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