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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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State of the arts

 
 

As students spend more of their time marketing themselves to potential employers, the arts is an aspect of college that may become low-priority status compared with GPRs and standardized test scores. Albert Einstein once theorized, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” His words are something for every student to consider, as the job market gets tighter and as Texas A&M works to improve its global presence.
Finding art and culture at A&M is easier than most students think. Three galleries are located within the Memorial Student Center (MSC) alone, but rarely do students enter their doors. From world-renowned glass exhibits to artists such as Andy Warhol, many think that visiting the galleries at A&M is a necessary step toward becoming a well-rounded Aggie.
The National Endowment for the Arts reports in its 2003-2008 Strategic Plan that most employers feel that a solid understanding of the arts provides students with the skills to think outside of the box. The study suggests this leads to a workable understanding of different cultures and the ability to apply knowledge creatively.
Cathy Hastedt, director of the Stark University Center Galleries, knows firsthand the effect that the arts can have on students.
“A student who is interested in pursuing an art career doesn’t tend to come to A&M. In fact, a lot of students here have never been to an art museum. If you are coming from a background where the arts are not fostered, you are less likely to come to the galleries on your own,” she said.
Hastedt, who has worked at the University Arts Center for 18 years, has developed several strategies for encouraging students to visit the galleries.
“Once the students discover the gallery, they find out it is not a scary place. We try to bring in works from all over the spectrum, from science-related work to anthropological collections,” she said. “We bring in a variety of exhibits to reach an audience that might not normally come in. We also try to expose students to more famous artists, such as Rembrandt.”
Hastedt said appreciation for the arts should be recognized throughout the campus. Between 9,000 and 10,000 pieces of art are located on the A&M campus, represented in every building and as sculptures throughout the grounds.
“Many people walk by this art every day and wonder what it is all about. They might wonder who donated it or who created it or even who the subject is. We provide guides to help students understand what the artists are trying to portray,” Hastedt said.
In response to Vision 2020, an art-influenced curriculum has been introduced, encouraging students to visit the galleries more frequently. According to Vision 2020’s fourth imperative (available online at www.tamu.edu/vision2020), Vision 2020 hopes to “introduce visual and performing arts programs, freshly conceived and tailored to the University’s distinctive competencies. It states: “Fine arts programs broaden the experience of all students, faculty and staff. They will prove to be an invaluable source of advancement that demand and create new forms of technology and communication, and breed higher levels of creative thought and action in many disciplines.”
“We have been targeting the faculty, giving them suggestions on how to incorporate art into assignments,” Hastedt said.
Terence Hoagwood, an English professor, attempts to do exactly this in the classroom. He currently teaches a course combining literature and the arts.
“I don’t view courses with art as a burden, but rather as a part of the educational experience,” Hoagwood said. “Curriculum is only one way to experience the world of art.”
Hastedt hopes that the changes will encourage students to visit the galleries over time. She said students make up about 45 to 50 percent of visitors to the galleries, and that they are targeting certain students.
“Seventy-two percent of students surveyed have attended a production, performance or exhibit at A&M during their college years. Most of our student visitors are juniors and seniors, so we are trying to get students interested in the galleries as freshmen,:” she said. “Unfortunately, that is an overwhelming time for many new students.”
Liz Jurewicz, Visual Arts Committee chair, a junior communication major, was fortunate enough to find the arts as freshmen. Jurewicz said students are starved for the arts at A&M.
“I literally knew nobody when I got involved. I went to Open House and that was it,” Jurewicz said. “Being involved in the arts has made me pick my passion and I don’t think that I have been more challenged than I have been here at A&M. I have to defend what I believe in and my passion for art has grown more.
The Visual Arts Committee is a student-run organization concerned with increasing student awareness and appreciation for the visual arts. These students are responsible for maintaining the Visual Arts Gallery located on the second floor of the MSC. The VAC contacts artists from all over the world, rotating exhibits every two months.
“We have never had an artist tell us they feel our gallery is not good enough. The artists come because we are a university,” Jurewicz said. “We include the artists in the processes that we go through and we hold reception for them. I think they enjoy the opportunity of reaching a different crowd.”
Kerri Bell, a student development executive for the VAC and a junior English major, said a common misconception is that since the committee is trying to raise awareness, that should mean that students should always like everything on the walls.
“If you don’t like it, that is OK. (The VAC is) glad that you came in,” Bell said.
Hastedt agreed that not everyone will love the artwork, and said there is art that she doesn’t like.
“I just want to give people the tools to appreciate artwork,” Hastedt said. “Employers are looking for Aggies who are more than just book smart, but have intelligence in all areas.”
Hoagwood agrees the galleries have a lot to offer students.
“No admission is charged, no attendance is taken, no quizzes are given, the hours are extended and it is located in a central area. The Stark Gallery is a great place to get out of the rain and look at something surprising for a couple of hours or even for 30 seconds,” he said.

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