The Gustavian Weekly

Standing up for accessibility to the arts | The Gustavian Weekly

By Emily Seppelt - Opinion Columnist | November 22, 2019 | Opinion

Sophomore Jonas Habben constructing an art project.

Sophomore Jonas Habben constructing an art project.

Music and the arts are a big part of Gustavus. Our programs draw  in students from all over the state and even all over the country. Students proudly wear Gustavus Music shirts, showing that Gusties care about athletics and the arts. But it’s not just music either. With multiple galleries and studios scattered around campus, physical art is also cherished. But if the pursuit of beauty and art is so valued by Gustavus, why is it so hard for students to access?

While Gustavus’ commitment to their art and music programs is commendable, amazing even, I would argue that getting involved as a non-music or non-art student is much too difficult to be ignored. As I wrote about a few weeks ago, forming organizations is already hard enough. But what if you aim to create a band or photography club, (which many students are trying to do right now) and are denied access to the spaces or equipment that would allow you to pursue your club?

And this is not hypothetical either. Take the photography studio in Beck, regular students and organizations like Digital Arts Club aren’t  allowed to use that space and are denied  using the cameras and other equipment that would help them grow their club.

If not even established organizations can get access to these resources, what do we expect average students who are interested in exploring photography to do?

Organizations like the Gustavus Music Collective are almost unknown on campus, making it difficult for non-music students to get access to practice spaces and instruments. While practice rooms in the music building are technically open to anyone, most people either think they are restricted or are too intimidated to use them.

Take the theater productions on campus for example. Getting a ticket is almost impossible because of the tiny spaces productions are provided. What is the point of staging a production if the only a select few will ever get the opportunity to attend? I know that everyone involved with theater productions work insanely hard to make each show amazing, and more students should have the opportunity to attend their productions.

Everyone on campus should have access to get involved in the arts or to appreciate them. By restricting the few resources that the campus already provides and not spreading the word about their availability,  it seems like those resources do not even exist. Keeping resources under the rug, ignored or underdeveloped makes it appear that arts outside of the sanctioned music program are unwanted or unimportant. If Gustavus is going to claim that they are a dedicated music and arts school, they should make it available to everyone.

While students are partly to blame for not advocating for these issues and not taking advantage of spaces and equipment, it is also the fault of administators and faculty for not providing more access to fledging artists and students interested in the arts. When the resources don’t exist, a lot of students just miss the chance to explore or to fulfill their vision.

If the resources do exist, but are virtually unknown, people’s interest will never be piqued, and things just won’t come together.

While I understand that we are quite a small school and that we cannot offer everything that a bigger school might offer, with time, I would expect that progress would be made. Staying stagnant and keeping outdated rules of exclusion in place doesn’t help anybody. Not investing in new equipment or spaces for the arts only holds the entire campus back.

This is why I encourage students to advocate for themselves. Complaining about lack of space, lack of equipment or restrictions on those things is going to get you nowhere. If you are serious about wanting to make an art club, form a band, pick up photography, find someone to talk to. If nobody speaks up about these gaps in resources for Gustavus students, nothing is going to happen. While it may be intimidating to stand up for yourself and ask for help in bringing new things to campus, it is worth your while to try and it will help everybody in the end.

I also would suggest that faculty, who have the availability to help students get access to the arts or to provide a roadmap to getting resources, think about what they can personally do to help students. Are there some unknown spaces or opportunities that you could bring up in class? Thinking about these types of things for students will not only enrich the music and the art departments, but every department on campus. Participating in, and viewing the arts makes for more engaging and thoughtful students.

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