St. Thomas is classified as a liberal arts university, but what happened to the arts?
When I toured St. Thomas two years ago, I thought the only art program being shut down was the theater program. Little did I know, theater was one of the only art programs St. Thomas really offered.
About 80 percent of music ensemble students are not music majors; this year 79 students are majoring in music. If St. Thomas put money aside to support an art program, students outside of art majors would benefit too. There are students who aren’t in art courses who paint and sculpt. There are students who play instruments who aren’t in music courses. Similarly, not every student who works out in the new athletic complex is a varsity athlete. It can be used by anyone.
But St. Thomas doesn’t offer art courses like St. Catherine’s and Macalester, which are also classified as private undergraduate liberal arts schools. At both schools students can study drawing, painting and photography. Those things are part of art and should be included in St. Thomas’ curriculum.
Art courses should be more engaging than reading a textbook and writing papers, which are things that can be done in any other course offered at St. Thomas. Art should be offered in a way that allows students to express themselves creatively.
Overlooked during construction
This is my second year at St. Thomas, and since I’ve been here a new athletic complex was built, McCarthy gym was renovated, and there has been talk about re-doing the soccer fields and putting tennis courts behind the Brady Educational Center.
Ironically, the new athletic complex stands where Foley Theater used to stand before it was demolished. This gesture from St. Thomas shows the community that athletics are more important than the arts.
Athletics overshadow the arts here at St. Thomas. The school is willing to spend $800,000 on tennis courts when there are indoor courts located in the newly-constructed $52 million Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex. But the university is not willing to spend money to keep a theater program on campus.
Why not renovate BEC, a building used mainly for the arts? It would be nice if I could go to band rehearsal and not be in an auditorium with a constant draft, or where the sound system is older than the cobwebs in the corners. The building could use an upgrade.
A place for the arts on campus
I think the school overlooks the use of the BEC auditorium or even the building itself because we no longer offer theater, but there are many campus events that take place there. For example, PULSE performed there multiple times last year, the wind and symphonic band ensembles rehearse there throughout the year, and sometimes speakers come and talk there, too.
For band concerts, students have to play at St. Catherine’s. For choir concerts, students often sing at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. This affects the number of St. Thomas students who attend concerts, especially students who don’t have means of transportation off campus. More students would attend band and choir concerts if they were held at St. Thomas.
Both athletics and arts create community, but different types of community, and it’s good to have both on a campus. I am a fan of both the arts and sports, but St. Thomas needs to balance the two because the facilities can be used by any student, regardless of major.
Ashley Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.