Artistic communities dwindle on campus

Opinions

By Karlee Robinson

How we can broaden the limited scope of creative opportunities

However strong the visual arts and music departments are at Puget Sound, many students have difficulty finding artistic communities outside these structured departments. Photography is one of many examples of this, as our campus does not have a darkroom for photography, nor does it have any longstanding creative photography clubs.

Puget Sound also has an underdeveloped music scene — there are very few open mic events and other performance opportunities organized by the school — as is the case for the visual arts as well. Smaller artistic communities allow for more intimate collaboration, kindred to the particularities of students’ creative interests.

Stella Blumberg recognized the potential of Puget Sound’s photography community, and took action to fill this void.

A second semester first-year, Blumberg proposed the idea for a creative photography club called Photographers of Puget Sound, or POPS. She is now one of its directors of social media. She provided me with insight into the accessibility of the arts.

“Being a freshman on campus, automatically, I didn’t know anyone,” Blumberg said. “Everyone tells you to get involved in clubs and at Log Jam, I was looking around and realized there wasn’t really any artistic photography clubs. There were other clubs that I was interested in, but I never really felt a bond, so I kind of just posted on the UPS class of 2020 page: ‘Is there anyone else who likes taking photographs? Would you be interested in a photography club, like a creative photography club?’ and I got a few responses.”

Recognizing an existing community, Blumberg began to organize a body of artistic collaborators.

When describing her experience approving the club through ASUPS, she described them as responsive and, while the process was lengthy, it was still easier than she expected overall. Yet, however easy it is to start a club, it is infinitely more difficult to receive ASUPS funding: a resource benefit that legitimizes clubs within the Puget Sound community.

Blumberg’s POPS club does not currently receive ASUPS funding, but this could largely be due to how new their club is. Blumberg also included that their founding members are specifically freshmen because her class Facebook page was the only place she could think of for distributing the information. Cross-class engagement is a dynamic the art community at Puget Sound is lacking.

Studio art classes are held twice a week and are 3 hours long. The 3 hour time block is difficult to work into students’ schedules, unless they are specifically majoring or minoring in the art department, which would allow those students the privilege of working their schedule around such major blocks of time. It is my understanding that this consecutive 3-hour time commitment is highly responsible for discouraging students  from engaging with the arts on campus.

In my personal experience as a studio art minor, I’ve observed a divide between the 2D and 3D art communities. While not reflective of the department as a whole, this dynamic prompted me to think similarly, as Log Jam prompted Blumberg. While I’ve been lucky enough to find a place for myself in the department, I think everyone would benefit from discovering new ways of integrating 2D and 3D practice to prompt collaboration and an expansion of artistic innovative potentiality. Not only in the collective art community of Puget Sound, but also in the subcommunity of the University’s art department, student’s outlets for artistic expression are rather inaccessible.

Puget Sound provides its students with opportunities to explore their artistic interests, but does so in a manner that most schedules can’t accommodate. Regardless of how much a student wants to study art, if they can’t afford the time commitment, their priorities can begin to hinder their scope of engagement. The University certainly provides opportunities, but these opportunities are structurally inaccessible. This forces students to seek community elsewhere, limiting potential for campus connection and unity.

While it is not my explicit intention to criticize Puget Sound and the ways in which it engages and provides for its students, it is my intention to elucidate the gradual progression and ways in which a university becomes dependent on its students.  Exchanges function under expectations of how those involved will react; this is the conditioning all college students undergo. We are all members of the Puget Sound community, so when interacting with members of this institution, we are perpetuating the system, if not proposing change.

Just because the University offers a resource, that does not mean it is accessible. As students, we have the right to not only ask for more, but to ask for existing departments to change.

Encouraged by Blumberg’s example, the power to organize communities on campus, artistic or otherwise, is vested in the hands of the students. By exercising our resources as students, we can confront the system and identify what ways it can be improved.

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