In case you missed it, this past week's Hawk's Herald carried an editorial by Alexandra Artiano on the Visual Arts at RWU. Alexandra is a Creative writing major, a VARTS Minor and a damn good painter. She is also very truthful and brave to point out in the Herald what is obvious - that the Arts have not been a priority at RWU and that the University is all the poorer for not adequately supporting, and indeed, celebrating the Visual Arts on campus - specifically, the work of the students who find their way into the round building as Majors, Minors, Core Concentrators and those who seek a VARTS class to augment their Liberal Arts or Professional School study.
Alexandra has provided the text of her editorial so that I may share it with you here. I encourage you to respond, contact Alex or write to the paper to make your views known.
Editorial on the Visual Arts Department
February 10, 2011
I feel The Visual Arts Department is something that has been greatly overlooked at Roger Williams University. When talking about all the strengths this school has to offer the list usually goes: beautiful campus, great cafeteria, Architecture Department, Marine Sciences, and we offer a lot of majors too.
It’s hard to really see where the Visual Arts fit in with our community logistically. Where I believe it should be is at an equal level with the top things that we offer, along with the other overlooked majors. The Arts are not only an important part of any community but also an essential part of a Liberal Arts community. Student art is a visual expression of what we as a student body are feeling and are interested in. This is something that can attract new students and invigorate existing ones. Right now, that huge source of student power and student interest is not being fully utilized and the solution to that is a permanent on-campus gallery space for the Visual Arts. The school has just this year purchased an off-campus warehouse that is shared between the seniors of the Visual Arts Department and the School of Engineering. While this is a step in the right direction, it is also limiting in the fact that all of that great work and influence is getting pushed out of the day-to-day at RWU.
What we need is a new art building. Even as a Visual Arts minor, the studio space in the architecture building makes my mouth water and my blood boil of jealousy. Aren’t Visual Arts students just as deserving? One of the problems is that the largest portion of students in the Visual Arts Department are minors. But if there was studio space and a better on-campus presence that would change and we would be able to have the art community that any liberal arts university should have. When talking with Stephen White, Dean of SAAHP, I learned that the administration’s feeling is not much different than the students’; mostly they too believe the Visual Arts is an important part of our community. The fact is though that it has been a long uphill battle. “There’s attempts underway for a fair amount of time to heighten the arts” White said. While this is true, the lack of progress one student sees in the four years of enrollment can be discouraging. When it comes to admission White said that “Something that occurs here, kind of, is the university projects itself in general and so people can’t quite see the specifics of art from the outside very clearly, which I think could be better”.
This problem of getting people who are not directly involved with the arts excited and more importantly-supportive, is something every artist and artist community faces. “Some of the issue is somehow not regularly having a culture of displaying our work, thats not to fault people in the program necessarily but I think we could show ourselves a little more”. On the positive side it seems that students and faculty are united in wanting expansion and growth in the arts here at RWU. “There are more opportunities than had been there before and so part of the issue now is making sure everybody knows about them”. Fighting to keep a positive perspective inside the department is essential to getting this expansion and growth. But simply as White said, “There needs to be a regular place to display student work, a secure place, one of the problems with all the venues other than the library is that people might not feel that their work will be safe”.
While there isn’t a stable place to display art, the VisualArts department doeshave two showings scheduled this semester. From April 15-20, there will be student awards at the off campus warehouse, 255 Franklin St. From May18-21 there will be the Visual Arts Senior Show at the gallery in the School of Architecture.
What is the University’s responsibility to the arts? I think they should be actively working to keep each major here at an equal playing field. But that doesn’t seem to be the direction the university is heading in. White recognizes this in saying “We’re constrained in some way, particularly at the lower levels... somehow in the evolution ofthe university I think it is surprising in some ways that some of the things that are the core humanities, the core liberal art, english, history, art, art history are some what undersubscribed at Roger Williams and somehow I think its just been the culture that the more professional majors the, ones that seem a little more career oriented somehow have become more prominent”
Even if a major has less than 100 people enrolled it is no less entitled to and no less deserving of the full attention and support of the university. This school should do all in its power to ensure that every major gives the students equal opportunity for success, because after all isn’t that what college is all about?