Again, Drew Art Students Must Unite
Jesse Richards - February 26, 1999

Seniors, if that headline looks familiar, congratulations. You either have spectacular memories or simply read The Acorn way too much.

For me, it’s the latter. Browsing through old issues in the Acorn office last week, I stumbled upon a column written exactly three years ago, by artist and then-Assistant-Opinions-Editor Brian Haskell.

Brian called for a greater sense of community among art majors on campus, and suggested several ways of doing this. If you’re not an art major, don’t worry — this will still apply to you. Keep reading.

Brian astutely noticed that the sense of community among art students on campus was not as tight as with other majors, such as theater students. The monthly Korn Gallery exhibit openings were perhaps the only events greatly attended by art majors, as well as by professors and students interested in art (and in free alcohol).

There wasn’t really a “Drew art scene,” Brian noticed, nor a solid ongoing dialogue between artists on campus. He felt, and I agree, that the art department itself is very strong at Drew, especially considering its small size, but that outside of the classroom, Drew artists lose a sense of a greater artistic community.

Well, it’s three years later, and sadly, a similar atmosphere still exists. However, some of the ideas Brian came up with to remedy this are now much closer to reality. It’s possible that with just a few pushes in the right places, artists on campus will soon become much more united.

To its credit, the art department is constantly working toward this goal. Besides the gallery openings, it regularly hosts events such as guest speakers and critics, as many academic departments do. And it’s helped jumpstart a student art club several times over the years. An art-friendly campus

Back when Brian wrote his article, that club — whose ridiculous acronym stands for Art Community Inside Drew — was not really active. This year, however, both ACID and a Figure Drawing Club have been reinstated on campus, thanks to the efforts of sophomore Adra Raine and other dedicated students. If the meetings (held Mondays from 8 to 10 p.m. in B.C. 21), are regularly attended, they can not only give artists on campus a chance to interact, but events like gallery and museum trips and informal gatherings can start to happen. These can help create an ongoing dialogue within a subculture of artists at Drew. This is certainly preferable to a feeling of apathy and random, cut-off students taking art classes. These two clubs are informal and cater to non-majors as well — so if you have any interest in art, even as a hobby, feel free to attend.

Brian also suggested an art department newsletter, an idea that never panned out. However, now Drew has at least one printed art showcase — Insanity’s Horse. The magazine has revived itself in the past two years, evolving from a small poetry pamphlet to an innovative literary and art magazine. While not responsible for the magazine’s total improvement, I do have to toot my own horn a little here; as the magazine’s art director, I’ve gotten student artwork into the magazine for the first time, giving artists on campus a chance to showcase their talents.

Another recent development helping Drew’s artistic community is the interaction students have working in their studios. Each senior art major gets studio space, and after years of random studios spread across campus, the art department was lucky enough to receive prime Drew real estate — the third floor and accompanying outside studios of Embury Hall. Maybe with Drew’s eventual creation of the planned arts building, the location of art classes and studios will function even better toward creating some art student unity.

So that’s that. Everyone’s happy, right? Well, not quite — I wouldn’t say that Drew is now a thriving artists’ colony. An apathetic feeling about art still exists on campus. Non-artists, this is where you come in.

Developing a sense of community among its artists is a great first step, but creating a tight-knit artists’ clique that ignores everyone else is not the goal here. Drew needs to develop a greater artistic sense on the whole campus and a stronger tie between its art world and the rest of the University.

It’s a shame that despite so many places on campus to put art, they are never used — with the exception of the department itself, located in the basement of Brothers College. Not once in four years have I seen the display cases in the Commons, labeled “Student Art,” filled. And, except for a few photography exhibits, attempts to put student work in The Space on a regular basis have repeatedly failed. What’s worse, the University must have decided it had too many photo galleries and not enough meeting rooms, since this year it eliminated the tradition of having photo exhibits in U.C. 104.

With the exception of the statue of Francis Asbury, and perhaps the library’s stained glass window, there is no artwork outside on campus. And the majority of the art inside — basically in the UC and the library — is hopelessly outdated and fading, almost falling apart.

Even temporary student work displayed on campus is frequently disrespected. An example: two years ago one of my classes had an assignment to create artwork somewhere outside on campus, with the University’s permission. Almost half of these were defaced or vandalized in days, including my own, a half dozen times.

There is no more essential place for art to be displayed than in the educational atmosphere of a university. Drew cannot be lax in its commitment to the visual arts — especially when its dedication to the performing arts, as seen in the recent remodeling of the F. M. Kirby Shakespeare Theatre, is so strong.

Drew isn’t going to realize this without clear student backing. Everyone on campus, especially art majors and minors, needs to show full support for art events, art clubs, new commissioned artwork, student displays, and a student body dedicated to the idea that art is a worthwhile and necessary part of education here at Drew.