I used to make movies. I attended a fairly artistically inclined high school that required students to take three semesters of art class. Since my paintings would only be considered “art” by the most modern of modernists, I followed my interest in movies into the filmmaking class. For four years (two and a half more than the required amount) I cut through the monotony of high school life by writing and directing short films. Though I received credit, the class was pass/fail.
This seems like an impossibility here at Williams. I realized very quickly that the lengthy filmmaking process cannot be squeezed into anybody’s airtight schedule. Though saddening for me, this is not my ultimate concern. The real problem is that aside from art majors, this school does painfully little to promote artistic expression among its students. For a school so enamored with Art, Williams seems to disregard the artistic abilities dwelling latently in its students. From Ls to rock fighters to whatever that thing in Greylock Quad is to WCMA, our campus is saturated with art. None if it, however, is by art students.
This raises the question of what the art is really for. Is it about having some “culture” and “beauty” on campus? Or, is it about rankings, tours, and donations? I find it hard to believe that a student has not created something artistically valid enough to possibly replace the sculpture in Greylock Quad. I am sure that sculpture is important in some way, but, at the same time, well, I sat on it the other day while making a phone call. There are some options. There are dance clubs, a cappella groups, stage performances and several other smaller extracurricular organizations. The fact that they are extracurricular, though, is part of the problem. Extracurriculars, though school- sanctioned, are by definition not part of the school’s for credit offerings. This gives them an inherent second-class status; nobody works as hard on their Williams Alternative article as they do on their English essay. Additionally, what if I don’t sing, dance, or act?
Why should my ability to express myself artistically be confined to these boxes? Again, is this about giving our students artistic avenues, or about saying we give our students artistic avenues? Why should my desire to do landscape photography be relegated to Winter Study, where it is seen as a joke?
Yes, there are art classes, but even these are problematic. Unlike a stat problem set, say, an artistic pursuit cannot be graded right or wrong. If my photograph looks the way I want it to, how can someone else tell me it is a B? By that standard, Van Gogh got a lot of Fs. If I am a solitary guitarist, I could take graded guitar lessons as a half-credit course. Until my brother did this last semester, I never realized guitar lessons could be given a letter grade. Students should have the option of taking two arts classes ungraded in exchange for one graded class. Artistic expression is not about rationality and logic, like so much else on campus. It is about finding the parts of ourselves not normally allowed to see the light.
Students who do not create or appreciate art make for dull students, albeit great employees. We claim to be a “liberal arts” school, but we seem to have forgotten about half of that phrase.